Venice Commission

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 , where it takes place in Venice , Italy , where it is usually referred to as the Venice Commission.

Member states

Starting with 18 member states , all member states of the Council of Europe joined the Venice Commission and since 2002 non-European states can also become full members. As of 13 July 2014, the Commission counts 60 member states – the 47 member states of the Council of Europe and 13 other countries. [1] Belarus is an associate member and there are five observers. The Palestinian National Authority and South Africa have a special co-operation status similar to that of the observers. [2] The EU, OSCE / ODIHR and IACL / AIDC (The International Association of Constitutional Law |International Association of Constitutional Law ) participate in the plenary sessions of the Commission.


The members are „senior academics, particularly in the fields of constitutional or international law, supreme or constitutional court judges or members of national parliaments“. [3]Acting on the Commission in their individual capacity, the members are appointed by the participating countries. The current and train members include, among other noticeable academics and judges: [4]

  • Ugo Mifsud Bonnici (Professor of Law and President of Malta),
  • Jean-Claude Colliard (Chancellor of University Paris 1 – Pantheon-Sorbonne, former member of the Constitutional Council),
  • Christoph Grabenwarter (Judge at the Constitutional Court of Austria),
  • Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem (Former Judge, Federal Constitutional Court of Germany),
  • Jan Erik Helgesen (Professor at University of Oslo),
  • Hanna Suchocka (Former Prime Minister of Poland , Professor at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and Chair of the Constitutional Law Department)
  • Gret Haller (Senior Lecturer at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Germany, former President of the Swiss Parliament),
  • Klemen Jaklič (Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Harvard University),
  • Jeffrey Jowell (Dean of University College London),
  • Evgeni Tanchev (President of the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria),
  • Kaarlo Tuori (Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Helsinki),
  • Pieter Van Dijk (State Councilor, Chair of the Constitutional Law Committee, and Judge of the European Court of Human Rights),
  • Jan Velaers (Professor at University of Antwerp)


The President of the Commission, since December 2009, is its former Secretary General Mr Gianni Buquicchio, [5] while his predecessor, Mr Jan Erik Helgesen, [6] Professor at the University of Oslo, is elected 1st Vice-President. The new Secretary General of the Commission, who is the head of the Commission’s Secretariat at the Council of Europe’s Headquarters in Strasbourg, France, is Mr Thomas Markert.

The main focus of the work of the Venice Commission is on draft constitutions and constitutional amendments, and also includes the provisions of the Constitutional Law and the Constitutional Law of the United States.

Requests for opinions from the participating States and the Council of Europe or international organizations or bodies participating in the Venice Commission’s work. The opinions adopted by the Commission are not binding but are largely followed by member states.

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

Democratic institutions and fundamental rights

The Venice Commission’s primary task is to assist and advise individual countries in constitutional matters and to improve the functioning of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights. Already in 1991 the Commission helped in the first democratic Constitution of Romania since 1947. In 2012, in an opinion Opinion, the Venice Commission expressed several criticisms of church-related legislation in Hungary. [7]

Working method

The working method adopted by the Commission when providing feedback to the working group of rapporteurs (primarily from among their members). After discussions with the national authorities and stakeholders in the country, the working group prepares for a draft opinion on the subject of legislation. The draft opinion is considered and adopted by the Venice Commission during a plenary session, usually in the presence of representatives of that country. After adoption, the opinion becomes public and is forwarded to the requesting body.

Non-directive approach

The Venice Commission does not impose its solutions, but adopts a non-directive approach based on dialogue. For this reason the working group, as a rule, visits the country concerned and meets with the different political actors involved in the issue in order to ensure the most objective view of the situation.

Conflict resolution by providing legal advice

A political agreement settling a conflict should be supported by a viable legal text. It may also be possible for an agreement on a legal text to foster a political solution. For this reason the Venice Commission pays particular attention to countries which are going through the ethno-political conflicts. In this context, at the European Union’s request, the Venice Commission HAS played significant role in Developing year and interpreting the constitutional law of Bosnia and Herzegovina , Macedonia , Serbia and Montenegro as well as That of Kosovo . It has beens aussi Involved in efforts to settle the conflicts on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetiain Georgia and Transnistria in Moldova .

The Commission drafts opinions, initiates studies and conferences inter alia on:

  • Constitutional reform
  • Emergency powers
  • Federalism and regionalism
  • International law issues
  • Internal security services and armed forces
  • Protection of fundamental rights including the freedom of religion , the freedom of assembly and association
  • Protection of minorities and prohibition of discrimination
  • Functionnig of parliaments and judiciary

Elections, referendums and political parties

The work of the Commission in the field of elections, referendums and political parties is steered by the Council for Democratic Elections (CDE). The CDE is made up of representatives of the Venice Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) 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 entre les Venice Commission as a legal body and the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of the Council of Europe as political bodies in support of election observation, in order to promote the European common values ​​in this field – the principles of the European electoral heritage.

