Strasbourg, October 12, 2017

 

Evangelos Venizelos’ intervention in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Wednesday 11 .10.2017, joint debate: Call for a Council of Europe Summit to reaffirm European unity and defend and promote democratic security in Europe / Defending the acquisition of the Council of Europe - Preserving 65 years of successful intergovernmental cooperation

The pan-European constitutional acquis concerning Democracy and Rule of Law is proven more fragile than anticipated. The Council of Europe, as the guardian of these fundamental values and institutional guarantees needs a new boost.

The question has to do with the method by which this new boost can be efficiently given. The simple answer is through a new summit of Heads of State and Government of the Member States. The summit is though the most formal and powerful form of the intergovernmental character of the Council of Europe with the correlations of power ant the trade- off that this entails.

In my opinion, the special character and added value of the Council of Europe has to do with the institutions, procedures and mechanisms that has at its disposal, who transcend the intergovernmental character and advocate the principles of the rule of law and the need to protect human rights.

The added value of the Council of Europe derives from the existence of ECtHR, the individual application, the execution of the Court’s judgements, the role of the Commissioner for Human Rights, the authority that the Venice Commission has gained, functioning now as an informal pan-European constitutional council. The Parliamentary Assembly itself transcends the intergovernmental character of the Council of Europe and has formed an institutional level of pan-European parliamentary control in the name of the common European values and institutional beliefs.

Without doubt a Summit is a big event of great visibility, an event necessary to endorse new initiatives within the Council of Europe, but I believe that the critical point for the renewal and promotion of the role of the Council of Europe is bringing out the mechanisms that give added value and transcend the intergovernmental nature of the Council.


 

Evangelos Venizelos’ intervention in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe : debate on the Venice Commission “Rule of Law check list“ (11.10.2017)

The Council of Europe has retained its importance and authority as an organization that signifies the wider Europe, since it does not only declare the importance of democratic institutions, rule of law and the protection of human rights but also has the practical mechanisms for checking Member States.

Of course, the paramount mechanism is the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the individual application and the possibility of taking political measures for the compliance of Member States with the judgements of the Court.

The second major mechanism is the Venice Commission which has achieved to gain great institutional authority and, in spite of its advisory character, has developed into an informal European constitutional council that acts as the guardian of European constitutional traditions and values. The Venice Commission has formed in this way the European constitutional acquis to which all national constitutions as well as the legal orders and the political practices of Member States should abide.

This European constitutional acquis is clear in its content and based on the absolute conceptual and historical connection between democracy and the rule of law. It is based on the supremacy of law and the subjection of national constitutions, their amendment and the legal order in general, as well as the national practice of Member States to the standards that have been shaped by the case law of the ECtHR and the cultivation of European historical conscience over the meaning of democracy and rule of law. This is the European legal and institutional civilization, without which there is neither democracy, nor security and protection of human rights.

This European acquis is unfortunately fragile and infringements to a greater or smaller degree appear frequently in the name of national sovereignty, national security, national identity. The ECHR provides very strictly under which conditions, checked by the court, there can be a derogation due to emergency. There is no other justified derogation from the European acquis of democracy and rule of law.

It is therefore really important that the Venice Commission has now codified this enormous acquis in the form of a “Rule of Law Checklist”. We should congratulate the Venice Commission and all those who have contributed to the elaboration of the checklist. It is a text that does not belong to soft law but codifies criteria, rules, principles and standards that derive from the ECHR, the intergovernmental conventions that have been signed within the bounds of the Council of Europe, the conventional and customary international law. It is therefore a checklist that contains rules which do not belong to soft law but to hard law, which belong to jus cogens.

Tags: Speeches