The Commission, which is better known as the Venice Commission because it meets four times a year in Venice, is the Council of Europe’s principal advisory body on constitutional matters. Its work is grounded in the three foundational principles of Europe’s common constitutional heritage: democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Its objectives include promoting the rule of law and democracy.
The Commission’s role is to provide legal advice to its member states, including by helping states wishing to bring their legal and institutional structures into line with European standards and international experience. It helps to ensure the consolidation of a common constitutional heritage in Europe, and the dissemination of that heritage by sharing the standards and best practices adopted within the Council of Europe beyond its borders, particularly in neighbouring countries.
Each Member State of the Commission appoints a representative and an alternate representative, who act in an individual capacity as independent experts, not as representatives of the country or government that appoints them. Individual members of the Commission are experts who have achieved eminence in their fields of law and political science. They include supreme and constitutional court judges, members of national parliaments, university professors of international and public law, legal practitioners and a number of civil servants. The UK’s previous representative on the Commission was Richard Clayton QC and previous alternative member was Professor Paul Craig of Oxford University. Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC, the founding Director of the Bingham Centre, is also a former UK representative on the Commission.
The Commission currently has 61 Member States: the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, plus 14 other countries (Algeria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Mexico, Peru, Tunisia and the USA). The European Commission of the EU and OSCE/ODIHR participate in the plenary sessions of the Commission. South Africa and Palestine have special status before the Commission and 5 other states (Argentina, the Holy See, Canada, Japan and Uruguay) have Observer status. Canada has recently applied to become a Member State of the Commission.