Venice Commission 
July 2009
79th Plenary Session
12-13 June 2009 
Plenary session
1. The Commission discussed and adopted opinions on the following issues:
2. The Commission has also adopted the general reports on:

3. Ms Snezana Malovic and Mr Mykola Onishchuk, Ministers of Justice respectively of Serbia and Ukraine, have participated in the debates concerning their countries.
4. The Enlarged Bureau of the Venice Commission met with the Presidential Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe  on Friday 12 June 2009.
Synopsis of the June 2009 session

since March 2009 session

Democratic institutions and human rights  
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - Conference on the principle of rule of law and the separation of powers  - 25/05/2009 - 26/05/2009 
Yerevan, Armenia -
Conference of the Human Rights Defender of Armenia on "The Right to Freedom of Expression and Fair Trial"  - 
25/05/2009 - 26/05/2009 
Tashkent, Uzbekistan - European Rule of Law Initiative for Central Asia - meetings with the authorities --26/03/2009 - 28/03/2009

Goethe University, Frankfurt - Definition and development of human rights and popular sovereignty - UniDem seminar   15/05/2009 - 16/05/2009

Yerevan, Armenia - Conference on Human Rights in Armenia --19/03/2009 -  20/03/2009 

Elections and referendums  

Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan - Seminar for international observers, organised by the Inter-parliamentary Assembly of member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States --09/06/2009

Vienna, Austria - International workshop on e-voting from abroad --  18/05/2009 - 19/05/2009

Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine - Future Unified Electoral Code of Ukraine - a working group meeting --  07/05/2009 - 09/05/2009

Madrid, Spain - Conference of the Spanish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers on "Controlling Electoral Processes", in co-operation with the Centre for Constitutional and Political Studies -- 24/04/2009 - 25/04/2009

London, UK - OSCE/ODIHR guidelines on political parties - a working group meeting --  21/04/2009 - 22/04/2009
Chisinau, Moldova -
Legal Advice to the Parliamentary Assembly in the context of the Parliamentary elections --  02/04/2009 - 06/04/2009  
Kocani, "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" - Seminar of the
Skopje School of Politics concerning the situation of the country during and post the elections, organised of the Political Affairs Directorate of the Council of Europe -- 26/03/2009 - 29/03/2009

Skopje,  "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" -  
Legal Advice to the Parliamentary Assembly in the context of the presidential elections of 22 March --  13/03/- 23/03/2009

Chisinau, Moldova - Capacity-building programme for the Central Election Commission - international expert in electoral matters aiming at assisting the electoral administration on legal and technical issues in the context of the Parliamentary elections -- 17/03/2009 - 9/04/2009

Constitutional Justice

Podgorica, Montenegro - Seminar on "Efficient dealing with individual constitutional complaints - international experience"   - 12/06 -13/06/2009
Belgrade, Serbia - Conference in co-operation with the Constitutional Court of Serbia on the "Constitutional restriction on freedom of association" - 02/06/2009

Strasbourg - Request by the German government - a Study on "Individual Access to Constitutional Justice"  -21/04/2009

Ramallah - Conference on the Constitutional Court organised in the framework of the European Union's Project "Seyada" - 22/04 -  23/04/2009

Mérida, Mexico - World Conference on Constitutional Justice - Bureau  -  16/04/2009

Mérida, Mexico- Ibero-American Conference on Constitutional Justice on "Constitutional Interpretation" 15/04/2009 - 17/04/2009


cover Freedom Expression

Freedom of Expression (2009)

Author:   Michel Verpeaux
ISBN   978-92-871-6463-6
Format :   16 x 24
Nb pages :   220
Price :   29 € / 58 US$
(French only)
In the same series "Europeans and their rights":
Child rights in Europe (2008)
ISBN 978-92-871-6269-4
Freedom of religion (2007)
ISBN 978-92-871-6201-4
The Right to Life in European constitutional and conventional case law (2006)
ISBN 978-92-871-5867-3

Forthcoming plenary sessions in 2009

9-10 October 
11-12 December

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      "We are credible outside Europe because we are a part of the Council of Europe as a value-based organisation. But, we are also credible because we are a legal body and not a political one, and because we are independent. However, for our opinions to be followed, we cannot only rely on our reputation but we need the good will of member states, the support by the political bodies of the Council of Europe and of the general public, well-informed by the media."
 Jan Helgesen, President of  the Venice Commission, 
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, 27 May 2009


The impact of electoral systems on women's representation in politics
Following a request of the Committee on equal opportunities for women and men of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Commission adopted a report on the impact of electoral systems on women's representation in politics (CDL-AD(2009)029).

