Newsletter of the Venice Commission


 2 / 2012

In this issue:



march 2012 plenary session

All decisions of the March plenary

Meeting room of the Venice Commission

At its 90th plenary session on 16-17 March 2012,
the Commission

  • Adopted opinions on inter alia the following issues:

-     the compatibility with universal Human Rights standards of the amended law on mass events in the Republic of Belarus

-     the laws on the status and remuneration of judges and on the organisation and administration of Courts in Hungary, and on Act CCVI of 2011 on Freedom of Conscience and Religion and the Legal Status of Churches, Denominations and Religious Communities of Hungary

-         the Federal Laws of the Russian Federation on Election of the Deputies of the State Duma, on Political Parties and on  the Federal Law on meetings, rallies, marches and pickets

Held an exchange of views with Mr Kapyrin, Ms Manakhova and Mr Maxim Musikhin, Chief of Section, Legal Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, and decided to postpone the examination of the draft opinions on the Federal Law of the Russian Federation on the Federal Security Service (FSB) and on the Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Combating Extremist Activity until the June 2012 session, in order to clarify certain legal issues with the Russian authorities; 

Held a preliminary discussion on the draft Law on Free access to information and on the draft Law on amendments to the law on classified information of Montenegro

Adopted the report on measures to improve the democratic character of elections in the Council of Europe member states, previously adopted by the Council for Democratic Elections on 15 March 2012


 (read synopsis of the plenary)

Selected opinions

  • Hungary - independence of the judiciary

In reply to a letter by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Mr Jagland, on 20 January 2012 the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary Mr Martonyi, requested the Venice Commission to provide inter alia an opinion on legislation relating to the judiciary, namely Act CLXII of 2011 on the legal status and remuneration of judges and Act CLXI of 2011 on the organisation and administration of courts.

On 20-21 February 2012, a delegation of the Commission's rapporteurs visited Budapest. On 16 March 2012 the Commission discussed and adopted the relevant opinion. On 21 March 2012 Secretary General Jagland met with the Hungarian authorities to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission.

(read the summary of the opinion)

  • Russia - Federal Laws on Duma elections, political parties and freedom of assembly

On 16 December 2011, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe requested opinions from the Venice Commission on the following Russian Federation Federal Laws:

  • meetings, rallies, marches and pickets
  • political parties
  • election of the deputies of the State Duma
  • FSB
  • combating extremist activity

The Venice Commission discussed these on 16-17 March 2012 in Venice and adopted three (1-3) opinions on 17 March 2012. The opinions on FSB and extremism will be discussed at the June plenary session.   

(read the summary)

  • Belarus - Law on mass events 

In December 2011, the PACE’s Political Affairs Committee declared, during discussions based on a report by MP Andreas Herkel, that the authorities in Belarus are “deliberately turning their back on Europe and the values it holds”.

On 15 December 2011, the President of the Political Affairs Committee of the PACE requested the Venice Commission to provide an assessment of the compatibility with universal human rights standards of the amended “Law on Mass Events in the Republic of Belarus” (hereinafter, “the Law” or “the Law on Mass Events”), that entered into force on 27 November 2011.

 (read the summary)

  • Situation concerning legislative reforms in Hungary - Authorities react very constructively, says SG

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe's official visit to Hungary on 21 March 2012 has generated massive worldwide coverage (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, The Financial Times, AFP, Reuters, AP, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, ABC News, Bloomberg, Dow Jones News, Der Spiegel, Die Welt, EFE, Europa Press, ANSA, SDA/ATS, Le Figaro, Europe 1, Agence Europe, Agence Belga, RTBF, Romandie News, MTI, ECHO TV, Nepszabadsag, Hirado, NRK, Verdens Gang etc).

In a widely quoted interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung given following his separate meetings with Prime Minister Viktor Orban and several members of his cabinet, SG Jagland said that Hungary reacted “very constructively” to the Council of Europe’s criticism of its sweeping judicial reform formulated by the Venice Commission in its opinion CDL-AD(2012)001. “We are on the right track”, he stated, adding that PM Orban is taking concerns contained in the Venice Commission’s opinions “very seriously.” Mr Jagland insisted that this is not about imposing any rules on Hungary, but rather about meeting the commitments the country undertook when joining the Council of Europe. The SG told the International Herald Tribune that Budapest has already taken some quite big steps to address the problems, but that more needs to be done.

