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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Rule of Law Criteria include Eurofora idea on Dialogue with Citizens before important Decisions

CoE Rule of Law Criteria include Eurofora idea on Dialogue with Citizens before important Decisions

Written by ACM
Thursday, 12 October 2017
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*Strasbourg/CoE/Angelo Marcopolo/- The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) of the PanEuropean Organisation for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights, CoE, has just decided to Start Implementing, in real life, vis a vis all States and other Public Authorities, a List of Legal "Criteria" for "Rule of Law", which includes a Core part of "Eurofora"'s project on Dialogue with Citizens before Public Decisions affecting their Lives and/or Society at large (Comp. also : http://www.eurofora.net/newsflashes/news/eucoeabdcitizensinpublicdecisionmaking.html , etc) :


This is contained in a relevant "Check-List", drafted between 2012 - 2016, and re-Published on 2017, by the Prestigious PanEuropean CoE's Top Legal Experts' body known as "Venice Commission" for "Democracy + Human Rights through Law",  currently Chaired by experienced former Long-Time CoE's Senior Officer, Jean-Claude Buqicchio, who actively participated in PACE's Debate.


PACE had invited (already from 2007) the Venice Commission's Top Legal Experts to Study the concept of "Rule of Law" (alias : "Rechts-Staat"/"Etat de Droit", etc) in Depth, and the latter Found that, despite some more or less differences, nevertheless, un "Consensus" seemed to Exist, among 47 CoE's Member States, Observers a.o., as far as it concerns its "Core Elements" :


They include not only "Legality" and "Certainty", as well as "Non-Discrimination and Equality", but also "Access to Justice", and, in particular, "Prohibition of Arbitrariness".


The latter, aiming to "Prevent Abuse (or Misuse) of Power", (aka : "Detournement de Pouvoir"), by "Public Authorities", concerns "Legal Restrictions to Discretionary Power", when "exerciced by the Executive in Administrative Action", (a Frequent Phenomenon in Modern Societies). It consists in "Mechanisms to Prevent, Correct and Sanction" any "Abuse of Discretionary Power", including the "Judicial Review of the Exercice of such Power" when it's "given to Officials".


In particular, "Public Authorities" must be "Required to Provide Adequate Reasons for their Decisions", especially "when they they Affect the Rights of Individuals". So that "the Failure to state (such) Reasons", should be "a Valid Ground for Challenging such Decisions in Courts".


This is contained in CoE's "Venice Commission" Top Legal Experts' "Rule of Law CheckList" ("Critères de l'Etat de Droit") Booklet, which was Endorsed by the Highest Political body of the PanEuropean Organisation : its Committee of Ministers and Printed 3 Times on 2016, the Use of which was, Yesterday Evening, strongly advised by CoE's Parliamentary Assembly's Legal/Human Rights Committee's new President, Ms Olena Sotnyk, (See relevant "Eurofora" Photo).


As it was clearly explained, during PACE's Plenary Debates Yesterday Evening, this concerns a set of Principles, more or less Common to All concerned Countries, but in Each of which, the Concrete Ways to Implement them, might appear to be quite Diversified, in real Practice.


In Substance, what is really Common, is that all this concerns the use of Discretionary Powers by Public Authorities (and/or "Private Actors in charge of Public Tasks"), when the take Decisions which Affect Citizens' Rights and/or Society at large. And the Scope on which Bears the Monitoring by independent Courts, is Not the concrete Content, the Conditions, and/or the Aim of a Decision, as such, But, rather, the Decision-Making Process :


- I.e., particularly its Internal, Logical aspects, as far as it concerns an "Obligation to Give Reasons", and the Reality, Legality, Pertinence or Sufficiency of such a Motivation, (including, f.ex., if it Replies Adequately, or Not, to eventual legitimate Objections with Arguments that the Affected Citizens might have raised, etc). No "Detournement de Pouvoir" or "Abuse of Power", i.e. No Misusing a Power given by the Law only for a concrete Aim, in fact, for slyly seeking to obtain another, illegitimate aim, etc.


+ At the same time, it includes relevant Key aspects of the External Procedure of a monitored decision taken by a Public Administration in order to Regulate one or another area, such as, f.ex. : To be "Debated Publicly" and "Adequately Justified", with, previously, "the Public having Access to the Draft", and "a Meaningful Opportunity to Provide Input", (as CoE's above mentioned Booklet stresses, Referring, f.ex., to relevant Official Documents of UNO's Human Rights Committee, of the OSCE, etc), i.e. at least an elementary "Procedure Contradictoire" (according also to French Administrative Law, etc), sometimes going as far as to speak also of "Citizens' participation in the conduct of Public Affairs, by exerting Influence through Public Debate" (UNHRC, 1996).