This report concludes that there are a wide variety of socio-economic, cultural and political factors that can hamper or facilitate women's access to parliament.

Among the institutional factors, both the electoral system and gender quotas can strongly influence women's parliamentary representation. Among other factors favourable to women's representation are: 
  • district size ( number of seats per district); 
  • party "size" (i.e. number of seats per party); 
  • thresholds (excluding small parties).

In addition, it shouldn't be forgotten that the electoral systems aim to fulfil a number of objectives, and women's representation may oppose some of them (e.g.: the most proportional representation possible). 

Increased use of private military and security firms
In its report CDL-AD(2009)038 the Venice Commission addressed the questions raised by the increased use of private military and security firms (PMSCs) in the light of the proposals made by the Parliamentary Assembly in its Recommendation 1858(2009), which calls for the elaboration of a new instrument on this matter.
The Venice Commission considers that some of the issues taken up by the PACE - while undoubtedly of international concern - are not appropriate for inclusion in a Council of Europe treaty. Other parts of the PACE recommendation could form the basis of future treaty provisions. However, a Council of Europe treaty on the subject of PMSCs would, at the present time, be very time-consuming and problematic to draft.
Nonetheless, certain of the issues taken up by the PACE are suitable subjects for a Committee of Ministers recommendation, such as the invitation to the CoE member states to review:
  • national laws dealing with registration/licensing of PMSCs, to see if these provide a proper degree of regulation of the extraterritorial activities of PMSCs, 
  • criminal legislation to determine whether there is jurisdiction over serious offences committed by personnel of PMSCs and 
  • civil law systems to determine whether it is possible to make claims for damages for extraterritorial civil wrongdoing against PMSCs incorporated in the state.  
Ukraine -- Opinion on constitutional reform
The Commission adopted, at the request of the Permanent Representation of Ukraine to the Council of Europe, an opinion on the proposal of President Yushchenko for a new version of the Constitution (CDL-AD(2009)024).

The draft provides clear improvements both with respect to previous drafts and to the current Constitution. These improvements are particularly apparent with respect to the provisions on the judiciary and the prosecution service. The draft abandons a number of questionable provisions of the current Constitution, e.g. on
  • the formalised majority coalition in the Verkhovna Rada,
  • the so-called imperative mandate,
  • the double responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers to the President and to the Verkhovna Rada and
  • the distinction between ministers appointed on the proposal of the President and ministers appointed on the proposal of the Prime Minister.
Advantages and drawbacks of establishment of a second chamber have to be weighed carefully.

Other proposed amendments receive a more critical assessment. The requirement that all constitutional amendments require a referendum risks making the Constitution excessively rigid and the expansion of direct democracy at the national level may compromise political stability. Changes with respect to the position of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea tend to decrease the autonomy.

Finally, although the draft describes the powers of the state organs more precisely and removes a number of sources of tensions between them, it is not evident that the draft attains its main aim of putting an end to the constant institutional conflicts between the President and the Cabinet of Ministers.
Political parties: the imperative mandate and "recall" practice
The imperative mandate and "recall" are procedures through which citizens have the right to revoke or replace an elected official before the end of his/her mandate. This concept of imperative mandate is widely rejected in democracies although some countries have used this institution to try to solve a particular problem (the "political nomadism" or "floor-crossing", the defection of a political party or change of affiliation).