Speaking about the Council’s concerns about the country’s new church law, expressed in another Venice Commission opinion also adopted at the March 2012 plenary session (CDL-AD(2012)004), he admitted that there was a need to avoid that some religious organisations misuse the possibility of getting public funding, but noted that the nature of the law is somewhat political: “The Hungarian parliament is the one to decide which religious organisations or churches need to be registered. This means that this issue can be politicised, which is not in accordance with the normal standards we have in Europe today,” SG Jagland told The Associated Press.

Full press review on Hungary – January - April 2012

Links to the Commission's opinion on the judiciary (CDL-AD(2012)001) and on the freedom of religion (CDL-AD(2012)004)

  • UK Chairmanship Conference on the Rule of Law

The Venice Commission organised, under the auspices of the UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in co-operation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom and the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, a Conference on “The Rule of Law as a practical concept”. This event, which took place on 2 March 2012 at Lancaster House in London, brought together approximately 80 participants from Council of Europe and Venice Commission members States, including some 15 rapporteurs and speakers. Academics, politicians, practicing lawyers, prosecutors, judges and constitutional judges attended the Conference. The conference included a keynote speech by Mr Ronald Dworkin, Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law at New York University and Professor Emeritus of Jurisprudence at University College London. The proceedings of the conference will be made available to the wide public.

Link to the synopsis of the conference

Link to recent Venice Commission documents

  •   Selected activities since the December 2011 session

  • Democratic Institutions and Fundamental Rights

20 - 21/02/2012
Hungary - Venice Commission’s visit – opinions on laws on judiciary and on freedom of religion  

Budapest – a delegation of the Venice Commission exchanged views with representatives of the authorities and other stake-holders on the laws on judiciary and on freedom of religion. The visit took place in the framework of the preparation of the Commission’s opinions on the above-mentioned laws, upon a request by the Hungarian authorities.

In the photo: meeting between the Venice Commission delegation and the Hungarian authorities.

  • Constitutional, Ordinary Justice and Ombudsmen 

17 - 18/01/2012
Tunisia - Constitutional Justice  

Tunis - The Venice Commission participated in the ABA ROLI-Arab Council for Judicial and Legal Studies (ACJLS) Workshop on “The Role of an Independent Judiciary in the Middle East and North Africa.”

In the photo: member of the Venice Commission Ms S. Banić with the participants

  • Elections, Referendums and Political Parites

29/02/2012 - 01/03/2012
Armenia – Electoral issues – Round Table with judges  
Yerevan – At the request of the Judicial School of Armenia, the Venice Commission co-organised a Round Table with judges from administrative courts on the topic of electoral disputes that may arise in the context of the parliamentary elections of May 2012. For this purpose, two Venice Commission experts met around 20 judges during two working sessions.

In the photo:  one of the working session of judges and experts


Available now from the Council of Europe Publishing:

  • Bulletin on Constitutional Case-Law and DVD - No 2011/1


Available for free now from the Secretariat:

  • Selected studies and reports (English, French)"

  • "What is the Venice Commission?" (English, French)

Forthcoming leaflet:

  • "The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe" (English, French, Russian)



  • Belgium - Federalism - constitutional reform;

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina - Legal certainty and the independence of the judiciary; conflict of interest; education;

  • Hungary - Laws on the elections to the Parliament, freedom of information, the Constitutional Court, prosecution, nationalities; transitional provisions of the Constitution;

  • Russian Federation - Law on the Federal Security Service, notably amendments of 2010 concerning powers of investigation officers; Law on counteraction to extremist activities - definition of “extremism” and the means which are at the disposal of the authorities to counteract any activity considered as “extremist”;

  • Ukraine - Draft laws on the prosecutors office.


   Electoral issues

  • Use of administrative resources during electoral campaign;

  • Consecutive terms in office as well as the limitation of the possibility to simultaneously hold mandates at different levels of power;

  • Criteria for standing for local and regional elections.


   Democratic institutions and fundamental rights


  • Extra-institutional actors in the democratic system (lobbying)

  • Freedom of religion - joint OSCE - VC revised guidelines


  • Freedom of assembly                                   

  • Ordinary justice                                            

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