Analysts and politicians who are familiar with the European Commission explain that it is not very often that a spokesperson delivers a slap in the face as loudly and forcefully as that which Christian Wigand gave to Pedro Sánchez on Thursday. The Spanish PM's latest star project, modifying parliamentary majority requirements in order to proceed with the reform of Spain's highest judicial body, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), has been carried out in such a way that it has generated ill-feeling wherever it has gone.
No-one disputes that the right and the senior judiciary are making fraudulent use of the current law on the CGPJ by eternally prolonging the renewals of judges whose terms have expired - the same thing happened previously to an earlier Socialist PM, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero - but what cannot be done is to burn down the constitutional house - paradoxes of life - because the numbers don't suit you. This parliamentary move by the PSOE and Unidas Podemos has been so clumsy that, after holding a winning hand at the start, they themselves have been seriously burnt by Brussels when it was noted that the Commission perceives an attempt to politicize the administration of justice by the Spanish government and its suggestion to Sánchez was just what he doesn't want to do: ask for reports from the Council of State, the CGPJ itself and the Council of Prosecutors.
It's hard to understand that, when they fundamentally had a good argument and a significant part of public opinion backing them, they have done it all so badly, even causing embarrassment among a certain part of the left that still does not understand how Pedro Sánchez's move has upset the chessboard and clearly increased the bad impression that Brussels has of all the Spanish institutional architecture: a government trying to appropriate justice, terrible management of the Covid-19 disaster and the alarming fall in GDP for this year predicted by the IMF, with Spain being the only country that has not improved its outlook since June. These are three examples that are beginning to consolidate the idea of a country with too many failings for such a complicated situation. At a strictly Catalan level, it is obvious that the idea of a deeply politicized justice system in Spain only reinforces the international claims by exiles and prisoners in Europe, as the dossier of breaches of rights continues to grow due to errors made on their own home turf. Suspending the immunity of an MEP or carrying out an extradition to a country whose judiciary is anything but independent is not something that excites Brussels or any European foreign ministry.
As we've already noted, this telling off as a result of the attempts to fix the CGPJ by any means possible also coincides with widespread criticism in many media outlets of Spain's management of the pandemic. The influential daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out that Spain has again lost control of the pandemic and that the Spanish executive is unable to cope with the second wave of the coronavirus. "Leadership is not up to the crisis," it wrote. Leading Swiss newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, asked on Saturday if Spain could be a failed state and wondered how the EU should treat such a partner, while German television Deutsche Welle has asked what is happening in Spain, the worst place in Europe for Covid, and it claims that all of Europe is wondering why.
All of this is bad news for Sánchez in Europe at a time when European funds, as essential to alleviate the economic crisis as they are insufficient, are up for negotiation. A politically authoritarian and economically disoriented government is often a guarantee of failure. Everyone knows this, and in Europe, the Spanish government's marketing campaigns just don’t have the same effect.