These roles were previously filled by President Egils Levits and judge Ingrīda Labucka. Since Levits became president in July of last year the EU Court hasn't had a member selected by Latvia. Labucka left her role at the General Court at the end of February, so now both roles need to be filled.
Other European countries (Slovakia, Slovenia) have also encountered the same problem. The Latvia commission includes Foreign Affairs and Justice Ministry representatives, as well as Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Prosecutor General and Saeima Judicial Commission representatives. Justice Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Raivis Kronbergs is currently chairing the commission.
“As soon as all the candidates we've addressed consent to being part of the selection, we hope the government will confirm within two weeks. That the state has chosen or confirmed someone for one of the roles doesn't mean they'll fill it, or that the European Commission will accept and declare them the best candidate in the country,” said Kronbergs.
None of the candidates received EC support during the selection process held at the end of 2019 after Labucka announced she would be leaving her role. The selection process for the second vacancy is only being held just now.
“We need to get away from the understanding that it's a person who represents Latvian national interests. Judges work independently of the state and any other influence, at least that's the hope,” said University of Latvia Judicial Faculty Lecturer Arnis Bunka.
“At the same time it's a very responsible decision the state is taking. Even though he's not a state representative, but the Court of Justice of the EU is a very important EU institution. That's why it's very important that the person is competent in their field and understands what they're doing,” continued Bunka.
According to experts it's not a great tragedy if the roles are vacant for a while - what's more important is choosing competent candidates. There are no deadlines for a country to find a new EU Court member. Constitutional Court Chair Ineta Ziemela admits that the process is more difficult for smaller countries that have less people to choose from, but it can be difficult for the court to function if it's missing several members. EU Court President Koen Lenaerts also said that from a workload management perspective, they can't afford to have the roles vacant for long.
“Several judges had left the court or retired. At that moment the EU Court workload drastically increased, because several countries were asking how to interpret one EU legal provision or the other,” said Ziemele.
As soon as candidates agree to participate in the selection process they'll be presented to Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns (New Conservative Party). If the candidates are approved, they go on to meet with an EC committee at the beginning of June. Once they are approved by the committee their names and when they will take their role are publicly announced.