Slovenian enigma at the Court of Justice of the EU

By Camille FratiLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Slovenia is struggling to finalise the appointment of its judges to the Court of Justice of the European Union amid a series of public and private scandals.

It has already been two years since the President of the Court of Justice of the EU, Koen Lenaerts, called on Slovenia to initiate the process of appointing the judge who will sit on the Court of Justice of the European Union when Marko Ilesic's term of office ended. It is the tedious work of the Presidents of both the Court of Justice and the General Court to invite the Member States to anticipate these appointments, which take longer in some States than in others.

Slovenia is one of the former, against a background of complex relations between the various powers and repeated scandals surrounding some of the judges in place. Starting with Miro Prek, a judge at the European Court of Justice since 2006 and extended twice (2007 and 2013). His renewal in the spring of 2019 was thwarted by the Slovenian Parliament's last-minute volte-face. At issue: a complaint lodged against him by a former employee for sexual, physical and psychological violence. The judge had the good sense to leave his post in September 2019, which spared the CJEU from formalising the case, since disciplinary sanctions must be decided by the full Court. He was at risk of being dismissed for having an inappropriate relationship with a female colleague under his command and for not having taken the professional distance measures provided for in such cases. The criminal proceedings initiated later on, including harassment and threats against the employee, are officially under way in Luxembourg and in Italy, the collaborator's home country, where they seem to be progressing more quickly according to the Lëtzebuerger Journal.

Last-minute withdrawal

Officially out of the running, especially as he had promised not to seek another position at the Court of Justice in the future, Prek nevertheless received the support of the Slovenian Presidency and the Supreme Judicial Council when he ran for the position of judge at the EU Court of Justice, initially to be filled in 2021. He was still in a strong position this summer when parliamentary elections brought the Freedom Movement party to power and a wave of key appointments followed, but he eventually fell a few metres short of the finish line.

This adds to Slovenia's difficulty in filling its position as a judge on the Court. The Comité 255, composed of current and former supreme court judges and charged with examining the competence and good character of the candidates, rejected several candidates at a time when the Parliament was already struggling to agree on their names, with the majority and the opposition each defending its candidate.

Thus, the current judge, Marko Ilesic, can seriously hope for a renewal of his mandate until 2027 ─ when he will be 80 years old. His candidacy was however swept away by an unequivocal vote of the Parliament in May 2021: 41 votes against, 37 votes for and six invalid ballots, whereas he needed 46 votes to be retained. The sentence came as a surprise, even though the judge had a long experience to his credit ─ he was the first Slovenian judge to have joined the CJEU in 2004 at the time of the EU enlargement ─ and a few feats of arms such as having been judge-rapporteur of emblematic cases such as the Google case and the "right to be forgotten" on the internet.

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