++ But also the Absence of Excessive Dis-Proportionality between the Measure taken by a Public Authority, compared to its Legal Aim, and the way it Affects the Citizens. An Estimation of the Impact of a planed Measure to Citizens' Rights, Compared to the General Interest Benefits expected from it, in order to "allow to strike a Fair Balance, between the various conflicting Interests at stake", (ECHR). At least, withOut any "Erreur Manifeste d' Appreciation" about that, (in French Administrative Courts' case-law),  according to the usual denominations of relevant Judicial Monitoring on Public Administration's Decisions, in the real practice of several CoE's Member States, even of ECHR itself (on 2 out of those 3 points).


(Such Legal points have been extensively Analyzed by "Eurofora" Co-Founder's original Comparative Law University Research, already Started as Early as since 1980 -with a 1.000 pages-long Report, presented² by Strasbourg's Faculty of Law for a Prize awarded to PhD. Thesis, after written proposal by Paris II Universiy Professor Paul Amselek. But also more Recently, Since an active Participation in a landmark 2012 Scientific Colloquy at Strasbourg University, in cooperation with those of Rennes, Paris II, including a Report on a relevant Environmental Impact Committee's Public Debates with Citizens, set up by Michel Barnier when he was Minister, etc).


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    + The Fact that such a Legal Structure of Relations between Citizens and Public Administrations is considered by the CoE as corresponding widely to a certain Level of Development in Modern Democratic Societies in general, throughout the whole World, and Not Only in Europe, became Obvious, inter alia, also by the inclusion, among the 9 Top Legal Experts on the basis of whose "Comments" CoE's Venice Commission adopted this "Rule of Law CheckList", also of a Member from the USA. While, in Addition, Yesterday's PACE's relevant Debate in Strasbourg included also Representatives from Morocco up to Canada and Other Non-European Countries. Moreover, in a Resolution Voted and Adopted at the Conclusion of Yesterday's Debate, PACE clearly Asks all Venice Commission's "Member and (even) Observer States", (several among which, notoriously are located also in Other Continents accross the World), to "actively ...Defend and Promote" this "Rule of Law Checklist", them too.


    >>> However, the Most Important Decision taken Now by CoE's 47Member States-strong, PanEuropean Parliamentary Assembly , obviously is that this adopted 2017 Resolution, not only "Endorses" the "Rule of Law CheckList", but, Moreover, it also goes on to Add even its intention, for the 1st Time, to Start "Us(ing) it Systematically" , "particularly" ... in order to accurately Identify any structural and systemic (Legal) Problems in CoE's Member-States", whenever the Situations existing in them are checked by PACE's competent "Committees" on "Legal/Human Rights" affairs and/or its "Monitoring Committee", "on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States".


    => I.e., in other words, it's as if PACE clearly and explicitly Decided, Now, in real Practice, to Start Using, at least from October 2017 onwards, that Venice Commission's "Rule of Law CheckList", (including the Above-Mentioned Key Legal Points), as if it had become a Legally Binding set of Rules nowadays !


    + For that purpose, PACE's Resolution also "invite(s)", Now, All "the National Parliaments and Government bodies", as well as "CoE's Secretary General", to "Systematically" "Refer" to, and/or "take into Account" that same "Rule of Law CheckList"'s Criteria, whenever the First have to work on various National "Reforms", or the Latter to make his "Annual Report on the Situation of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe", (as he Already Started to do so, from 2017).


    >>> And, since, now, that "Rule of Law CheckList"'s "Criteria" have been Officially Adopted, Both by CoE's Parliamentary Assembly, and Secretary General, from 2017, (Comp. Supra), as they were Also Endorsed, from 2016, by CoE's inter-Governemental Committee of Ministers, following "Venice Committee"'s Independent Top Legal Experts on Constitutional Law, and Joined even by CoE's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, etc, then, it concerns, practically, All Levels of Government : Local, Regional and National.


    ++ Furthermore, Advancing even anOher, Important Step towards "Eurofora"s Project, for Dialogue between Citizens and EU Institutions (including EU Parliament, etc) Before important Decisions are taken which seriously Affect their Lives and/or Society at large, CoE's PanEuropean Organisation for Democracy, Human Rights and Rule of Law's Parliamentary Assembly, (PACE), also Decided Now, to "invite" even "International and Regional Organisations, including ...the EU, to refer regularly to the Rule of Law Checklist" in their "work", as that Adopted Resolution adds.


