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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).


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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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Recent developments proved that Europe can suceed to overcome challenges by aiming at great objectives, and this is needed also in 2009, said EU chairman, French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

    - "It's in the name of Great Ideas, Projects, Ambition and Ideals, that EU can overcome" challenges, stressed Sarkozy at EU Parliament in Strasbourg, in conclusion of a dense 7 months EU Chairmanship. "It's even easier for Europe to have Great projects, able to overcome national egoism, instead of limiting itself only to small projects" (unable to do alike), he observed.     

- "Europe must remain Ambitious and understand that the World needs her to take Decisions". "The World needs a Strong Europe", which "thinks on its own, has convictions, its own responses, its imagination" : "A Europe which does not limit itself into following" others, (as it did in the Past, when it followed USA, f.ex. on Bosnia). On the contrary, "Europe should undertake its own responsibilities", he said, after a series of succes in stopping the War between Russia and Georgia, and organizing the 1st EuroZone's Summit in Paris, which incited the Washington DC G-20 Summit to extend similar decisions World-wide.  


    - "When you sweep it all under the carpet, prepare yourself for hard tomorrows", he warned. "What hinders decisions is the lack of Courage and Will, the fading away of Ideals", he stressed before EU Parliament's 2008 debate on Human Rights and Sakharov prize on Freedom of thought attributed by MEPs to Chinese cyber-dissident Hu Jia, followed by an EU - Turkey meeting on Friday.

    - "I don't abandon my convictions" and "I will take initiatives" on EU level also in 2009, Sarkozy announced later. "France will not stop having convictions and taking initiatives" on Europe. + "It's an Error to wish to pass over the Heads of those who are elected in their Countries" : "It's an integrism I always fought against"', he warned.
---------------------
French EU Presidency faced 4 unexpected Crisis :

- An institutional crisis, with the Irish "No" to EU Lisbon Treaty, just before it started. A geopolitical crisis, wth the threat of War between Russia and Georgia risking to throw Europe back to Cold-war divisions, on August. A World-wide Financial and Economic crisis, arriving at a bad moment before crucial 2009 EU elections. And even a Strasbourg's mini-crisis, with EU Parliament's roof curiously falling down, from unknown reasons, in a brand new building on August, provoking an unprecedented transfert of the 2 September Plenary Sessions...

But it wasn't enough to stop Sarkozy ! On the contrary, it stimulated him...
---------------------------------------

- "The better way to deal with the recent problems of EU institutions (as the "3 NO" by France, the Netherlands and Ireland) is to take them as a "Test" in order to find solutions closer to Citizens' concerns", said later in Strasbourg Sarkozy's new choice as Ministe for EU affairs, Bruno Le Maire.

- On the Institutional front, Sarkozy gave Time to the Irish to think about it, and stroke on December a deal including a New Referendum after the June 2009 EU Elections, in exchange of a promise to keep the rule of "one EU Commissioner for each EU Member Country", and some opt-outs on Defence and Fiscal EU policies, Abortion, etc. If the Irish get a "Yes" Majority, then the institutional package could be completed in 2010 or 2011 on the occasion of Croatia's probable EU accession.

He was accused in Strasbourg to upgrade EU Council and downgrade EU Commision, but he replied that "strong Political initiatives by EU Council reinforce also the more technical role of EU Commission, under the political-technical leadership of its President", all 3 "working together with EU Parliament".


- But, meanwhile, Sarkozy energetically spearheaded an Historic 1st Summit of EuroZone's 15 Heads of State and Government at EU's core, exceptionally enlarged to a partial participation of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on October 12 in Paris' Elysee palace, which started to tackle succesfully the growing world Financial crisis.

    It also paved the way for its endorsement by a subsequent Brussels' 27 EU Member States' gathering, before it all come to Washington's G-20 Summit. And "Europe was united, it asked for the 1st G-20 Summit, and it will also organise the next G-20 Summit on April in London", he observed.   

 But a Conference with EU, Russia, African and other Developing Countries, hosted in Strasbourg shortly after Washington G-20 Summit by the French EU Presidency, took a Resolution asking to enlarge participation to Global Economic Governance. Many found, indeed, illogic and unacceptable that f.ex. states as Turkey were given a seat at G-20 level, while all African Countries, and even the African Union itself, representing the greatest Continent on Earth, were excluded...


    Meanwhile, even USA''s "Paulson No 3" Plan, was, in fact, inspired by Europe's No 1 Plan", Sarkozy observed, largelly applauded by MEPs.

    And "Europe showed Solidarity" by mobilizing some 22 Billion credit for Hungary, 1,7 billion for Ukraine, as we do nowadays for Baltic States, etc., he added.

    The move on Economy was extended on December by an EU stimulus' plan totalling some 200 billion Euros, including 5 Billions released by EU Commission for big Projects, as well as various parallel National plans for Economic revival, (fex. 26 billions in France alone). They might appear limited, compared to USA President-elect Obama's reported plan to boost the American economy with 800 billion $, but at least succeded to overcome Europe's divisions for the first time on Economic governance, opening new horizons.

- The French President stressed even harder the unique role of an active EU Council's chairmanship, when he moved swiftly and efficiently, at the beginning of August, to succesfully stop War between Russia and Georgia, at the last minute, which threatened to bring Europe back to Cold War division.

