PROJECT TO SUPPORT TUNISIAN INDEPENDENT BODIES
Tunisia and the Venice Commission: long-term co-operation
The Venice Commission strengthened its co-operation with Tunisia after 2011 by supporting with its expertise the process of transition and democratic consolidation on the basis of the Council of Europe main pillars - human rights, Rule of law and democracy. Since 2010, Tunisia has become a full member of the Venice Commission. As such, it associated the Commission in 2012 with the reflections of the National Constituent Assembly on the new Tunisian Constitution which was adopted in January 2014 following an opinion by the Venice Commission.
The growing role of independent institutions in the southern Mediterranean and the situation in Tunisia
Independent bodies are a relatively recent phenomenon in the legal order of Tunisia and in the southern Mediterranean in general. These collective bodies are entrusted, through the Constitution or specific laws, with the supervision of certain sectors of political, social and economic life (for example, in matters of protection and promotion of human rights, prevention of torture, fight against corruption, organisation of elections or telecommunications and media) with the aim of protecting them from political interests and influence, thereby ensuring a high degree of public confidence. Pillars of the democracy strengthening project, five independent constitutional bodies (ICI) were thus established by the Tunisian Constitution of January 2014 (Chapter VI): the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISlE), the Audiovisual Communication Authority (ICA), the Human Rights Authority (IDH), the Authority for Sustainable Development and the Rights of Future Generations (IDDDGF) and the Authority for Good Governance and the Fight against Corruption (IBOGOLUCC ). Other bodies have been created either by organic laws such as the Access to Information Authority (IAI), the National Authority for the Prevention of Torture (INPT), the National Personal Data Protection Authority (INPDP) and the National Authority against human trafficking (INLT), by decree - framework law such as the National Authority against Corruption (INLUCC) or by decree-law as the Independent High Authority of audiovisual communication (HAICA).
Support the development of independent Tunisian bodies: the PAII-T project
After the adoption of the Tunisian Constitution of 2014, the Venice Commission continued to be very closely associated with the work on guarantees of independence, on the standards common to its bodies, and this, in the elaboration of a framework law, but also on electoral standards, in cooperation with the Independent High Authority for elections (ISIE). This work is based on the tripartite collaboration between the Tunisian independent bodies, the European Union and the Council of Europe, within the framework of the project to support the Tunisian independent bodies. Launched for the period 2019 - 2021, this project is funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe and implemented by the Council of Europe. Within the framework of the PAII-T project, the Venice Commission prepared a diagnosis on the current situation and the problems encountered by the authorities. Several practical workshops covering fields as diverse as strategic communication, the budget or the regulatory framework were organised for the authorities and an opinion on the organic law relating to the Authority for Sustainable Development and the Rights of Future Generations was also adopted by the Venice Commission at its 119th session (19-21 June 2019). the Venice Commission also supported the activities of the League of Independent Instances in order to strengthen the synergies between the authorities, to facilitate the resolution of possible conflicts of jurisdiction and to identify common concerns.
WORKSHOPS ORGANISED AS PART OF THE PAII-T PROJECT
Follow-up meeting by videoconference with the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE)
On 18 June 2020, a tripartite meeting between the ISIE, the Delegation of the European Union and the Council of Europe was held by videoconference. This meeting allowed to discuss the state of play regarding the work of ISIE within the framework of the Project to Support the Independent Bodies in Tunisia (PAII-T). After fruitful discussions, the parties agreed on the programming of activities for the coming semester and the other activities to be implemented within the framework of this cooperation. Support for the ISIE is provided within the framework of the joint program “Support Project for Independent Instances in Tunisia (PAII-T)”, co-financed by the European Union and the Council of Europe and implemented by this last. The Council of Europe supports and supports the establishment of independent bodies in Tunisia.
Legislative and regulatory framework of the independent bodies
The Venice Commission organised a video conference on 4th May 4 2020 on the theme “Legislative and regulatory framework of Tunisian independent bodies: current situation and challenges”. This meeting made it possible to initiate a reflection on the legislative and regulatory provisions governing the independent bodies. It brought together the presidents of the bodies, Tunisian and European experts as well as representatives of the Council of Europe and the European Union. At the end of the seminar, the participants insisted on the need to:
1. Make a joint plea on behalf of all independent bodies to the ARP with the support of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe and the European Union with the aim to:
- Insert laws relating to independent bodies among the priorities of Parliament
- Complete and harmonise the legislative and legal framework relating to instances
- Avoid blockages in the designation and renewal of their members
2. Reiterate the need to provide support to the authorities:
- In the budgetary and financial field
- In the area of administrative management
Budget and financial autonomy of the independent bodies
This workshop was an opportunity to debate questions relating to financial autonomy and in particular the budgetary question of Tunisian independent bodies, in the light of new texts related to Tunisian independent bodies, such as for example the organic budget law adopted in 2019.The question of establishing and adopting the budget of the authorities, whether constitutional or not, was examined, as well as the nature of the control exercised over them as regards the management of their budget. The recommendations formulated at the end of the workshop aimed to guide Tunisian independent bodies towards the path of accountability and efficiency.
Presentation of the diagnosis report of the Tunisian legislative framework on independent bodies
This diagnosis report established by independent national experts also made it possible to discuss the state of play and identify the problems encountered by the authorities. The meeting was an opportunity to present the diagnosis report to the representatives of the independent bodies and to debate questions relating to the finalisation of the legal framework of the bodies, their establishment and their functioning. The question of budgetary autonomy was discussed through the prism of the new budget law. Finally, the question of control, whether its nature, its repository or its impact on the authorities, was discussed as the key feature of the independence of the authorities who are at the same time transparent and accountable to the citizens.
The strategic communication of the independent authorities: challenges and opportunities
The strategic communication of the Tunisian independent bodies plays an essential role in order to enable them to acquire the confidence of their interlocutors, institutional partners and the whole population. The workshop made it possible to discuss ways to improve the visibility of independent bodies and to structure their communication with civil society, other state bodies, public authorities, the private sector and the media. Among the recommendations of the seminar, there is the need to ensure effective coordination between the different bodies in the field of strategic communication.
 Established in November 2011, the National Anti-Corruption Authority (INLUCC) continues to exercise its missions. However, it will soon be replaced by the new independent body provided for in the 2014 Constitution, the Instance for Good Governance and the Fight against Corruption (IBOGLUCC), created by the organic law adopted on 27 August, 2018 by the Assembly of the Representatives of the People.