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The Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts in the field of constitutional law. It was created in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin wall, at a time of urgent need for constitutional assistance in Central and Eastern Europe. The Commission's official name is the European Commission for Democracy through Law, but due to its seat in Venice, Italy, where it meets four times a year, it is usually referred to as the Venice Commission.

Starting with a membership of 18 states, soon all member states of the Council of Europe joined the Venice Commission and since 2002 non-European states can also become full members. Today, as of 2008, the Commission counts 55 member states – the 47 member states of the Council of Europe, Kyrgyzstan from 2004,Chile from 2005, the Republic of Korea from 2006, Morocco and Algeria from 2007, Israel from 2008 and Brazil and Peru from 2009. Belarus is as associate member and there are eight observers (Argentina, Canada, the Holy See, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the United States and Uruguay). Tunisia was recently invited to become a member of the Commission and South Africa and Palestinian National Authority have a special co-operation status similar to that of the observers. The European Commission and OSCE/ODIHR participate in the plenary sessions of the Commission.

The president of the Commission, since December 2009, is the the former Secretary General Mr. Gianni Buquicchio, whilst his predecessor, Mr Jan Erik Helgesen[1] (born 1947), Professor at the University of Oslo, was made 1. Vice-President. The new Secretary General of the Commmission, who is the head of the Commission's secretariat at the Council of Europe in Straßburg, is the Mr. Thomas Markert.

The main focus of the work of the Venice Commission is on draft constitutions and constitutional amendments but the Commission also covers para-constitutional law, i.e. laws which are close to the Constitution, like minority legislation or electoral law.

Requests for opinions come from the participating states and the organs of the Council of Europe. The opinions adopted by the Commission are not binding but however are mostly followed .

The areas of the Commission's activities are as follows:

Contents

Constitutional assistance

The Venice Commission’s primary task is to assist and advise individual countries in constitutional matters. The Commission helped in creating first the 1991 Constitution of Romania.

Elections and referendums

The Council for Democratic Elections (CDE) is made up of representatives of the Venice Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. The aim of the Council for Democratic Elections is to ensure co-operation in the electoral field between the Venice Commission as a legal body and the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of the Council of Europe as political bodies in charge of election observation, in order to promote the European common values in this field – the principles of the European electoral heritage. The different kinds of work carried out by the Venice Commission in the area of elections are:

  • Opinions and studies
  • Seminars, training workshops and assistance missions
  • Vota database

Co-operation with constitutional courts

Another branch of the Commission’s activities includes co-operation with the constitutional courts and equivalent bodies. Since its creation, the Venice Commission has been aware that it is not sufficient to assist the states in the adoption of democratic constitutions but that these texts have to be implemented in reality. Key players in this field are constitutional courts and equivalent bodies exercising constitutional jurisdiction.

Transnational studies, reports and seminars

The Commission's transnational activities enable it to carry out the main duties laid down in its Statute, which are to improve the functioning of democratic institutions, knowledge of legal systems and understanding of the legal culture of countries working with it.

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Positions taken

Blasphemy

In 2009, the Venice Commission attracted rare news coverage for its opinion that "blasphemy should not be illegal". [2]

Boundary delimitation

As part of its report, European Commission for Democracy Through Law: Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, Guidelines and Explanatory Reports adopted October 2002, the Venice Commission recommended a number of considerations when dealing with issues of boundary delimitation.[3]

References

External links


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