CARLOTA GUINDAL, ENRIC JULIANA
04/10/2020 00:39 Updated to 04/10/2020 07:28
La Vanguardia interviewed the Minister of Justice in Madrid
Juan Carlos Campo: “The monarchy should not be used as a battering ram for political struggle”
The judiciary is at the apex of political tensions in Spain. Last Wednesday, a few hours after the absence of King Felipe VI at the event of the Judicial School of Barcelona was the subject of intense debate in Congress, and after the General Council of the Judiciary, in extension itself for a delay in appointments of two years, approved important appointments for the Supreme Court, La Vanguardia interviewed the Minister of Justice in Madrid , Juan Carlos Campo.
Delivery of offices in Judicial School
“Reasons of prudence motivated the King’s absence from the Barcelona event”
Can you confirm that the Government requested a postponement to the President of the General Council of the Judiciary of the event of handing over the offices to the new judges in Barcelona?
Yes, yes. I spoke to Carlos Lesmes and he told me it was very complicated because the invitations were already made. He was asked and answered no. The King’s absence was an issue addressed between the Royal House and the Government, before the imminence of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the President of the Catalan Generalitat, a matter of great importance, to which the proximity of the date of October 1st could be added. The decision was right. This Government’s support for the monarchy is beyond doubt.
Do you think the government has been able to explain this episode well?
Perhaps we needed to explain it in more detail. It all happened as normal. No agenda was called off, for the King’s agenda had not come out. Could it be explained better? Maybe. I think it’s irrelevant, though. What I don’t think reasonable is to use the monarchy as a battering ram for political struggle. As I told the PP spokeswoman this week, it’s great to embrace the Constitution, but it’s better to keep it.
At the high point of the controversy, Carlos Lesmes, president of the CGPJ, disclosed a few words of the King in private conversation. What do you think?
I’m going to show off my temperance and I’d rather not to pronounce myself. Things are clear and everyone can draw their conclusions. What I can say to you, also to be clear, is that those words attributed to me saying “this i over the line” after a Long live the king was heard in the act, are not mine. That’s not my voice.
Why didn’t you insist on this matter?
Because there’s no need to generate any more tension. It is good that the situation cools down, lowers the soufflé and lowers the ball to the ground. This country has too many problems to unnecessarily warm up the situation.
Hasn’t there been a political error on the part of the government in this episode?
What had to be protected was coexistence in Catalonia. It was a moment of great sensitivity in Catalonia, I have already said so. Prudence had to prevail. The King had to be protected, too. Not for a security matter. It was intended to prevent his presence from being misunderstood and that there would be situations that none of us want to see. Those images that we have seen at other times and that we do not want to be repeated. The Crown has always shown wisdom and calm, and with these criteria the agenda was coordinated. This country cannot function on the basis of always throwing Catalonia in our heads. The big problem with the opposition is that it permanently throws Catalonia at the head of the government. And this Government explicitly respects judicial decisions. But there is a political problem to be solved and it must be solved with political instruments.
Has been this episode a storm in a glass of water, or the beginning of deep discussions in Spain about the monarchy?
I’d rather stay with it as an incident, as there have been others. There are many legitimate reflections on the constitutional role of the King, or on the existence of the monarchy, but it must be clear that there is a model of coexistence regulated by the Constitution, which establishes the parliamentary monarchy. This is the model I will defend outrageously with all my effort. Now some want to use the monarchy as a throwing weapon. I hear more noise in the PP or Vox, than in those parties that are not very happy with the parliamentary monarchy.
What do you think of the positions of three members of the Government, Unidos Podemos, on the role of the King these days?
I have said, repeatedly, that I do not share certain statements by some members of the Government. I can’t be clearer. But I also defend the right to freedom of expression.
You said not to have a hot fight over Catalonia…
Effectively. What we need to do is foster dialogue, talk a lot and try to find solutions to a problem that is already political. One has to be able to compromise, to give up some of your approaches, knowing that there are some red lines. And those red lines are given by the Constitution.