    Already, Experienced former Twice EU Ombudsman/Citizens' Defendor, Headquartered in Strasbourg, Professor Diamantouros had told "Eurofora" in the recent Past, that, After the Entry into Force of EU's Lisbon Treaty (2010+), his Intention to Start Using its General Clause (contained in EU's "Charter of Fundamental Rights") about "Good Administration", in order to Check EU Decisions' legality also from the Precise point of view highighted by "Eurofora" above, (Comp. f.ex.: ...).


    And, Nowadays, even the Booklet with CoE's "Venice Commission"'s "Rule of Law CheckList", Published on 2016, (Comp. Supra), explicitly Refers to relevant "selected Standards", contained, f.ex., as far as "Hard Law" is concerned, also to "EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights (2009)", UNO's International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (1966), etc., and, as far as "Soft Law" is concerned, also to "EU Commission's Communication to EU Parliament and Council on "a New EU Framework, to Strengthen the Rule of Law" (2014), EU Council's Conclusions "on Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law, and on Commission's 2012 Report on the Application of EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights (2013)", as well as to the "EU Accession Criteria" ("Copenhagen Criteria"), etc. But also to OSCE's Copenhagen Conference "on the Human Dimension" (1989), as well as its Follow-up with a Similar "Moscow meeting Document" (1991), and OSCE's "Decision No. 7/08" about "Further Strengthening the Rule of Law in the OSCE Area (2008)". Concerning, particularly, "Eurofora"s Specific Viewpoint (Comp. Supra), CoE's "Rule of Law Checklist" refers, about "Preventioon of Abuse of Power", also to the "UN International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights' (1966) Article 17, about "Interference with Freedoms", as well as in Thematic UNO's Texts about "Migrants and their Families (1990)", "the Rights of the Child (1989)", etc., and even to "CoE's Committee of Ministers : "The CoE and the Rule of Law" (2008), UNO's "Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Articles 9, 12, 17", etc.


    Naturally, such Texts could also Inspire, in the foreseeable Future, EU's Court of Justice, at nearby Luxemburg, in parallel with ECHR in Strasbourg, at their respective Case-Law.

 

    => Therefore, PACE's Resolution, adopted Yesterday Evening, significantly Concludes by "Encourag(ing) Civil Society to Use the <<Rule of Law CheckList>>", in order to "objectively Assess Respect for the Rule of Law" in real, Everyday Practice.  

 
    >>>  - "It's one of the Most Important Pieces of Work we have Ever done !", stressed with Emphasis, Yesterday Evening, the experienced President of the PanEuropean Commission for Democracy through Law, (alias CoE's "Venice Commission")


    - Indeed, "the Rule of Law is Not Abstract, any more : We have just a Small Book", which, "in Reality, it's very Precious !", echoed further PACE's new Chair of its Legal/Human Rights Committee, MEP Olena  Sotnyk, concluding a long Debate.   

 

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     She was proudly Brandishing a Copy of that Booklet as if it was, mutatis-mutandis, somehing like the World-Famous ...Mao's little "Red-Book", notoriously used by Millions of People, during China's "Cultural Revolution", back in the 1960ies ...

 
    => Could, indeed, CoE be Launching, now, its own, Legal, and brand New, peaceful "Cultural Revolution" ?

 

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Mao + People brandishing the "Red Book", on 1966, at Tien an men Square, (Photo in Historic German Exhibition of 2017, covered by N-TV)

 

 

(../..)

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Former "Green-Red" German government's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's job at the controversial Turkish pipeline "Nabucco" was denounced as "not proper", "very bad", and "incompatible with Democracy", by the new President of EU Parliament's EuroLeft Group, German Lothar Bisky, replying to an "EuroFora" question.

For once, criticism of Joschka Fischer's doings with Turkey affecting Europe, didn't come only from the Center-Right of the political spectrum, but even from his Left side : The experienced Bisky, who has been chairing all over 1993-2009 the PDS - Die Linke party :  

- "Former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer got involved in dealings with oil-gaz business in a foreign country, Turkey, and its controversial Nabucco pipeline. This raises questions about Democracy, also because of the well known problems of Human Rights violations in that country. Do you thing that this might be abused in order to cover up and close EU's eyes on Human Rights violations ?", "EuroFora" asked Bisky.

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- "Nabucco pipeline is (only) at the planning stage". And "there are some difficulties",  he observed from the start. But "'I don't want to get into the details of Nabucco pipeline, because I don't think that there is any point for it at the moment".
 
At any case,  "we  (EU Parliament's EuroLeft Group) strongly believe that Politicians should not get involved in the Energy Business, and all these commercial transactions", President Bisky declared on the Joschka Fiischer's affair.

- "We feel that it's something that shouldn't be done. It's not proper !"           

