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Holding referendums during wars and military threats is against European standards


As the Secretary General of the Council of Europe has reminded in her statement of 15 September 2022, in 2014 the Venice Commission adopted an opinion on the organisation by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Ukraine of a referendum on becoming a constituent territory of the Russian Federation.

The Venice Commission found that the circumstances prevailing in Crimea had not allowed for the holding of a referendum in line with European democratic standards. The Commission also warned that any referendum on the status of a territory should be preceded by serious negotiations among all stakeholders.

The conclusions of the Venice Commission expressed in the 2014 context apply mutatis mutandis to today’s situation.

The Venice Commission has also stated in general that due to the difficulties to guarantee free campaigning and public debate on reforms with a longer effect, holding referendums during states of emergency, including war and military threats, would go against European standards.




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