The European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission, is the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters. Established in 1990, the commission has played a leading role in the adoption of constitutions that conform to the standards of Europe's constitutional heritage.
Initially conceived as a tool for emergency constitutional engineering, the commission has become an internationally recognised independent legal think-tank. Today it contributes to the dissemination of the European constitutional heritage, based on the continent's fundamental legal values while continuing to provide “constitutional first-aid” to individual states. The Venice Commission also plays a unique and unrivalled role in crisis management and conflict prevention through constitution building and advice.
The Commission meets in plenary four times a year - in March, June, October and December - in Venice, in Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista.
The Commission's legal status and composition
Established in 1990 as a partial agreement of 18 member states of the Council of Europe, the commission in February 2002 became an enlarged agreement, allowing non-European states to become full members.
The Venice Commission is composed of “independent experts who have achieved eminence through their experience in democratic institutions or by their contribution to the enhancement of law and political science” (article 2 of the revised Statute).
The members are senior academics, particularly in the fields of constitutional or international law, supreme or constitutional court judges or members of national parliaments. Acting on the commission in their individual capacity, the members are appointed for four years by the participating countries. Since December 2009 the president of the Commission is Mr Gianni BUQUICCHIO.
All Council of Europe member states1 are members of the Venice Commission; in addition, Kyrgyzstan joined the commission in 2004, Chile in 2005, the Republic of Korea in 2006, Morocco and Algeria in 2007, Israel in 2008, Peru and Brazil in 2009, Tunisia and Mexico in 2010, Kazakhstan in novembre 2011. Most recently, USA became a full member on 15 April 2013. The Commission thus has 59 full members in all. Belarus is associate member, while Argentina, Canada, the Holy See, Japan and Uruguay are observers. South Africa and Palestinian National Authority have a special co-operation status similar to that of the observers.
The European Commission and OSCE/ODIHR participate in the plenary sessions of the Commission.
The Commission's activities
The work of the European Commission for Democracy through Law aims at upholding the three underlying principles of Europe's constitutional heritage: democracy, human rights and the rule of law - the cornerstones of the Council of Europe. Accordingly, the Commission works in the following four key-areas:
Link to articles on the Venice Commission
The Commission meets in plenary sessions four times a year – in March, June, October and December – in Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, Venice. Because the Commission is an integral part of the Council of Europe, its permanent staff is based in Strasbourg.
1 Council of Europe has 47 member states: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, ”The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.