The Commission identifies and develops standards in the area of ​​elections through:

  • Codes of good practice on elections, on referendums and on political parties
  • Opinions – mostly joint ones with OSCE / ODIHR – on election legislation
  • Workshops for Central Election Commissions (CEC) and Courts
  • Assisting missions to CECs and legal advice to the PACE
  • „Vota“ database of electoral legislation

Constitutional and ordinary justice

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 support 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.

Cooperation with Constitutional Courts, ordinary courts and ombudspersons is done by means of:

  • Opinions on Constitutional Courts and Ordinary Courts (including amicus curiae and amicus ombud opinions)
  • Leading constitutional case-law – Bulletin and CODICES database
  • Regional co-operation with Courts outside Europe
  • World Conference on Constitutional Justice
  • Seminars and conferences with Constitutional Courts
  • Venice Forum – advice and exchange between Constitutional courts
  • Joint Council on Constitutional Justice (representatives of the Courts and members of the Commission)

Transnational studies, reports and seminars

The Commission ’s transnational activities enable it to carry out the tasks of law enforcement in the state of the art.

Whereas the Commission is in charge of the work of the Commission of the European Union, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination observe states. Transnational topics are also covered in the Unidem Seminars (University for Democracy) and published in the Science and Technique of Democracy collection.

Comparative studies

Comparative studies on topics to do with the functioning of democracy, initial overviews of the law in various countries. Such a comparative approach then makes it possible to identify constitutional values ​​which are shared throughout Europe and, where relevant, any areas of weakness. The third stage is that of harmonization, in which, on the basis of Commission recommendations, the principles concerned are incorporated into the law of those countries where they have not yet been established.

UniDem (University for Democracy) seminars

The UniDem seminars on the subject of political and academic courts and the courts of the United States and the Commission for a specific university or constitutional court. Reports are presented on particular countries or specific aspects of the topics under discussion. By allowing exchanges between specialists from a variety of backgrounds, the UniDem seminars help to define the rules and the rule of law.

Positions taken

In 2009, the Venice Commission attracted rare news coverage for its opinion that “ blasphemy should not be illegal“. [8]
Elections – Boundary delimitation
Main article: Boundary delimitation § Venice Commission

As part of its report, European Commission for Democracy Through Laws , the Venice Commission recommended a number of considerations, [9] also when dealing with issues of boundary delimitation . [10]

Literature on the Venice Commission

  • Lauri Bode-Kirchhoff: Why the Road from Luxembourg to Strasbourg, Venice: The Venice Commission as a link between the EU and the ECtHR , in: Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou et al. (eds.): Human Rights Law in Europe. The Influence, Overlaps and Contradictions of the EU and the ECHR , Routledge 2014, p. 55-72, ISBN  978-0-415-82599-3
  • Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem: The Venice Commission of the European Council – Standards and Impact , 25 European Journal of International Law 2014

See also

  • Constitutionalism
  • Rule according to higher law


  1. Jump up^ „Kosovo becomes 60th member of the Venice Commission of Council of Europe“ . Voice of Russia. 13 June 2014 . Retrieved 13 June 2014 .
  2. Jump up^ „Members of the Venice Commission“ . . Council of Europe . Retrieved 2015-12-10 .
  3. Jump up^ [1] ArchivedSeptember 3, 2011, at theWayback Machine.
  4. Jump up^ [2] ArchivedOctober 13, 2011, at theWayback Machine.
  5. Jump up^ „Gianni Buquicchio“ . . Council of Europe . Retrieved 2015-12-10 .
  6. Jump up^ [3] ArchivedJanuary 3, 2007, at theWayback Machine.
  7. Jump up^ Opinion on Act CCVI / 2011:Retrieved March 26, 2012.
  8. Jump up^ „Council of Europe body says blasphemy should not be illegal“ . Expatica. 2009-05-29 . Retrieved 2009-09-27 .
  9. Jump up^ Of utmost importance are the guidelines issued by the Venice Commission (Commission Commission for Democracy through Law), which in 2002 indicated a restriction of the right to vote, :Buonomo, Giampiero (2015). „Sul diretto elettorale, the Europa ci guarda“ . Diritto Pubblico Europeo Rassegna online .  – via Questia (subscription required)
  10. Jump up^ Challenging the Norms and Standards of Election Boundary Delimitation Administration Archived2008-11-28 at theWayback Machine..IFES, 2007. Accessed July 09, 2009.