A new Spanish deadlock over its judicial renewal - and immediate European concern. After Spain's opposition People's Party (PP) again walked away from the negotiating table with the Socialists (PSOE) over the years-overdue renewal of Spain's judicial hierarchy, the alarm bells rang loudly in Brussels and an EU statement was made within hours. "Spain should proceed with the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) as a priority", warned a European Commission (EC) spokesperson, as reported by elDiario.es. The EC itself went as far to emphasise the extent to which it has reminded Spain of the urgency of this need for judicial renovation, "even", as the Commission commented, "in the specific recommendations by country of the Report on the Rule of Law of 2022".
"Spain should proceed with the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary as a priority matter and initiate, immediately after the renewal, a process aimed at adapting the nomination of its judicial career members taking into account European standards", the spokespeople of the EU executive stated bluntly.
Feijóo's excuse: the independence movement
The leader of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, justified breaking the pact he was finalizing with the PSOE to renew the membership of the Spanish judiciary's governing body, because of the reform planned by the Socialists of the Spanish Penal Code, specifically, over the crime of sedition. "I'm not opposed to the dialogue about nationalism, but rather, to sharing your criteria about the state or justice", explained Feijóo, who considers that the reform proposed by the Spanish government "benefits the independentists". The PP leader asserts that the renewal of the judiciary must be linked to the proposed reform of the Penal Code, an approach that is radically rejected by the Spanish government. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has affirmed that he does not intend to renounce the commitment made when his current government was formed in 2020 to the reform of the Penal Code and has stressed that these are two issues have nothing to do with each other.
Sánchez has made clear his rejection of the turnaround the PP has made on the pact with the PSOE-Podemos government which was almost complete, with plans for it to be presented in the next few days. The Spanish PM asserted that "Feijóo has got nervous, he's not autonomous". Several Socialist leaders spoke out accusing the PP leader of giving in to the pressures of the more reactionary wings of his party. The Spanish minister for the prime minister's department, Félix Bolaños, followed in the footsteps of his boss and affirmed that Feijóo "has not been able to impose himself on the right that has worked so that the council won't not renewed".
As well, Jaume Asens, leader of the Unidas Podemos group in the Congress of Deputies, labelled the PP's behaviour in the matter as "gangsterish". He rejects the justification given by the right-wing party who claim that the reason for their decision are the pro-independence forces. "It doesn't surprise us. Yesterday it was Podemos, today it's sedition, tomorrow it could be anything," he said.
Ayuso asked Feijóo to walk away
In fact, on Thursday, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, president of the Community of Madrid and a flag-bearer for the hard-line end of the PP, asked party president Feijóo to break the pact with the PSOE on the reform of the judicial council. Several Spanish media have stated that Ayuso manoeuvred to force the PP leader to leave the pact for the renewal of the judiciary. Ayuso's demand was, they reported, based on the Spanish government's statements about its intentions to reform the Penal Code to address the crime of sedition.
Ayuso had a conversation with Feijóo in order to warn him that there was no way he could decouple the negotiations to renew the CGPJ from the reform of the crime of sedition. The reform is vital to maintaining relations with ERC, and in particular with securing ERC support for Spanish budget, although the political actors involved reject the idea that the issues are linked. According to sources cited by El Mundo, Ayuso believes that the reform of the sedition law is "a barbarity" and that is why she demanded that Feijóo abandon any negotiations with the PSOE to renew the judiciary.