The report CDL-AD(2009)027 concludes that at present, the imperative mandate and the "recall" is not practiced in European countries. The Commission has repeatedly argued that the disqualification of a representative capacity for changing of his/her political affiliation violates the principle of a free and independent mandate. Even if the purpose of such measures (i.e. to prevent an elected member to "sell" his/her mandate to the highest bidder) may be treated with some understanding, the fundamental constitutional principle that prohibits any practice aimed at depriving a representative of his/her mandate, should prevail as a cornerstone of the European democratic constitutionalism.
Joint guidelines on media analysis during election observation missions
The document CDL-AD(2009)31 summarises more developed guidelines adopted previously by, inter alia, OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission (CDL-AD(2005)032). It aims at giving tools for analysing how media can influence the electoral process. It focuses on the following issues:

  • voters' right to receive information;
  • candidates' right to impart information;
  • the media's freedom of expression.
 In particular, it examines issues such as news coverage, free airtime and paid advertising.


"Electoral engineering as an engine of democracy through elections" -  Interview with Gianni Buquicchio 
On 16-17 July the Expert Seminar on the role of Electoral Management Bodies in ensuring the conformity of electoral processes with the OSCE and the Council of Europe commitments was held in Vienna. The Venice Commission is invited to participate in this event.
On this occassion Secretary of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio gave an interview.
Adoption of the Commission's Annual Report of activities by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe   --27/05/2009  

Strasbourg, Palais de l'Europe - "If we have a worldwide financial crisis, then worldwide rule of law should be part of the answer", - said Jan Helgesen, President of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, presenting its annual report to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
"Democracy always implies civilian primacy over the military" - Interview with Gianni Buquicchio, Secretary of the Commission

Strasbourg, 02.04.2009 - On the occasion of the NATO Summit (Strasbourg, 3-4 April 2009) Secretary of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio gave an interview on the subject of democratic control of the armed forces.
A full report, which considers all the forms of control over armed forces in Europe, was adopted by the Commission in 2008.
Link to the interview
Brazil brings the "population" of the Venice Commission to 1.2 billion - 01/04/2009

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe agreed on 1 April 2009 to let Brazil join the Venice Commission.

Since 2002, when the Venice Commission became an enlarged agreement allowing non-European countries to become full members, 9 states have joined the Commission: Kyrgyzstan (2004) , Chile (2005) , the Republic of Korea (2006), Morocco and Algeria (2007), Israel and Tunisia (2008), Peru and Brazil (2009). The membership of Brazil brings the number of the member states to 56 and the population "covered" by the expertise of the Commission close to 1.2 billion people. 


Seminars and meetings:

Chisinau - Legal Advice to the Parliamentary Assembly during the 29 July 2009 repeat Parliamentary elections -- 26/07/2009 - 31/07/2009

Yerevan - ACEEEO (Association of European Election Officials) Conference and General Assembly meeting --  05/09/2009

Trieste - Universities for Democracy (UniDem) Campus - One-week training of civil servants of sixteen participating states on the independence of the judiciary --  28/09/2009 - 02/10/2009

Ankara - In co-operation with the Constitutional Court of Turkey, the Commission organises the 4th Conference of Secretaries General of Constitutional Courts -- 01/10/2009 - 02/10/2009

Yerevan - XIVth International Yerevan Conference in co-operation with the Constitutional Court of Armenia and the International Association of Constitutional Law on "The interaction between constitutional courts and parliaments in guaranteeing the supremacy of the Constitution" -- 01/10/2009 - 03/10/2009
Opinions and studies under preparation: 
Opinions concerning:
  • Azerbaijan - draft law on obtaining of the information on activities of the courts
  • Bulgaria - Draft law on normative acts
  • Georiga - Law on Constitutional Reform and Amendments to the Laws on Assemblies and Manifestations
  • Human Rights Review Mechanisms of Kosovo
  • Kyrgyzstan - draft law on political parties
  • Latvia - amendments to the law on the Constitutional Court
  • Luxemburg - Constitutional Reform
  • Moldova - Draft Law on Status of Euroregions
  • Montenegro - draft law on prohibition of discrimination and law on ombudsman
  • Turkey - legislation on religious communities
  • Ukraine- draft law on presidential elections
 Studies on:
  • Independence of judiciary
  • Role of opposition
  • Cansellation of the elections results
  • Internationally recognised status of election observers : Guidelines
  • Individual access to constitutional justice

In conclusion...

The Secretariat of the Venice Commission wishes you a nice summer break!  
 logo 2008 circle

Until the next issue in October 2009! 
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