Constitutional Reform Work to Begin in National Assembly

YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–The National Assembly of Armenia will begin discussing constitutional reforms in September–in preparation for a referendum some time before June 2005–as promised to the Council of Europe.

National Assembly deputy speaker Tigran Torosian–who is heading a delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE)–told a press conference on Tuesday that a "working group," tasked with renewing debate on constitutional reforms–would be formed and that a draft package of constitutional amendmen’s will be ready by late April 2004–for consideration by the Council of Europe Venice Commission.

Venice Commission Secretary Giovanni Buquicchio–said he regretted the Commission had not managed to participate in the formulation of the Armenian constitution in 1995. "The constitution is not a shirt that can be frequently changed. But if it is to be changed–then it should comply with European standards," he said.

Commission member Kaarlo Tuori noted that Armenia’s constitution requires crucial human rights–local governance–and judiciary reforms–as well as a checks and balance system between the branches of government.

The Venice Commission was established just after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990– and has played a leading role in the adoption of constitutions in eastern Europe that conform to the standards of Europe’s constitutional heritage. Initially conceived as a tool for emergency constitutional engineering at a time of revolutionary change–its activities have evolved as early upheavals gave way to a more gradual process of change. The Commission keeps a close watch on the changes that constantly affect society and are reflected in fundamental–constitutional rules.

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