Strasbourg, Palais de l’Europe – “If we have a worldwide financial crisis, then worldwide rule of law should be part of the answer”, - said Jan Helgesen, President of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, presenting its annual report to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
Established in 1990 by 18 member states of the Council of Europe, the Commission today counts 56 member states and 8 observers. In 2008 Israel and Tunisia have joined the Commission. The recent accession of Brazil brought the population “covered” by the expertise of the Commission to 1.2 billion people.
The Venice Commission has been successful in spreading the values of the Council of Europe within the continent and beyond. For example, the Commission have been the driving force behind the World conference on Constitutional Justice, which aims to develop a global human rights case law and to strengthen the independence of the judiciary worldwide. In addition, in 2008 the Commission has signed cooperation agreements with the Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils and with the Ibero-American Conference of Constitutional Justice.
In 2008, the Commission adopted reports on:
- democratic control of armed forces,
- blasphemy and freedom of expression,
- the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court
- the right to legislative initiative.
Assessment of the constitutions of Albania, Bulgaria, Finland, Ukraine and Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) was also carried out in 2008.
The Commission adopted opinions on inter alia:
- the Armenian law on public assemblies,
- the law on state secrets of Moldova,
- the law on non-discrimination of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
- laws on freedom of assembly and on freedom of religion of Kyrgyzstan.
The electoral laws of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Ukraine were assessed jointly with the OSCE/ODHIR.
“We are credible outside Europe because we are a part of the Council of Europe as a value-based organisation. But, we are also credible because we are a legal body and not a political one, and because we are independent” stated President Helgesen. “However, for our opinions to be followed, we cannot only rely on our reputation but we need the good will of member states, the support by the political bodies of the Council of Europe and of the general public, well-informed by the media.”