Former Opposition leader Simon Busuttil sits on the committee that will assess the suitability of Maltese lawyer Ramona Frendo for the post of Judge of the EU General Court.
The nomination is not expected to be an easy one, given that Frendo does not have vast EU law experience and that she had campaigned for a Labour Party victory in the 2013 election, even lending her face to a campaign billboard. She was also an independent Żejtun local councillor in the mid-1990s, at a time when the Labour Party presented candidates as independent, and during which time Frendo’s mother ran the Labour Party club in Żejtun.
According to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, judges must be persons “whose independence is beyond doubt”
Busuttil was last year appointed to the so-called ‘255 Panel’, which is responsible for giving an opinion on nominations. He was nominated to the role by the European People’s Party (EPP), and his appointment was ultimately approved by majority vote of the European Parliament. All Labour Party MEPs, except for MEP Alfred Sant, had backed Busuttil’s nominations.
Though the appointment was based on him being a lawyer of recognised competence in EU law, Busuttil’s role is not of a technical expert. His job is to oversee the workings of the committee on behalf of the EPP, and he will only vote if the other six committee members are split down the middle. The other members are nominated by the President of the European Court of Justice as impartial experts, and are senior jurists from across Europe, many former members of constitutional courts.
Contacted to see if he would be supporting Frendo’s nomination, Busuttil declined to comment given his position.
Frendo was nominated by the Maltese Government last week to replace outgoing judge Peter Xuereb, who in turn has been nominated to serve as a judge on the European Court of Justice.
If accepted, Frendo will be replacing Prof. Peter Xuereb, a lifetime academic with over 35 years’ experience in European law. She will be joining Prof. Eugene Buttigieg, also an academic who is currently a visiting professor at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Malta.
The EU’s General Court is composed of two judges from each Member State, plus a registrar. Together with the European Court of Justice, it forms the basis of the EU’s judiciary arm.