"We (EU) also wanted to avoid a situation like in Bosnia, in the Past, when EU was absent, so that our American friends took their responsibilitues, and EU only followed", despite the fact that the conflict took place in Europe. Now, it was the EU who took its responsibilities".

A roadmap towards a new PanEuropean Security policy, before which all unilateral moves to place new Missiles (from USA or Russia) would be freezed, was proposed by Sarkozy after a meeting with Russian president Medvedev, at the eve of Washington DC's G-20 Summit.

Ukraine's "European" character was stressed at a Sarkozy - Jushenko Summit, September in Paris, while EU adopted on December an "Eastern policy", in which, "I'm convinced that our (EU's) future is to find with our Neighbours the conditions for Economic Development. Peace and Security, by explaining them that.. they must respect (Human Rights') Values, and adopt behaviors different from the Past", explained Sarkozy in Strasbourg.

Meanwhile, the "Union for the Mediterranean" was created, since July's Summit if 45 Heads of State and Government in Paris, as "an organisation for a permanent Dialogue, that we need", mainly in order to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by bringing together, for the 1st time, Israelis and Arabs, where "Europe must be present, in order to avoid a frontal clash".

- "If Europe doesn't take its part for Peace in the Middle-East, nobody else will do that in our place", Sarkozy stressed.
-----------------------
    Meanwhile, other EU Agreements were brokered during the French EU Presidency on Immigration, (fex. common Asylum rules, etc), and Climat- Energy :

    - On Climat-Energy, the 2007 German EU Presidency had fixed a triple 20% aim for 2020 (20% renewable Energies, 20% reduction of CO2 emmission, 20% energy efficience/economies), and the 2008 French EU Presidecny realized that, making the necessary compromises in order to modernize EU's industry, but without throwing some former Central-Eastern European Countries into abrupt Economic break down risking "social explosion".

    - Defence-Security EU policy was mainly postponed for April 2009, since both German chancellor Merkel and French president Sarkozy want to strike a deal with the new American president Obama in Strasbourg's NATO Summit.

    However, with all these 4 unexpected Crisis diverting attention to other urgencies, People wil wonder now, what happened to the famous deal proposed by freshly-elected French President Sarkozy on Turkey's controversial EU bid, back on August 2007, to continue EU - Turkey negotiations, but on the double condition that core chapters, intrinsequally linked with EU Membership, will be excluded, and that a collective Reflexion and Debate on Europe's future would start before the end of 2008.

    It was meant to reply to the crucial question : What kind of Europe do we want in 10 or 20 Years from now : A large Market, or a Political Europe, with a popular identity ? In Sarkozy's thinking, presented in his 2 landmark speeches on Europe in Strasbourg, shortly before and after the 2007 Elections, (on February and July 2007), Turkey's controversial EU bid would be incompatible with the second choice.

    It's true that EU Commision's Chairman, Jose Barroso, (who had notoriously declared, as former Portuguese Prime Minister, that he found "nonsense" the idea that Europe might become equal to the US), had repeatedly tried to avoid that Sarkozy's criticism on Turkey might start winning a larger audience in Europe, preferring a discrete "wismens' committee" work. And that most of the personalities later chosen in order to participate in a Committee on Europe's Future, are too much linked with Socialist parties and/or American policies, to be really critical of USA's notorious wish to impose Turkey to the EU, as Sarkozy had noted himself since March 2007..

     - "It's on EU Council's presidency to take political initiatives. EU Commission has other competences", stressed Sarkozy. The "European Ideal" is to "build Europe with the States, not against them". "Ask Europeans to chose between their countries and Europe won't work. You don't choose between your two parents : We must add them together".

    "France and Germany have an Historic Duty to work together, precisely because of what happened to the Past. We have to work hand by hand. We cannot be separated.It goes beyond me and Mrs Merkel today, Mr Schroeder and Mr. Chirac yesterday. It's not a choice, it's a duty to Europe and to the World".  "We need Germany, as Germany needs Europe". Compromise is inevitable, here as everywhere, and each one made some steps towards eachother's positions.

    But "it's true that Mrs Merkel didn't chose her Socialist partners, while I chose mine", Sarkozy said, in an indirect hint that the Socialist Minister of Finance in Germany might be a cause of minor past disagreements in Economy, which were overcome in recent negotiations.

    "We (France and Germany) have particular duties in Europe", but "in a Europe of 27 Member States, it's not enough for France and Germany to agree between them.

    "I always thought that Great Britain has a special role to play in Europe. ... Now, everybody "saw what it cost payed the UK for having been too exclusively open towards the US (and) Financial services. Europe needs the UK, but also the UK needs Europe" :- "We were able to face the hardest moment of the Financial crisis because the UK clearly chose Europe", stressed Sarkozy, reminding Gordon Brown's exceptional participation to the Historic 1st Heads of State/Government Summit of EuroZone, October 12 in Paris (See EuroFora's Reportage from Elysee Palace then).

     - "Some look at Europe with old glasses aged 30 years ago. While we must look at her in relation to what it will be in 30 years" in the Future, Sarkozy concluded.

Polls

2009 EU Elections were won by Parties against Technocracy and Turkey's controversial EU bid, while the 1999-2004 Majority Abstention trend decelerated. What should be done in 2009-2014 ?

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