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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

Parašė ACM
Thursday, October 12, 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" ?

 

mao__people_on_1966_at_tien_an_men_square_photo_in_german_exhibition_of_2017__eurofora_screenshot_400

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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Speaking exclusively to "EuroFora", the New EU Parliament's President, former Polish Prime Minister, ChristianDemocrat/EPP MEP Jerzy Busek, welcomed proposals by EuroFora about innovative ways for EU Citizens to attend EU debates before important final decisions which affect people's lives.

- "We (EU Parliament) must be transparent", Buzek stressed from the outset.  "We must have clear answers also for delicate questions. If we don't touch a problem, you must know why, and when shall we decide in the nearest future".. "Because "we (EU) must think about Europeans, first of all : They don't understand well what is going on in the EU. So, it's our duty to inform them, to make discussions here more interesting".

"EuroFora" congratulated President Buzek for the anouncement he made, from the 1st day of his election in Strasbourg (on Tuesday, 14 July 2009), on his intention to make  transparent debates, exchanges of views, etc. before the final adoption of decisions in EU Parliament's Plenary, when issues are evolving inside Committees, (See earlier publication).

And we reminded, in this regard, that "EuroFora" has been advocating a project for EU Citizens' active involvement in pluralist EU debates before important EU decisions, since more than a Decade : 1997-2007+

- "Thank you. We (EU Parliament), indeed, have exciting debates", Buzek replied. But, in practice, "without a possibility for our Citizens to see them, not even by the Press, the Radio or TV, etc., because it is in Committees", he regreted.

- "But, they (i.e. Media, Citizens, etc) might interact with you, with MEPs, etc, May be we can imagine something", "EuroFora" proposed.

- "Yes, (but) it needs, a quite new idea", Buzed observed.

- "Why not through some innovations ?", "EuroFora" suggested.

- "Innovation ? That's it. Fantastic  New Information Technologies !", Buzek realized.

- "Precisely, "EuroFora" has such a project, since more than a Decade (1997-2009), to use new technologies for public debates before major EU decisions are taken", we reminded.

- "If you have such proposals, please come to us, come to us. We must" do something, agreed the new EU Parliamen's President.

buzek_chairing_400 

    This fits with Buzek's main stance, expressed at EU Parliament's plenary earlier this week in Strasbourg, that the European Union must succeed to overcome a "Crisis of Trust" vis a vis EU Citizens. (See previous EuroFora publication).

    For that purpose, obviously information and debates are valuable, but purely instrumental, procedural means which can help focus on, and highlight a substantial content, attractive to EU Citizens, which needs to be determined by other, political, and not mediatic factors.  

    Buzek spoke about the urgent need to overcome the Global Economic Crisis,  the struggle for Human and Civic Rights, Democracy, etc., the Eastern Partnership, links with Russia, strategic partnership with USA and emerging countries, etc.

    But he also used (while speaking both to "EuroFora" and other Media) the expression : "The Europeans", for EU Citizens. This points right towards what several important EU leaders (including French President Sarkozy, German Chancellor Merkel, etc) have started to highlight particularly during the recent years : That there is a vital need, and an historic opportunity, for the development of a European Conscience, to stimulate e renaissance of a European Identity able to attract Popular support, for the EU to become a strong player in a Multopolar World : In other words, the revitalisation of a project for a "Political Europe".

    By a coincidence, this was indirectly but surely reminded, earlier in Strasbourg, by another ... Busek (this time with a "s") : 

busekcoe_400

    Speaking to more than 650 participants from CoE's member countries, at the conclusion of the 2009 Summer University of its Political Schools, Erhard Busek, (with an "s"), former vice-Chancellor of Austria and EU Coordinator for South-Eastern Europe, pointed at the current need to revitalize Europe's "Identity", forged by Greek philosophy and Roman Law, Christian values and Enlightment's ideas, etc. through the ages.     

- "We have almost the same name with Jerzy Buzek (EU Parliament's new President, who is a former Polish Prime Minister), because both our Families come ...from  the same village, located at the Heart of Europe, which was often shared between Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic. But my family emmigrated a long time ago to Austria, while Jerzy Buzek's family remained in Poland", explained f. vice-Chancellor Erhard Busek to "EuroFora".   

 An astonishingly concrete and simple example of European Integration from the grassroots : Starting by EU Citizens, i.e. those "Europeans", that EU Parliament's new President, Jerzy Buzek (this time with a "z"), wants to bring alongside MEP's decision-making proces, (according to "EuroFora"'s main idea : Comp. supra)...

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