The president of the Council of State, Magdalena Valerio (left), poses with the permanent councilor, Paz Andrés, during the presentation of the Council's 2022 Report, this Tuesday in Madrid.Zipi (EFE)
The Council of State considers that the Government makes excessive use of the request for opinions as a matter of urgency and warns that this procedure should not be abused. The Council's report for 2022, presented on Tuesday, explains that such urgencies do not reduce the quality of the reports, but they do lead to less internal deliberation, because they are taken only to the standing committee and not to the plenary. The President of the Council, Magdalena Valerio, explained that last year 122 opinions were processed urgently at the express request of the Government, and stressed that this treatment should be reserved for reports that really require special speed.
The report presented on Tuesday states that in 2022 urgency was resorted to "without responding on many occasions to a sufficient and reasoned motivation for urgency". And he adds that "in the end, it is the plenary session of the Council of State that ends up suffering from this dynamic, as its pronouncement is avoided in certain cases of special urgency deadlines". In general, 15 days are usually given when an opinion is requested in this way, but there is also extreme urgency, which means that the report has to be delivered in a maximum of 10 days, or even less. All this makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the institution to cultivate one of its internal mottos, in the sense of respecting the method of "reflective deliberation".
During the presentation of the report, Valerio refused to comment on the formula for drafting the amnesty law and its presentation to Congress as a bill, which avoids having to submit to several previous reports. "The Council of State only speaks for its opinions," he said, alluding to the consultative and non-binding nature of the institution's reports, which in this case have not been requested, as it is not required by the elected parliamentary procedure (a PSOE bill and not a government bill). Valerio said he did not know if at any time in its history the Council had dealt with the very concept of amnesty and its concrete application in a report. In short, the president of the Council did not comment on the constitutionality of the bill that has begun its processing in Congress.
The president of the Council of State and the councillor in charge of the preparation of the report, Paz Andrés, insisted that the essential task of the institution is the preparation of opinions at the request of the Government, referring to the 2022 report, which refers to such reports as "a central instrument of the advisory function insofar as it expresses the reasoned opinion on a certain matter". And a reasoned opinion, the text stresses, "undoubtedly requires a prior process of study, reflection, debate and approval." Urgent orders, in short, prevent the Council from dealing with its opinions through the usual filters of an initial internal report by the legal rapporteur of the case, which then passes through the sieve of the corresponding section, then through the permanent section and finally through the plenary. This whole system of successive filters allows, when urgency is not invoked, "a review of the lawyer's initial document by a minimum of 10 and a maximum of up to 30 people". In view of all these circumstances, Valerio wanted to stress that the Council of State "unlike other institutions" very strictly complies with the legally established deadlines, even when they are short.
Valerio and Minister Paz Andrés also highlighted the increase in the institution's activity in recent years, which in 2022 resulted in the receipt of 2,118 consultations – 122 of them with the aforementioned urgency – compared to 1,303 in 2021. The report indicates that 98.12% of the opinions were seconded at least in their initial considerations, a slight increase, of 0.85 points compared to the previous year, something that "gives an idea of the impact that the opinions" have on "executive and legislative activity despite not being binding".
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