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Speeches at the Venice Commission Plenary meeting, Venice (Italy)

Speeches at the Venice Commission Plenary meeting, Venice (Italy)
Saturday, 20 October 2007

1. Exchange of views with the Union of Arab Constitutional Courts and Councils

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I very much appreciate this opportunity to make a few remarks as a democratically-elected parliamentarian and President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

When one thinks of democracy, one thinks first and foremost of parliaments – places where the representatives of the people come together to debate and pass laws.

But just as important are the independence and principled rigour of constitutional judges, overseeing the workings of the institutions of state.

In the Parliamentary Assembly, we fully appreciate this principle and are proud and grateful to have always cooperated so closely with the Venice Commission.

We continue to place great reliance on the Venice Commission's work when monitoring the honouring of their obligations and commitments by member States, both old and new.

It is now over five years since the Venice Commission became an enlarged agreement, open to non-member States of the Council of Europe, and I am very pleased to see this close cooperation also with the Union of Arab Constitutional Court and Councils.

I am a great advocate of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, one of the most important challenges of our times.

For me, the fact that distinguished lawyers and judges from both European and Arab countries can come together to discuss matters of common and profound public interest is a matter of great inspiration and a sign of hope for the future.

I therefore wish you all a very interesting and productive exchange of views.

Thank you.

2. Agenda item "Co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly (Continued)"

Ladies and gentlemen,

Next January, I end my term of office as President of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Before doing so, I was determined to express, in person, my recognition of your great contribution to the Council of Europe and to democratic development, both in Europe and beyond.

I really came to appreciate the value of your work when I was the Assembly's rapporteur for the accession of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia.

Like the vast majority of parliamentarians, I am not an expert in constitutional or electoral law, and your technical guidance was invaluable to us when preparing our opinions.

Since enlargement, we have continued to work together very closely to support the Assembly's monitoring procedure.

Our cooperation has not been limited to these fields, however, but has also included issues where interpretation of international law has given rise to political controversy.

One good example is the Marty report on secret detentions, which is on the agenda of this meeting.

It is especially interesting how our work has progressed in tandem from earlier reports on democratic oversight of the security services, dealing with different issues as they have arisen.

Another, related example would be the question of Guantánamo: I was pleased to see that our various reports have now been published together, reflecting our close working relations.

I must also, of course, thank you for your invaluable contribution to the Assembly's Annual Debate on the State of Human Rights and Democracy in Europe – particularly because the Annual Report was my own initiative.

With your input, along with that of other key players, our Annual Report must become one of the crowning works of the Council of Europe and a benchmark for political debate at national and European level.

Our relations has always been helped by the quality of the Assembly's representatives on the Venice Commission.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Erik Jurgens, himself a jurist of high standing, whose many years of service have been of enormous benefit to us all.

The Venice Commission is one of the essential elements that make the Council of Europe indispensable to the whole of Europe when it comes to promoting and protection democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

I deeply regret that governments and most members of parliament, including the European Parliament, are not sufficiently aware of you and your work.

For myself, I have always strongly supported and promoted the Venice Commission in my official meetings and visits, at all levels; and I will continue to do so for the rest of my mandate.

Thank your for your attention – but above all, thank you for your work, and please accept my best wishes for the future.