PM’s power to select judges does not breach EU law – European Court of Justice
The European Court of Justice decided that the Prime Minister’s power to select candidates for the judiciary, selected for eligibility by an independent commission, does not breach the EU law.
The European Court delivered the sentence today in a case that Repubblika organisation filed against the Maltese Government.
The decision concerned the powers that the Prime Minister had before the reform implemented by the government, through which, the whole selection process was passed in the hands of the Committee of Judiciary Appointments, and also in the hands of the President of the Republic as head of the Commission for the Administration of Justice.
Before the implementation of the reform, the Prime Minister had the power to choose himself magistrates and judges from a list provided by the Committee for the Appointment of the Judiciary, which was appointed in 2016.
However, Repubblika organisation attempted to stop the appointment of four members of the judiciary in April 2019, when it protested against the Prime Minister’s power to select the candidates from a list provided by this committee. It resulted that this did not breach the European Union legislation.
In its decision, the European Court remarked that the judiciary in Malta had legal guarantee that removed every doubts on the independence of its members or the prospect of any political interference.
The Court also observed that the establishment of the Committee for the Appointment of the Judiciary in 2016 served to strengthen the guarantee of the judiciary independence in Malta when compared with the situation that resulted from the constitutional dispositions that were in force when Malta entered the E.U. The Court stated that this committee made the process for the appointment of the judiciary in Malta more objective.
It added that although in 2019, the Prime Minister had a certain power in the appointment of magistrates and judges, the exercise of that power was limited and based on professional experience.
The Court further stated that, although the Prime Minister could have presented to the President names of candidates not recommended to him by the Committee, he had just the same to communicate his reasons to the highest institution of the country.
Provided that the Prime Minister exercises power in exceptional circumstances only and maintains a strict and effective conformity with the obligation of motivation, the European Court said that that power does not lead to legitimate doubts on the independence of the selected candidates.
Reacting, Prime Minister Robert Abela welcomed the European Court of Justice decision, which he said confirmed that the Government is implementing what is proper and is respecting the rule of law in Malta.
In a tweet, Dr Abela said that this decision shows that the reforms being implemented by the Government were recognised and that Malta’s judicial system was effectively strengthened for the benefit of the Maltese citizens.
Repubblika awaits the Maltese Courts’ decision
Reacting, Repubblika organisation said it took note of the European Court of Justice decision and now it will wait the decision of the Maltese Courts. It stated if it wasn’t for the organisation, the Government would not have reformed the system of judiciary appointments and would have retained the old system. It added that it will continue with its activism even if it has to fight cases in Court.
Decision confirms that PN attack on the institutions is unjust – PL
In its first reaction to the European Court’s decision, the Labour Party said that today’s sentence confirms that the Nationalist Party attack on the country’s institutions is unjust. It said that in this case, the former PN leader Simon Busuttil, together with deputies Jason Azzopardi and Therese Commodini Cachia, were frontliners who assisted in filing this case against our country. A case, which the PL said showed that, away from partisan speeches, the reforms in the country’s institutions were even the most ambitious.
It added that the sentence is another confirmation of the will of the Government, led by Prime Minister Robert Abela, to modernise the country’s institutions.
PL stated that this is another test for Nationalist leader Bernard Grech not only to desist from attacking the institution, but to condemn his exponents who, it said, are doing manoeuvres abroad against our country.