Marin Mrčela, President of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe's anti-corruption body, warned Spain that if states fail to comply with the standards set by his organisation, judicial independence is "at risk". Since 2013, Spain has not fully implemented any of the eleven recommendations issued by GRECO to prevent and combat corruption involving MPs, judges and prosecutors. In statements to the Catalan News Agency, Mrčela declared that "What we want is to eliminate the possibility of politics influencing the judicial system".
According to the anti-corruption group’s annual report, made public this Thursday, Spain remains among those countries which fail to comply with anticorruption procedures, and whose level of compliance remains "globally unsatisfactory". In fact, Spain is one of only two states, together with Belgium, that has not fully implemented any of the recommendations made in the last five years. Mrčela stated that "The most important element in the fight against corruption is political will".
Following GRECO’s warnings in recent years, ARA revealed that The Associació Atenes de Juristes pels Drets Civils (Athens Association of Jurists for Civil Rights), a newly-formed group of lawyers, has filed a lawsuit against the President of Spain’s General Council of Judicial Power (GCJP), Carlos Lesmes, and 19 other members of the Spanish judiciary for an alleged lack of impartiality. The association considers that the GCJP is part of a conspiracy to ensure judges sympathetic to the PP are assigned the corruption cases that threaten Mariano Rajoy’s party.
The prevention of corruption
While commenting on the legislative framework governing the General Council of the Judiciary, Mrčela indicated that the goal is "to see that the majority of judges are chosen by judges." According to the president of GRECO, judges must not be chosen by politicians or "people appointed by Parliament or the executive". He went on to say that "We are aware that there are many highly professional judges in Spain, we have no doubt, but we are talking about standards and prevention". Regarding the recommendations for parliamentarians, Mrčela explained that they involve adopting a code of conduct for MPs and "aspects related to the prevention of corruption", such as conflicts of interest, the receipt of gifts and declaring their financial interests.
Of the eleven recommendations GRECO made to Spain, four have not even begun to be implemented —which places Spain among the ten states with the highest level of non-compliance—, while seven have only been partially implemented. Eight more countries appear beside Spain, in the "globally unsatisfactory" implementation of the recommendations category: Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. The GRECO report analyses how levels of corruption throughout Europe and the United States, highlighting trends and examples as well as individual country data. During the presentation of the report, the group's president declared that 2017 was a "dark" year.
The Council of Europe is an international organisation made up of 47 states, with its headquarters in Strasbourg. Its main objective is to defend and protect democracy, the rule of law and human rights, civil and political in particular.