Just over a week ago you announced in Congress the processing of pardons to those convicted of the process. Did the Government want to send a political message, or merely communicate to the House something that could have been known differently? Did you want to avoid a leak?
They are pardons that have a significance beyond those affected. They have public significance. A communication to Congress seemed to me to be the most opportune.
What calendar do you work with?
This past Monday the documentation was sent to the Supreme Court, which must carry out its report, once the opinion of the Prosecutor’s Office and Prison Institutions has been heard. When the dossier returns to the Ministry of Justice, a refusal or positive proposal will be made to the Council of Ministers, which will have the final say. The Minister of Justice cannot stop handling the pardons because it would be prevaricating. The law is very clear about it. There is a temporary space of between 6 and 8 months until a decision is made. That’s the average time on the records.
Do you think it may be resolved in early February? [Catalan elections could be held on February 14].
I have no idea, it would go very fair on average terms.
Even if there were reports against both the Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court, would you be willing to grant a pardon?
I think it would be inappropriate for me to speak out on this point. It would be an intolerable contempt for a minister of justice to rule before the delivery of these mandatory reports is complied with. And I must add that it is a decision of the Council of Ministers.
Could you further specify the proposal to reform the formulation of the crime of sedition in the Penal Code?
It is the Government’s commitment to amend the Penal Code to bring criminal figures against the Constitution and against public order into line with our current reality and the regulatory framework of the European Union. The crime of sedition is a decimononic crime, which was incorporated into our system almost two hundred years ago. We cannot have a Penal Code outside the reality of the countries around us. France, Italy or Germany countered such conduct from sedition to breaches of public order and state functions. As our Supreme Court, by the way suggested. In the best case, some of the issues Europe told us over the past three years are also due to our squeaky code. Almost all of the authoritative voices in this area agree on the need for the reform we are proposing. It is a reform that has to be addressed from the serenity.
“I don’t agree with the UP’s criticism of the King, but I respect freedom of speech”
Do you think the latest CGPJ appointments should have been stopped?
The Constitution says the CGPJ has a five-year term. After two years of delay, I don’t think the situation needs to be classified. Something’s going on there. The state is strengthened when citizens can have confidence in their institutions. When the Council, after two years, continues to make appointments, the citizen has to ask himself things and he should not like many conclusions which he reaches, and I participate in them. An agreement that was very well worked this summer has gone through the air. The PP is the one that has to try to clarify that.
And now what?
Keep insisting, knocking on the door of the Partido Popular and telling it that it has to become that party of state that has contributed to the governance of this country. There are no more excuses.
So the ball’s on the PP’s roof?
I don’t think it’s ever fallen out of there.
Does the Government envisage legal reform to renew the CGPJ, without agreeing with the PP?
The Government does not carry out regulatory reforms to exclude anyone, but to improve the legal system. What is true is that we are considering the desirability of reforming the Organic Law of the Judiciary to find formulas to ensure the functioning of institutions in accordance with constitutional mandate. I believe that it is necessary to ensure that constitutional bodies enjoy good democratic health. I like to think that we can have a system and institutions that work even if their operators could behave irresponsibly, as is the case with PP blocking on the renewal of the CGPJ.
Does the Government consider that appointments made by an extended CGPJ can be reversible?
Not at all. I want to be blunt and not give an explanation that could cloud the rotundity of my words. The government wants to reform the law of the judiciary, but it’s not going to take that action.
“Pardons shall be processed within 6 to 8 months; I can not advance conclusions”
What is your opinion on the situation of King Emeritus?
As far as I know, King Emeritus has no living court proceedings. There are things that worry me as a citizen, because there are worrying issues. But I believe in everyone’s presumption of innocence. And also in equality before the law. On the other hand, the monarchy is making an effort of transparency, affirming its role as a parliamentary monarchy and its connection to society, an effort to be acknowledged.