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Venice Commission says 20 years is enough

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, February 5
The improvement of a constitution never ceases to be an issue and a constitution should be adequate for the level of the country’s development, Gianni Buquicchio, Head of the Venice Commission Delegation, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional issues, told Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, at the President`s residence on February 3. The two politicians were discussing the proposed constitutional amendments and the political situation in Georgia.

“We have been working on the Constitution of Georgia since 1993 and it is time to adopt a final document which will enable State institutions to work free from any obstacles,” Buquicchio stated. “I remember how you told me in 2005 that you would take the whole responsibility for this on yourself. You promised me that you would look through the document and it is high time we made the relevant changes. Our Commission will fully support you,” he added.

“It is a great experience for us to cooperate with the Venice Commission for so long. We are absolutely ready to make balanced constitutional changes to strengthen the role of Parliament, inform the public of our activities daily and lead negotiations with the opposition in order to produce a democratic constitution in accordance with European standards. We have undertaken several rapid reforms over the last five years, such as the eradication of corruption and freeing the business sector, but constitutional changes are definitely the most important of all. We are now moving into a new stage of reforms to make better progress,” Saakashvili told Buquicchio.

The current Constitution of Georgia doesn’t match modern Western demands, Gianni Buquicchio told NGOs and experts at the Constitutional Commission Meeting on the second day of his official visit. “Georgia started working on a constitution when it received its independence, but hasn’t managed to work out an appropriate document in 20 years. There are a lot of gaps in the Constitution of Georgia which should be filled through consensus. The new constitution should increase the authority of the executive Government, strengthen the role of Parliament, give independence to the courts and grant local government more autonomy,” Buquicchio stated, adding that any changes should be acceptable for both political and civil society.

“There is a lack of balance between the organs of power in Georgia after the Rose Revolution. You definitely need to share responsibilities out between the Government, Parliament and Judiciary better. The President’s authority should be decreased while Parliament’s should be increased. The courts should definitely be impartial. Such a tendency is seen not only in Georgia. Lack of political culture is a problem in the whole region, especially countries which have recently gained independence,” Buquicchio told the audience.

The Constitutional Commission of Georgia presented two other issues to the Venice Commission. “At this working meeting we introduced two projects prepared by us. One concerns the regulation of local government, while the other concerns the appointing judges permanently,” Avtandil Demetrashvili, Chairman of the Constitutional Commission said. “This is the first time I have been in Georgia, although I have worked with Avtandil Demetrashvili before. He is a very good lawyer who can easily achieve consensus among people with different views,” Gianni Buquicchio told the media.

The Venice Commission has demanded changes in the law on protest manifestations. Members of the Commission suggest that protest organisers should be allowed to hold rallies within 20 metres of a building, although they say restrictions such as the role of the police in regulating public rallies should be left in the law. The Commission also discussed the election code and suggested that specific analysis should be made of it. Gianni Buquicchio highlighted that holding fair elections depends not only on having proper laws but the relevant political will. Recommendations have been sent to Government of Georgia for further development.

“Cooperation with the Venice Commission is important for Georgia in order to match the State Constitution with European demands,” Gia Nodia, political analyst, told the media. “This visit is mainly concerned with working out the text of the Constitution but the most important thing is that its principles are implemented. It is up to the citizens of Georgia to take the appropriate action to ensure the further democratic development of the country,” Ramaz Sakvarelidze, another political analyst, added.

At a meeting with Davit Bakradze, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, the sides stressed that the consultation on constitutional changes between the Parliament of Georgia and the Venice Commission will continue. The Head of the Venice Commission expressed his hope that the current constitutional reforms will be successfully implemented.

The Messenger asked independent analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili for his opinion about the meeting and the further recommendations of the Venice Commission. “It is obvious that Georgia lacks political culture. I attended the Commission Meeting and I saw how Gianni Buquicchio, Head of the Delegation, was astonished by Georgian legislators not even being able to deal with elementary arithmetic when calculating specific dates for the constitution. But unfortunately we are facing information fraud as Buquicchio comments have been falsified on the internet,” Tsiskarishvili told us. He explained that what Buquicchio's said about the Georgian Constitution has been completely misreported on Government websites.

“There are some articles in the current Constitution of Georgia about minor robbery which the document suggests should be applied in a very strict manner. It is unbelievable that Georgia now conducts a policy six times worse than in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time and the contemporary regime of Putin’s Russia,” Tsiskarishvili added, highlighting that there was no particular difference of opinion among the independent analysts who attended the meeting with the Venice Commission.