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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

Pisac ACM
12. 10. 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).


-------------------------------------


    + 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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Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, speaking  to "EuroFora", denied rumors on Turkey's attempts to avoid an EU check of its obligations on Cyprus on December 2009 by blackmailing Nicosia to either accept any deal with intransigeant Turkish claims contrary to EU values on the island's political issue, or face threats against the territorial integriy of the EU island, semi-occupied by Ankara's army.

On the contrary, the incoming EU President-in-office, speaking exclusively to "EuroFora", promissed that he will act for EU Council's decisions on December 2009 assessment of Turkey's commitments on Cyprus to be kept.


    Bildt was asked to react to Cyprus' President Christofias' denunciation, earlier this week, that some want to exert "pressure" on Cyprus in order for Turkey to escape from its obligations.

    Avoiding to mention any precise Deadline, Bildt, however, warned about "Consequences" in case of "failure" to reunite Cyprus, but without saying whose responsibility an eventual deadlock might be.  

 Asked by "EuroFora" if there is a risk for "Turkey's commitments to "be forgotten or downgraded", "despite crystal-clear EU Council decisions and EU Parliament's latest Resolution on the assessment to make at the end of this year on Turkey's obligations", according to rumours that, instead of pressing Turkey, on the contrary, there might be "pressure on Cyprus", even "blackmail", as Media reported and President Christofias denounced this week, Bildt denied :

- "No ! ", he clearly replied.


- On the contrary, invited by "EuroFora", to "reassure that the Swedish EU Presidency (7-12/2009) will keep a fair stance, based on principles",  Bildt promised that "we (Swedish EU Presidency) will be very clear on all of the decisions taken by the (EU) Council".

He added, however, that "we have very numerous decisions that have been taken" by EU Council, as if he warned, also, on something else.

- "'I am not aware of any sort of statements coming out today''", Bildt started to say, on our reference to Cyprus' President Christofias" denunciation of Turkish lobby's manoeuvers this week, replying earlier to 'another"EuroFora"'s question during a Press Conference at EU Parliament in Strasbourg.


 - '"I know the issues that you' are concerned with'", he added, remembering  the statements he gave us when Sweden was chairing the PanEuropean CoE on 2008.

- "But, obviously, .. I think that Cyprus' Peace negotiations are extremenly important".

- And "'I think that we are at a unique moment in History, in the sens that both (Cyprus') President Christofias and Mr. Talat (the Turkish Cypriot leader), are personally convinced of the need to overcome the division".

 - "It's 20 Years since the fall of Berlin Wal, but we still have a Capital in Europe (Nicosia) that's divided". ,

- 'I don't that we should loose any time in overcoming that"..

 - ''We should be aware of the fact that success will bring great benefits, but failure, will also have major consequences. There will not be Status Quo' " It's a question of seeking a solution, or entering another situation, which is somewhat difficult to see exactly how that could evolve", he warned.

- "That being said, this is a negotiation for Cyprus itself", Bildt admitted.

 - ''We (EU) can support, the (EU) Commission primarily, be technically helpful, and then, of course, there is a specific role for the UN, when it comes to the Cyprus' situation".  

- "At least so far. It might not be for ever'. Certainly not for ever, but for this period of time", Bildt added, skiping now any reference to concrete threats on UNO's Peace keeping force in face of more than 40.000 Ankara's soldiers, contrary to some Press claims, (See previous NewsReports).


     Replying to another "EuroFora"'s Question,  if anyone might attempt to "impose a Deadline for the conclusion" of Cyprus' Talks on December 2009, Bildt avoided to speak of any precise Time-frame, and indirectly evoked the fact that  35 Years of Turkish Invasion/Occupation obviously durated too long :

'- "If I was from Cyprus, I would say that the Deadline was Yesterday ! '",
Bildt concluded.

Cyprus' Government Spokesman, Stephanou, reportedly pointed out that "a settlement is possible on December if Turkey changes its stance", accepting a solution for the reunification of the island based on UNO resolutiona and EU principles.

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Earlier, EU Chair, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeld, highlighted an "historic opportunity" to "re-Unite" Cyprus according to EU's "basic Values"' (i.e. Human Rights) and 'Rules'", in a last-minute change of his draft speech to EU Parliament in Strasbourg.

    The initial Draft spoke only about "healing" the island.

    Significantly, Reinfeldt linked Cyprus' reunification with Turkey's obligations to respect EU's "Values" and "follow" EU's "common Rules" :

    - What is "called Membership Negotiations" should lead, "at- the end of the day", into "sharing a set of common Basic Values (i.e. Human Rights, Democracy, etc), and following common Rules", stressed Reinfeld from the outset.
    
    - "This is something that those on the Outside (of the EU), are now  contemplating", up "to Ankara", for "a solution" on "Cyprus", observed the EU Chairman, immediately afterwards..  

    - "Both sides of Cyprus have been granted a historic opportunity to together reach an agreement on a solution to re-Unite the island, that has been divided for far too long", said Reinfeldt, modifying his draft text.


-  "The Swedish Presidency will act ...in accordance with Commitments EU has made, on the basis of Criteria that apply", "as a Honest Broker", he promised.    

- "To those on the inside (of the EU), allowing the membership process to become an opportunity to solve protracted disputes, can be tempting", he added.


    "In such cases, we must find solutions that can benefit both sides, and open up a way forward. Otherwise, it would jeopardize the progress we have made towards EU integration", Reinfeldt said.

***

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