On Iceland’s request, the Council of Europe’s constitutional experts, the Venice Commission, published an opinion on four draft constitutional bills regarding the protection of the environment, natural resources, referendums, and on the President of Iceland, the government, functions of the executive and other institutional matters. A cross-party Parliamentary committee is currently working toward updating Iceland’s constitution in sections, to the dismay of activists who are urging the government to adopt the so-called “crowdsourced constitution” Icelandic voters approved in 2012.
Some Clarification of Provisions Recommended
On the draft bill concerning the President and functions of the executive, the Commission noted that the bill does not significantly modify in principle the parliamentary system, but important amendments are proposed concerning the President’s term-limitation, presidential powers, and the presidential immunity. While the Venice Commission found that the amendments were generally positive and in line with the international standards, some of the provisions might cause uncertainty in their interpretation and application. The expert body recommended that constitutional provision should provide rules as to the investigations, indictments, and judicial proceedings in cases of alleged misconduct in office by ministers.
Concerning the draft amendments on referendums, the Venice Commission welcomed the clear intention to enhance citizens’ opportunities to influence legislation and more generally the decision-making on issues of key interest for the public. Nevertheless, the Advisory body recommended some changes, including in regards to provisions concerning referendums triggered by a veto of the President.
Enforcement Mechanisms Should Be Outlined
“The draft bills on natural resources and on the environmental protection were welcomed as they aim to constitutionally entrench the use and protection of natural resources, as well as the protection of the environment,” a press release from the Council of Europe reads. “The amendments are generally positive and in line with the applicable standards. The Commission recommended that the meaning of a number of notions used in the draft provisions be clarified and the enforcement mechanisms, including the judicial control of the rights and obligations provided in the draft provisions, be explicitly provided in the text of the Constitution.”
In 2013, the Venice Commission published an opinion on the “crowdsourced” new constitution of Iceland.