1380bis Meeting of the Committee of Ministers, 8 July 2020
Among the recently adopted constitutional changes in the Russian Federation, the EU notes that the amendment of Article 79 of the Constitution stipulates that decisions of interstate bodies adopted on the basis of international treaties ratified by the Russian Federation, if considered by the Constitutional Court as being contradictory to the Constitution, may not be executed in the Russian Federation.
The European Union reiterates that whatever model of relations between domestic law and international law is chosen, under Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, to which the Russian Federation is a party, a State cannot invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty, including the European Convention on Human Rights. This rule, which reflects customary international law, was used as a benchmark by the Venice Commission in its 2016 opinion on the Amendments to the Constitutional Law on the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, as well in its June 2020 opinion on draft amendments to the Constitution related to the execution in the Russian Federation of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.
In the 2016 opinion, the Venice Commission found that the power of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation to declare a European Court of Human Rights judgment non executable contradicts the obligations of the Russian Federation under the European Convention on Human Rights. In the 2020 opinion, the Commission stated it was alarmed by the constitutional entrenchment of such a power and considered that the addition to Article 79 of the Constitution, which can deprive individual applicants of the final and enforceable character of a European Court of Human Rights judgment, should be removed, or its wording should be amended. The Commission also noticed that under the new constitutional amendments the President will have the power to initiate a procedure for dismissal of judges of the Constitutional Court by the Council of the Federation, which appears to increase the possibility of influence of the Executive over the Constitutional Court.
In light of the concerns expressed by the Venice Commission about possible adverse effects of the adopted amendments on honouring Russia's commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights, the EU expects Russia, regardless of any amendments to its constitution, to live up to its international law obligations, including its unconditional obligation, under Article 46 of the Convention, to abide by the final judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.
Regarding the nationwide voting in the Russian Federation on constitutional amendments which concluded on 1 July, the European Union regrets that, in the run up to this vote, campaigning both for and against was not allowed, thereby denying voters access to balanced information. We expect all reports and allegations of irregularities, including voter coercion, double voting and violation of secrecy of the vote, to be duly investigated.
The EU does not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by the Russian Federation, and, therefore, condemns the voting procedures on constitutional amendments that took place in the Crimean peninsula, in violation of international law.
The EU deplores the participation in the voting procedures on constitutional amendments of residents of the areas currently not under the control of the Ukrainian government, to whom Russian passports have been selectively issued, in disregard of the spirit of the Minsk agreements.
The following countries align with this statement: Albania, Georgia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Republic of North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino