Politics 14/06/2022

The European Commission admits "concern" about the use of Pegasus but gives credence to the State's explanations

Vice President Vera Jourová points out that "perhaps the analysis of this situation has not been concluded" in Spain

3 min
The Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, appearing before the Congress of Deputies

MadridThe European Commission, through vice president Vera Jourová, has admitted it is "concerned" about the ease with which Pegasus can be used and the violation of privacy this tool implies. Jourová, also responsible for Values nad Transparency, was appearing in the Spanish Parliament's Justice committee, where she also showed confidence in the explanations that Spain has given on Catalangate. "We have to see if this tool has been used in accordance with the law of the country. In the case of Spain, whether it was used with court authorisation. Yesterday [Monday] I was told by the Ombudsman's office that it was," she said, after being asked by JxCat MP Josep Pagès. However, she has hinted that "perhaps the analysis of this situation has not concluded".

Jourová acknowledged that it is the "state authorities" which are responsible for national security which should be in charge of assessing whether a correct use has been made, and assumed that, as far as she has been informed, the National Intelligence Center (CNI) has done so. The European vice-president said that Brussels can only regulate the use made by private companies. Beyond Catalangate, she explained that she has had a debate with those responsible for data protection to see if Pegasus violates privacy and to see if there is a need for changes to legislation.

Jourová, a former EU Justice Commissioner, is visiting Spain and this Tuesday she will meet with first vice-president of the Spanish government Nadia Calviño and Minister of Justice Pilar Llop. One of the issues she wants to address is the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), on the eve of the publication in July of the annual report on the rule of law in member states. In her appearance, Jourová expressed concern about the deadlock over the renewal of the judges' governing body and, despite appreciating the "political efforts", she called for "results". "In the report we will express the concern we have with the Spanish CGPJ. I do not want to get into the political debate, almost fight, I am only warning that if the solution that is found is not good, this can lead to a politicisation of the CGPJ, which would be serious," she warned.

Change in way the CGPJ is elected

Jourová has not hidden her support for the thesis defended by the PP in the way the CGPJ should be elected: members from the judicial career chosen "by their counterparts". "It is the judges who have to elect their governing body and not parties," she said, and pointed out that this is the way to meet European standards, which most systems in Europe have. However, she admitted no single model is valid everywhere. Thus, she urged the political parties to unblock the situation and find a "stable long-term solution which is resistant to political pressure after the elections". "Those who have won think they have a mandate to influence the judiciary and it is a mistake," she has stressed. Moncloa sources point out that it is necessary to analyse what exactly the European Commission is proposing and assert that the current model already foresees that judges and magistrates make a first selection of the members likely to be chosen as members of the CGPJ.

The vice-president of the Commission has also admitted that it does not have direct sanctioning power in case of violation of the rule of law by the member states, but that this must be done through the Court of Justice of the European Union. This Monday the PP warned the Spanish government of the consequences of unilaterally renewing the Constitutional Court and appointing the two magistrates proposed by the government without waiting for the two to be appointed by the CGPJ, which now has limited functions due to the fact that its mandate expired. The Spanish government has avoided confirming whether the executive will take this step and focuses its discourse on pressuring the PP to renew the CGPJ at once. In a press conference, the spokesperson of the State government, Isabel Rodríguez, pointed out that the mandate expired 1,288 days ago and accused the leader of the opposition, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, of "non-compliance with the Constitution" in his two months and a half at the helm of the conservative party.

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