EU Commission to mediate on stalemate over Spanish judiciary council

MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the leader of the conservative opposition agreed on Friday to ask the European Commission to mediate an end to a five-year political stalemate over appointments to the body that names judges in Spain.

“I’ve asked to involve the European Commission in the negotiation,” People’s Party (PP) leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo told reporters after a meeting with Sanchez, who secured another term as prime minister last month.

“He (Sanchez) is ready to let the European Commission supervise the appointment of the judicial power,” Feijoo added.

Feijoo said he had already sounded out the European authority and been told it was willing to mediate.

“It is a very important step,” government spokesperson Pilar Alegria told reporters in a separate news conference. “We hope this time it will be a reality.”

All 20 judges that sit on the General Council for the Judiciary (CGPJ) must be picked, to then in turn renew the mandates of a third of the country’s judges that have expired.

However, the appointments to the general council require a three-fifths supermajority in parliament, which can only be reached through a deal between the country’s two main parties, Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) and the PP.

Since the council’s term expired five years ago, both parties have repeatedly failed to reach an agreement and have accused each other of acting in bad faith, generating a constitutional crisis.

Both have suggested finding a new way to appoint the officials and thus avoid such a gridlock in the future, though the PP sought a court ruling to block an attempt by the PSOE last year to pass legislation to lessen the majority needed to approve council appointments.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro and David Latona; Editing by Frances Kerry)