Newsletter of the Venice Commission


 2 / 2013

In this issue:




March 2013 plenary session


All decisions of the March plenary

At its 94th plenary session on 8-9 March 2013, the Commission:

-          adopted opinions on the :

o    draft amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia on Courts of General Jurisdiction

o    Provisions relating to Political Prisoners in the Amnesty Law of Georgia,

o    Constitutional Bill for a new Constitution for the Republic of Iceland;

two draft laws of the Republic of Moldova pertaining to Financing Political Parties and Electoral Campaigns ( jointly with the OSCE/ODIHR)

o    Law 192 of 12 July 2012 of the Republic of Moldova on the prohibition of the Use of Communist Symbols (joint amicus curiae brief by the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR);

o    on the Immunity of Judges - amicus curiae brief for the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova,

o    Federal Law no. 65-FZ of 8 June 2012 of the Russian Federation amending Federal Law no. 54-FZ of 19 June 2004 on assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, marches and picketing and the Code of Administrative Offences;

o    draft amendments to laws on the Judiciary of Serbia,

o    draft amendments to the law on Public Prosecution of Serbia;

-          adopted reports on:

o    the relationship between political and criminal ministerial responsibility;
“the role of extra-institutional actors in the democratic system”;

-          held an exchange of views with:

o    Mr Alexandre Baramidzé, Deputy Minister of Justice of Georgia, Mr Konstantin Kublashvili, Chairman of the Supreme Court, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli and Mr Akaki Minashvili, Members of Parliament;
Mr Nikola Selakovic, Minister of Justice of Serbia;
Mr Andreas Voßkuhle, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, on “co-operation of national and international courts in Europe”;
Mr Milan Markovic, President of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro;

 (read the synopsis of the plenary)

Selected opinions

  • Russia  - June 2012 amendements to the Law on rallies

By a letter dated 5 July 2012, the Chair of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe asked the Venice Commission to provide an opinion on the Federal Law of the Russian Federation as amended by the law of 8 June 2012. In March 2012, prior to the adoption of the amendments of June 2012, the Venice Commission adopted an opinion on the Assembly Act (CDL-AD(2012)007), also at the request of PACE.

The Commission is deeply convinced that the protection of the freedom to peacefully assemble is crucial to creating a tolerant and pluralistic society in which groups with different beliefs, practices or policies can exist peacefully together. As a fundamental right, freedom of peaceful assembly should, insofar as possible, be enjoyed without regulation. The state should always seek to facilitate and protect public assemblies.

(read the summary )

  • Iceland - Draft Constitution

On 16 November 2012, the Chair of the Constitutional and Supervisory Committee of the Parliament of Iceland asked the Venice Commission to provide an Opinion on the Bill for a new Constitution of Iceland (CDL-AD(2013)010).

The Venice Commission has tried to place the opinion as much as possible in the specific historical, demographical, legal and political context of Iceland - and mainly addresses issues or areas which it has been invited to examine in more detail, namely: the functioning and the interaction between the institutions (the Parliament, the Government and the President), the increased possibilities for referendums, the proposed electoral system and its impact on democratic representation.

(read the summary)

  • "Moldova - Ban of communist symbols 

By a letter dated 15 November 2012, Mr Alexandru Tănase,  President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova requested an amicus curiae brief relating to Law No. 192 of 12 July 2012, banning the use of communist symbols (the hammer and sickle and any carrier of it) in the Republic of Moldova through the amendment of three laws: the law on political parties; the code of contraventions and the law on freedom of expression.

States are not prevented from banning, or even criminalising, the use of certain symbols and the propaganda of certain ideologies. Yet, such a ban or criminalisation needs to comply with several requirements, in order to satisfy the European standards on freedom of expression and freedom of association, as developed in the case-law of the European Court on Human Rights and in the works of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR.

(read the summary)


 Separating political and criminal ministerial responsibility - a report by the Commission

In its most recent report CDL-AD(2013)001 the Venice Commission formulated a fundamental standard in distinguishing political and criminal responsibility of ministers: criminal procedures should not be used to sanction political disagreement. Government ministers are politically responsible for their political actions, and this is the democratically correct way to ensure accountability within the political system. Criminal procedures should be reserved for criminal acts, said the Commission.