- "We don't think that it's compatible with Democracy either, and it gets politics into a very Bad track", Bisky went on to denounce.
                                                                                                                                                                        
- "EuroLeft  and "Die Linke" always spoke against that, saying that politicians should not get directly into the arms of private enterprises"

- "It is pretty bad if a former Minister takes a job f.ex. in a major Energy producer. So, it's an issue if a Minister who may have seen excellent opportunities, subsequently gets personally grasp of them, in very serious parts of the economy, once he has given up his (Government) job."

- "It doesn't really make politics in general look any better'", Bisky concluded.

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Earlier, this week in Strasbourg, other Journalists had also raised critical questions on former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's involvement in the conroversial Turkish Nabucco pipeline to the President of his own EuroParty : Kohn-Bendit of the "Greens", who, contrary to Bisky, tried to find excuses for Fischer, while criticizing his long-time partner, Schroeder for having done a similar move :

- "Shroeder was chancellor", and he "negociated" with "Russians", who gave him a job only "3 Months" after he resigned from the Government. While "Joschka Fischer", on the contrary, got a job with the controversial Turkish Nabucco pipeline only "4 Years after" he left the Government. "He didn't negociate Nabucco", so I have "no objection", Kohn Bendit claimed.

But, many Facts indicate the contrary :

Joschka Fischer was Foreign Minister in Germany from 1999 up to 2005 : I.e. from the year that EU took the controversial decision to give Turkey a "Candidate" status, until he year it started controversial "accession negotiations, (later declared "open-ended" after Sarkozy-Merkel's arrival from 2005-2007).

During that period was prepared the controversial so-called "Annan" Plan (in fact, drafted by others and attributed afterwards to the former UN SG) on Cyprus, which failed after a Popular Referendum said "No" on 2004 with a large Majoriy of 3/4 : 75%. Mainly because it was criticized for making too much concessions to the Turkish side :  Particularly by restricting Greek Cypriot Refugees' Human Right to return to their ancestral Land and/or get restitution of their Familiy Homes and private properties, usurpated by Ankara's Army since the 1974 militay invasion and continuing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. And by weakening the Central Government, leaving to 2 "constituent States" so much powers and separate interests that more conflicts appeared inevitable, provoking the danger of a break-down in the foreseable future, with more crisis, troubles, perhaps bloodshed, etc., instead of creating an harmoniously integrated, really one federal State.

The controversial Plan was finalized on March-April 2004 at Burgenstock (Switzerland), curiously in the presence of an Envoy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, then governed by Joschka Fischer, but in the absence of a French and not even an European Union's Envoy, contrary to what was usually practiced on similar occasions in Switzerland (fex. in 1997 at Montreux, in 2000 at Geneva, etc).

Turkey notoriously exploited the failure of the "Annan" Plan in order to convince the EU to decide to start accession Negotiations on December 2004. This provoked an unprecedented series of Institutional Crisis inside the EU, shortly afterwards, when French and Dutch People rejected, 2 popular EuroReferenda by a majority "'No" vote to the EU Constitutional Treaty on 2005, aggraveted in 2004 a Majority Abstention to EU Elections, etc., followed by the recent Irish "No", etc.

"Nabucco" Gas pipeline was notoriously planned since ..2002. It follows an even earlier idea, for an Oil pipeline Baku-Ceyhun, which started to be prepared on 1999-2001 and was meanwhile recently completed.  

So, facts indicate that what is now at stake is based on decisions made during Joschka Fischer's term as former Foreign Minister, closely interested in Turkey's controversial EU-bid.

To the point that he now practically ...switched jobs with a poliician from Turkey, (the State which pays today openly Joschka Fischer), Mr. Ozdemir, who came earlier in Germany, got fast the nationality, and became EiuroMP in a few years, continuing now as head of the "Greens" in Germany, i.e. in Joschka's former job !...

Such astonishing facts risk, unfotunately, to give to German politician Lothar Bisky's criticism of  representative Democracy a topical meaning :

 - "We (EuroLeft Group) think that what is really at stake is Democracy. It's not only about Gas Pipelines or Energy sources", President Lothar Bisky went on to add in his reply to "EuroFora"'s question on Joscka Fischer's personal interests in the controversial Turkish "Nabuco" pipeline.

Such facts, "make People get more distance from Politics. ...People had had enough, and they are fed up !".

- "That's why we (EuroParliament's "EuroLeft" Group) want to strengthen Direct Democracy in Europe. Citizens should be involved in the (EU) Decision-making. In the end of the day, it's not going to help anyone if Politicians are always taking decisions, without involving Citizens. We want to give a voice to the People of Europe. They've got to have their say in the decisions that are taken. That's one of our absolutely fixed and steadfast views. We want more Direct Democracy in Europe. That's how it can become more effective and stronger", he concluded.

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