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Council of Europe warns Spain over violation of its recommendations on judicial independence

Spain is failing in transparency and judicial independence. According to the Group of States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (Greco), the Spanish Government has not satisfactorily applied any of the eleven recommendations made by the Council of Europe (CoE) in 2013, which aimed at promoting the fight against corruption and guaranteeing judicial independence. In a report published this Monday, Greco states that it is “key” to increase “transparency of communication between the Prosecutor General and the Government”. Moreover, it warns that it is “crucial” that the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) in Spain is “not only free, but also seen to be free from political influence”. The text also stresses that “political authorities should not be involved, at any stage, in the selection process of judicial staff".

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10 October 2016 02:33 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- A report by the Council of Europe (CoE) warned that it is "crucial" that the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) is “not only free, but also seen to be free from political influence” and stresses that "political authorities should not be involved, at any stage, in the selection process of judicial staff". The text, written by the Group of States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (Greco), also "deem it key" to increase "transparency of communication between the Prosecutor General and the Government". According to Greco, Spain has not correctly applied any of the eleven recommendations, made by the CoE in 2013, to promote the fight against corruption and ensure judicial independence.


The report warns that the delay to form a new government, following the general elections of December 2015, “have put on hold several anticipated reforms in the anticorruption arena” and the promotion of transparency and judicial independence. Furthermore, it says that "the very low level of compliance with the recommendations is globally unsatisfactory".

“Greco concludes that none of the eleven recommendations contained in the Fourth Round Evaluation Report has been implemented satisfactorily or dealt with in a satisfactory manner by Spain. Five recommendations have been partly implemented; six recommendations have not been implemented”, said the report, released this Monday. In particular, the recommendations were aimed at promoting the fight against corruption. 

Judicial independence

On the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the report states that "while the appointment of the CGPJ is a constitutional matter, the Constitution does not specify the way in which judicial members of GCPJ are to be selected". "Greco reiterates its view that it is crucial not only that the GCPJ is free, but that it is seen as free of political influence", says the text.

The report also notes that a recent survey carried out by the CGPJ among the profession presents some “disquieting figures”. While the report stresses that "only 24% of the judiciary responded to the questionnaire distributed (1,285 of 5,390)”, some “75% of the respondents felt that the GCPJ does not “sufficiently protect the principle of judicial independence"". 

The report also regrets that the 2015 EU Justice Scoreboard evidenced that the public perception of judicial independence in Spain “is at the bottom of the EU”. In point of fact, the report states, “Spain is fourth bottom in the EU ranking (25 out of 28), nor does it do well in the world ranking by the World Economic Forum, which places the country in 97th place out of 147”. 

Regarding the independence of the prosecution, the report laments that "no new development has been reported regarding the establishment of clear requirements and procedures in law to increase the transparency of communication between the Prosecutor General and for the Government to ask the Prosecutor General to report back on specific cases being prosecuted”, and Greco "deem it key that this type of action be clearly regulated in law with adequate guarantees of transparency”. 

Transparency in politics

In political matters, the Council of Europe (CoE) report regrets that Spain has not adopted a code of conduct for each Chamber of Parliament and warns that Law 3/2015 regulating the role of Senior Positions of the State General Administration does not include in its subject scope MPs. 

Another unfulfilled recommendation is that regarding the regulation of meetings between parliamentarians and lobbyists who want to influence legislation. Although Congress has a draft proposal on this issue, the project has been stopped and Greco "urges the authorities to take tangible action given that this subject matter ranks high on the list of public concerns".

The report also regrets that little progress has been made on the publication of financial declaration requirements of parliamentarians, which can “prove to be important for bringing to light potential or actual conflicts of interest". In this sense, it warns that there is data which is needed to be known about "the market value of real estate and vehicles; the names of the companies to which shares and stocks belong; the interest rates paid for credit obtained from financial institutions; and information on gifts received and income (even received in the form of indemnities) received from supplementary activities”. 

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  • Emblem of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Spain's highest judicial institution (by ACN)

  • Emblem of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Spain's highest judicial institution (by ACN)