The report was prepared at the request of the Parliamentary Asembly of the Council of Europe with the purpose of “the elaboration of objective criteria for distinguishing cases in which elected officials should only be held politically responsible for their actions from those cases in which criminal responsibility would be in order”.

 Hungary – Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law – Requests for opinion

Following the joint statement from the President of the European Commission Barroso and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Jagland of 11 March 2013, on the same day the latter signed a request for the Venice Commission’s opinion on the compatibility of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary with Council of Europe standards.

On 13 March 2013 in a letter to Mr T. Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Martonyi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, requested an opinion from the Venice Commission on the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary, with regard to the international commitments deriving from Hungary’s membership in the Council of Europe.

On the photo: Secretary General of the Council of Europe

 EU - Ukraine Summit 2013: reference to the Venice Commission

At the closure of the 16th EU-Ukraine Summit in Brussels on 25 February, 2013, both parties issued a joint statement in which they referred to the Venice Commission on two points:

“6. … They agreed on the importance of follow up to electoral irregularities, including early steps to establish a reliable electoral legislation by giving consideration to an Election Code and clear rules for balanced media access for electoral competitors, in close consultation with the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe/Venice Commission, as well as addressing the inconclusive results in single mandate constituencies.”

8. … They looked forward to an early in-depth review of the laws and legislation on the functioning of the Prosecutor’s Office, on the role of the High Council of Justice, on the Judicial System and the Status of Judges as well as a reform of Criminal Code and the Police, in close consultation with the Council of Europe/Venice Commission.

The European Union was represented by Mr Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Mr Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, President of the European Commission. Ukraine was represented by President Viktor Yanukovych.

  •   Selected activities since the December 2012 session

  • Democratic Institutions and Fundamental Rights

Georgia - Visit by the President of the Venice Commission
30 - 31/01/2013

Tbilisi - Gianni Buquicchio, President of the Venice Commission, and Ms Simona Granata-Menghini, Deputy Secretary of the Commission, visited Georgia to meet with the authorities, in particular with representatives of the new parliamentary majority and of the government.

Meetings were held with the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of Parliament, Deputies from the majority and the opposition, several Ministers, the Chairmen of the Constitutional and of the Supreme Court as well as with the civil society.  

  • Constitutional and Ordinary Justice

Bahrain - Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils
17 - 18/03/2013

Manama - A delegation of the Venice Commission participated in the 8th Symposium of the Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils on the topic "Direct and Indirect Interpretation of the Constitution". The President of the Commission exchanged views with the representatives of the Courts and Councils on the current political situation in the region.

  • Elections, Referendums and Political Parties

European Union - Seminar on Election Observation
25 - 26/03/2013

Brussels - A delegation of the Venice Commission participated on 25 and 26 March 2013 in an inception seminar co-organised by the European External Action Service, the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments and the Election Observation and Democratic Support project (EODS). The seminar aimed at discussing current and future challenges facing election observation missions.


Available now from Council of Europe Publishing:


In the series "Science and technique of democracy" No 50:

  • "European Electoral Heritage : 10 Years of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters"



  • Azerbaijan - draft law on defamation  

  • Hungary - 4th ammendment to the Constitution

  • Italy -  laws on defamation

  • Mexico - electoral legislation 

  • Monaco - compatibility of the Constitution with Council of Europe standards

  • Montenegro - relations between the state and church 

  • Morocco - setting up of the Authority for Parity and the Fight against Discrimination and the Consultative Council for Family and Childhood

  • Moldova, Russia, Ukraine - legal prohibition of so-called propaganda of homosexuality

  • Romania - constitutional reform 

  • Russian Federation - law on NGOs; law on high treason and espionage

  • "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - electoral code

  • Ukraine - law on referendums 


   Electoral issues

  • Use of administrative resources during electoral campaigns

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

  • Parliamentary immunity


   Democratic institutions and fundamental rights



  • Freedom of religion and belief

  • Political parties

  • Judiciary

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