The European Commission for Democracy through Law - better known as the Venice Commission as it meets in Venice - is the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters.
The decision to set up the Commission was approved by the European Conference of Foreign Ministers in Venice in January 1990.
The activities of the Commission are governed by its Statute, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 1990 (as amended).
Since the Commission was set up, the Council of Europe member states only could become its members. However, in February 2002, the Partial Agreement was opened for accession by non-member states of Organization, including states geographically located outside the European continent. This has led to a significant increase in the number of participants.
Currently, 62 countries are parties to the Partial Agreement, including all 47 member states of the Council of Europe and quasi-state entities (Kosovo).
The Venice Commission is composed of independent experts who have received international recognition for their experience in democratic institutions or for their contribution to the strengthening of law and the development of political science.
Mr Gianni BUQUICCHIO, Italy, has been President of the Commission since December 2009.
The main areas of activity of the Commission are:
- constitutional law;
- elections, referendums, political parties;
- cooperation with constitutional courts and ombudspersons;
- international or comparative studies.
The competence of the Commission includes:
- consideration of the constitutional situation in individual states;
- consideration of issues of constitutional law of a general nature with the use of a comparative approach;
- creation of centers for documentation on constitutional law.
The Commission may conduct research on its own initiative and, if necessary, may draft laws, recommendations and international treaties. The Commission's proposals may be discussed and adopted by the statutory bodies of the Council of Europe.
The Commission may issue opinions at the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe or any member State of the Organization.
The bodies of the Council of Europe, individual member states of the Council of Europe and the member states of the Partial Agreement may apply to the Commission for legal examination of certain acts of constitutional, civil, international and other branches of law.
The decisions of the Commission are not legally binding and are of advisory in nature. However, such conclusions are predominantly taken into account by public authorities in the preparation of final texts of legislation.