Venice Commission e-Newsletter
November 2007
72nd Plenary Session
Plenary session 

The Venice Commission met on 19 and 20 October at the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice.

The Commission:
- proceeded to a preliminary consideration of the comments on the Constitution of Bulgaria and was informed on the evaluation of the Constitution of Finland in view of its eventual revision;
-  was briefed on the recent constitutional developments in Kyrgyzstan, on the draft Constitution of Montenegro and on the implementation of the new Constitution of Serbia.
Professor Ergun Özbudun, the chairman of the academic commission drafting the new Constitution for Turkey, informed the members of the Venice Commission on this matter.

Points submitted for adoption:
- an amicus curiae opinion on the compatibility of certain provisions of the Statute of the International Criminal Court with the Constitution of Moldova;
- an Opinion on the draft amendments to the Law on the Status of the People's Deputy in Ukraine;
- a draft Opinion of the Consultative Council of European Judges on Judicial Councils;
- a joint Opinion on Amendments to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Albania by the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR.

Mr René van der Linden, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Jean-Louis Debré, President of the Constitutional Council of France and Mr Ernst Hirsch Ballin, Minister of Justice of the Netherlands, addressed the Commission.
Latest publications
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Tribute to Antonio La Pergola
Antonio La Pergola
The Commission deeply regrets the loss of its President, Mr Antonio La Pergola, who passed away on 18 July 2007
Constitutional co-operation

New Constitution of Montenegro

The Venice Commission continued its assistance to the Parliament  of Montenego in the preparation of the new Constitution. A draft constitution was submitted to Parliament in August 2007. The Commission's suggestions for improvement of this text were discussed with the authorities and were largely accepted. The new Constitution, which was finally adopted on 19 October 2007 meets European standards in most respects. An opinion on the new constitution will be discussed by the Commission at its Plenary Session of December 2007.

Freedom of expression and freedom of beliefs

In March 2007, the Venice Commission adopted a preliminary report on blasphemy, religious insults and incitement to religious hatred at the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Commission considered that criminal legislation was necessary but not sufficient to avoid a clash between the fundamental right to freedom of expression, on the one hand, and the equally fundamental right to respect for one's beliefs on the other hand.  In order to explore complementary non-legal means of addressing this issue, the Venice Commission is organising in Athens, on 31 January - 1 February 2008, a round table on "Art and Sacred Beliefs: from collision to coexistence", in cooperation with the Hellenic League of Human Rights. In a spirit of openness, tolerance and respect, the participants - journalists, artists, publishers, representatives of religions and cults, lawyers - will be invited to provide examples of best practices they may be aware of, and make practical suggestions for overcoming constructively situations in which one right might be at risk of being unduly limited by another.

Constitutional Justice
Within the framework of its 72nd Plenary Session in October, the Venice Commission organised a fruitful exchange of views on the limits of constitutional control with the member courts of the Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils (UACC) - participating countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lybia, Mauritainia, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen.
Already since 1999, the Commission offers its services not only to constitutional courts and equivalent bodies in its member and observer states, but also to regional groups of constitutional courts like the Association of Constitutional Courts using the French language (ACCPUF) or the Southern African Judges Commission (SAJC). The purpose of this co-operation is to share the values of the Council of Europe (democracy, protection of human rights and rule of law) with these courts, entrusted with upholding these values.
A delegation of the Commission participated in the 5th Conference of Asian Constitutional Court Judges in Seoul, which also co-operates with the Venice Commission and now intends to formally establish itself as the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts.
Elections and referendums
4th European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies
20/09/2007 - 21/09/2007
Strasbourg-The Venice Commission organised the 4th European conference of electoral management bodies on the subject: "Fighting against electoral fraud - Complaints and appeals procedures". Representatives of national authorities responsible for elections and international and regional organisations discussed  issues as definition of electoral offences, striking the balance between administrative and criminal offences, distance voting, ensuring the secrecy of vote, as well as sanctions and proportionality principle. This event was attended by about 130 specialists of electoral  administration bodies from four continents.
Ukraine - Parliamentary elections - 30/09/2007
Kyiv - The Venice Commission organised several activities on the occasion of the parliamentary elections of 30 September 2007 . In particular, it held a round table for judges of ordinary and administrative courts on issues related to complaints and appeals procedures during the elections, in co-operation with the High Administrative Court of Ukraine. The participants focused on possible improvements in dealing with complaints and appeals issues.