The positioning of the European Commission (EC) in alignment with the theses of Spain's Constitutional Court and, by extension, with those of the People's Party (PP) over the renewal that the Spanish government intended to carry out of the judicial organ, unilaterally modifying the majorities in Parliament in the process, means that the strategy which Pedro Sánchez has used to unblock the reform is close to being a waste of time. In less than 24 hours, the worm has turned and a different light has been cast on the accusations against the conservatives for acting outside the Constitution, blocking parliamentary debate and going against popular sovereignty. Now, they have been given an unnuanced endorsement in Brussels. The EC reprimands Sánchez for not having consulted the interested parties, including, depending on the case, the judicial power and the judicial councils, when carrying out the reform of the Penal Code. The European executive states that it has always defended as doctrine that, when it comes to reforms of judicial systems in EU member states, it is critical that this consultation be carried out.
The Socialist government will thus break for the holidays with an unforeseen problem that completely destroys its campaign to discredit the Constitutional Court and the PP. In fact, this Tuesday, the Socialists had already lowered their tone, accepting without conditions what the court decreed and, by extension, you could sense that the communication with Brussels had collapsed and the messages they were receiving were not what was expected. Everything points to the fact that the Pedro Sánchez executive has behaved with the superficiality that is so usual for it and launched into open warfare with the Constitutional Court without having its back covered and not knowing how Brussels was going to react. The reversal from the Commission would not be natural if it had done its basic homework at EU headquarters over the weekend. Either that, or behind it there is a political strategy which an unknown and, until now, impossible to visualize.
The indications we have, from the off-the-record comments with journalists that usually occur in Brussels on these types of occasions, are that the European Commission was greatly surprised that such an important reform in the judicial field was presented without prior consultations with the relevant actors, such as the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), prosecutors and judges or the Council of Europe itself through the Venice Commission. In addition, in the case of Spain, the interpretation they make is that it is up to the Constitutional Court to resolve any doubts or complaints about the way the reform process is carried out and for the national authorities to comply with the established rules.
You can be sure that Sánchez will be cursing the undeviating support he has given to the Spanish courts on issues like, for example, the case of the repression of the Catalan independence movement. You cannot praise the judiciary when it suits you, even if what they do is barbaric, and a short time later present them as little more than coup plotters. In Europe, people remember and all the movements you make end up taking their toll. Not just the ones that suit you at any given time. You have opened up a route to give the judiciary free reign in Spain - that is beyond any doubt - and the arm-twist that they have given you is nothing more than an example of this, and now you find - to your despair - that you get the same in Brussels. What you applauded when it was directed against Catalan independence, from the Constitutional Court, the judge Marchenas and Llarenas, you can't suddenly turn on its head in such a short time. If, on 1st October 2017, Sánchez's discourse was that Catalan independentism was carrying out a coup and it was fortunate that the Constitutional and Supreme Courts were there, you can't think that the European Commission will buy your argument that, now, the coup plotters are in the court of guarantees and the CGPJ.
Someone miscalculated what could end up happening. Sánchez's change of tune, so fast, speaks more of a fully-fledged withdrawal than of maintaining the pressure on the Constitutional Court and making another serious attempt to renew the court without consensus. The two options for pursuing a new parliamentary bill would either be very slow or, probably, as legally insecure as the current route. If that is the case, I really don't see how the current Constitutional Court can be renewed when it has members whose mandate has expired if all the avenues are, for one reason or another, closed.