Spain / Supreme Court / 351/2017 VOX (political party) against the Resolution of the Spanish Electoral Board of 9 December 2015

Key facts of the case: 

This decision is the Spanish Supreme Court's response to appeal no. 4284/15 lodged by the VOX political party against the Resolution of the Spanish Electoral Board of 9 December 2015. On the basis of this Resolution, the Spanish Electoral body prohibits the VOX political party-a far-right political party- to present its candidacy to the general elections of 2015 with their own envelopes, which contained the national flag and emblem stamped on it. This circumstance, in the eyes of the Electoral Board, was contrary to the Electoral Law (more specifically, Article 46 (5) of Organic Law 5/1985, of 19 June, on the General Electoral System and Article 8 of Law 39/1981, of 28 October, governing the use of the Spanish flag and other flags and banners) and which provides for a clean political process where symbols of such type are meant to stay outside of it.

This Resolution of the Spanish Electoral Board was communicated to the President of the National Mail Services Administration, who was forced by virtue of the said decisions to not distribute the envelopes to the electorate. The political party affected, the above-mentioned VOX, appealed both decisions in the corresponding jurisdiction on the grounds of an alleged infringement of their fundamental rights to concur to democratic elections and to equality.

In particular, Articles 24 of the Spanish Constitution (the right to effective legal protection) and 51 of the Charter.

Outcome of the case: 

The case was partially upheld favourably to the political party and the Court found both the Resolution of the Spanish Electoral Board of 9 December 2015 and the communication of this decision to the National Mail Services Administration were not in accordance to law (Organic Law 5/1985, of 19 June, on the General Electoral System and Law 39/1981, of 28 October, governing the use of the Spanish flag and other flags and banners, but did not restrict any fundamental right (neither in the Charter nor in the Spanish Constitution). 

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

The party does not justify how the Charter for Fundamental Rights was infringed on the recognition of the rights to effective legal remedy and principles of legality and equality in the eyes of the law, because the Articles supposedly alleged are not identified.

The point is that the Charter is not applicable, and therefore, it cannot be alleged when fundamental rights invoked have no relation with European Union Law, in other words, with European legislation. This is what Article 51 means when referring to the scope of the Charter in its second paragraph: it confirms that the Charter cannot lead to an extension of the competences and roles conferred to the Union by virtue of the Treaties”.

As point 21 of the Aklagaren Judgment C-617/10, of the Court of Justice of 26 February 2013, "the applicability of the European Union Law implies the applicability of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter". This is the reason why in point 22 it is affirmed that "when, on the contrary, a legal situation is not within the scope of the application of European Union Law, the Court of Justice has no competence to know anything from it, and the Charter provisions invoked cannot constitute in themselves any such competence (judicial decision of 12 July 2012, Currá and others - C-466/2001).”

We are not in the scope of the elections to the European Parliament, Article 39, neither of the local elections, Article 40. The Spanish Courts, in the same way as European Union judges, can and must apply the Charter, however in this case there is no connection with any European legislation, therefore it is enough to take into consideration the constitutional provisions.

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language): 

No argumenta la parte como ha sido lesionada la Carta de los Derchos Fundamentales en su vertiente de reconocimiento de los derechos de tutela judicial efectiva, principio de legalidad e igualdad ante la ley que no identifica en unos concretos dígitos.

Lo significativo es que la Carta no se aplica, y por tanto no es esgrimible, cuando los derechos fundamentales invocados no guardan relación con el derecho de la Unión Europea, es decir con la aplicación de normativa comunitaria. Tal es el sentido del art. 51 relativo al ámbito de aplicación de la Carta cuyo apartado segundo confirma que la Carta no puede dar lugar a una ampliación de las competencias y funciones conferidas a la Unión por los Tratados.

Como recuerda el punto 21 de la Sentencia Aklagaren, C-617/10, del Tribunal de Justicia de 26 de febrero de 2013 (LA LEY 6790/2013) "la aplicabilidad del Derecho de la Unión implica la aplicabilidad de los derechos fundamentales garantizados por la Carta". Por ello en el punto 22 afirma que "cuando, por el contrario, una situación jurídica no está comprendida en el ámbito de aplicación del Derecho de la Unión, el Tribunal de Justicia no tiene competencia para conocer de ella y las disposiciones de la Carta eventualmente invocadas no pueden fundar por si solas tal competencia (auto de 12 de julio de 2012, Currá y otros - C-466/2001)”.

No estamos en el ámbito de las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo, art. 39, ni en el de las elecciones municipales, art. 40. Los tribunales españoles, como jueces de la Unión Europea, pueden y deben aplicar la Carta, mas aquí no se vislumbra la afectación de norma comunitaria alguna por lo que resulta suficiente tomar en consideración los preceptos constitucionales.

Language: 
Spanish
Deciding body (original language): 
Tribunal Supremo, Sala Tercera de lo Contencioso-Administrativo, Sección 4ª
Language: 
Spanish