The news of Simon Busuttil’s appointment to a specialist EU panel was broken in Malta by the Malta Independent. Many have taken to their keyboards and to the discussion boards either to wish Dr Busuttil luck or to express their feelings of “good riddance” in different (and sometimes more expressive) forms.
Simon Busuttil is not going anywhere though. He is neither resigning his post as MP in Malta, nor is he required to spend time in Luxembourg or Brussels beyond what is strictly necessary to perform his functions on the panel. Apart from misquoting the relevant Treaty article (it’s 255 not 225) the Independent report seems to give the impression that this was a full time job that would mean that Dr Busuttil leaves Malta for pastures new. They even threw in the following sentence “The post is seen as a stepping stone towards more lucrative positions in the European Parliament, the sources said.”
However, what really happens is this: the panel in question is a panel of experts appointed under article 255 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The full article reads so:
“A panel shall be set up in order to give an opinion on candidates’ suitability to perform the duties of Judge and Advocate-General of the Court of Justice and the General Court before the governments of the Member States make the appointments referred to in Articles 253 and 254.
The panel shall comprise seven persons chosen from among former members of the Court of Justice and the General Court, members of national supreme courts and lawyers of recognised competence, one of whom shall be proposed by the European Parliament. The Council shall adopt a decision establishing the panel’s operating rules and a decision appointing its members. It shall act on the initiative of the President of the Court of Justice.”
Dr Busuttil has been nominated as “a lawyer of recognised competence” since he is neither a former member of the court nor a former member of a national supreme court – he will take up the place reserved for the nominee by the European Parliament.
Along with the other six members of the panel Dr Busuttil will be responsible for the scrutiny of persons nominated to perform the duties of Judge and Advocate-General a the Court of Justice. These nominations are made by member states so – and the Independent got this right – Dr Busuttil will also eventually be scrutinising the nominees by the Maltese government.
The 255 committee (as the panel is often referred to) has already in the past found Maltese nominees to be unsuitable for the post and effectively rejected their nomination thus forcing the Maltese government to nominate a replacement. This was most recently the case last year when Chief Justice Silvio Camilleri was rejected for a position in the European Court of Justice. In 2012, the same committee had rejected former judge Joseph Filletti’s nomination to the ECJ.
Put simply the 255 committee is a guarantee that, at least at a European level, government appointments to judicial posts are free from nepotism.
As for Dr Busuttil, this job will only require his presence and input whenever such nominations are put in motion – the next big wave is for the October 2018 renewals at the European Court. At most it means a few days in Brussels or Luxembourg (depending where the interviews for nominees take place) where he will provide invaluable input to the final decision.
Otherwise, unless there are any future developments, Simon stays.