Tunisia: Council of Europe calls for constitutional reform to establish foundations of a democratic society

At the close of their official visit to Tunisia, Edmond Panariti, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Albania, and Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly – accompanied by Venice Commission President Gianni Buquicchio – called on Tunisian authorities to push ahead with on-going constitutional reform “so as firmly to establish the foundations of a democratic and pluralistic society in which the rights and freedoms of all individuals are respected.” They also called for the setting up through the Constitution “of independent authorities to deal with the essential issues of judicial and media independence”.

Mr Panariti and Mr Mignon welcomed the fact that civil society will be broadly consulted in the near future over the draft Constitution. “We hope that this will enable everyone to make their voices heard, especially human rights defenders”. The Council of Europe, they stressed, will continue to provide expertise through its various tools not only to help finalise the draft Constitution, but also in the important processes which will follow its adoption. “In that vein, we hope that the agreement to establish a Council of Europe office in Tunisia will be concluded in the near future”, they added.

Regarding elections expected to follow the adoption of the Constitution, they underlined the importance of the timely adoption of measures required to hold free and democratic elections, particularly electoral legislation and installing an independent body in charge of elections, “through an open process based on dialogue between all political forces”. They reiterated the willingness of the Council of Europe to assist in this process, particularly through the Venice Commission’s capacity to share relevant experience and expertise with the country, and through the Parliamentary Assembly’s capacity to observe the future elections, as it had done during the elections on 23 October 2011.

Committee of Ministers President Panariti recalled the democratic transformation of his country Albania to express his conviction that Tunisia is fully capable to meet its challenges.

“We are confident that Tunisia, which blazed the trail of democratic change in the region, will continue in this direction through dialogue and efforts to establish the broadest possible consensus among all political forces– and throughout Tunisian society in all its diversity. In this regard, civil society organisations have a key role to play in the new Tunisian democracy”, they concluded.

During their two-day visit, Mr Panariti and Mr Mignon met the highest-level Tunisian authorities: the President of the Republic, the Head of the Government, the President of the National Constituent Assembly, and the Foreign Affairs Minister, as well as representatives of political parties and civil society.