Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev Responded to the Venice Commission’s Criticism of Russia’s Article 79 Constitution Amendment

The amendment to Article 79, giving priority to the Constitution of the Russian Federation over international treaties, is impeccable, said Senator Konstantin Kosachev.

Earlier, experts of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe recommended changing or completely abandoning the proposed amendments to Article 79 of the Constitution of Russia, according to which “decisions of interstate bodies adopted on the basis of the provisions of international treaties of the Russian Federation in their interpretation contrary to the Constitution of the Russian Federation are not enforceable in the Russian Federation”.

In their opinion, Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges Moscow to comply with the decisions of the ECHR. Moreover, the commission is concerned about the norm on the possibility of the Federation Council dismissing judges of the Constitutional Court on the proposal of the president.

Commenting on criticism from representatives of the Venice Commission, Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, said he was surprised by such an expert opinion.

“As a member of the working group, I took part in a meeting with experts of the Venice Commission in Moscow, if I am not mistaken, in April. We talked for more than one hour, talked informally, in legal language. And at that meeting, we did not hear any categorical assessments that I then saw in the conclusion from the experts. We set out our logic, and it was recognised as having the right to exist. It is clear that the experts did not give us final conclusions, but I will repeat again – the discussion was constructive and we got the impression that we understood and heard each other at the legal level,” said the senator.

Konstantin Kosachev suggested that after the meeting “big politics could have interfered” in the work of the experts, which predetermined the final conclusion on the assessment of the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

“I consider our amendment to be impeccable, because we are not talking about the decisions of the European Court, but we are talking about the part of the decisions that interpret the European Convention on Human Rights. There is no doubt that we don’t question the decisions of the European Court, which directly follow from the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights – this is a Russian obligation, and it will certainly remain in full. Here it’s when the ECHR starts to attribute to the European Convention certain postulates that are not there, to which Russia did not sign when it joined the Council of Europe, when it ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, and the norms prescribed or to be prescribed at the level of the Constitution in Article 79 will come into force. This is a practice that is also applied in a number of other member states of the Council of Europe, so in this sense we do not invent any fundamental innovations and, of course, we will act as necessary, forming our own constitution,” continued the interlocutor of the Federal News Agency.

Kosachev also recalled that the only author of the constitution can and will be only the people of the Russian Federation, who can amend it not only through their representatives in parliamentary structures of the federal and regional level, but also directly through the nationwide Russian vote.

From a legal point of view, the conclusions of the Venice Commission are advisory in nature, nothing more,” concluded the senator.

Sergey Chemekov

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