To: the European Commission for Democracy through Law / the Venice Commission.
Joint Statement of NGOs on Article 67 § 2 of the Draft Amendments to the Constitution of Georgia
“We, the local non-governmental organizations and non-profit collectives of Georgia, in the name of the joint public campaign “Constitution for Equality – No to Liberty Act,” kindly urge the Venice Commission to express its opinion on Article 67 § 2 of the draft Constitutional Law on Amendments and Changes to the Constitution of Georgia. This particular article forbids the parliament from raising or establishing new taxes without holding a special referendum, which can only be initiated by the government.
We want to note that the Article 67 § 2 significantly limits the power of the parliament to participate in the budgetary and socio-economic policy-making, and vitiates its role as the supreme policy-maker of the country. The Venice Commission has always expressed its concerns regarding limitations on the legislative discretion. Examples include the Final Opinion of the Venice Commission on the Draft Constitutional Law on Amendments and Changes to the Constitution of Georgia, adopted at its #84 plenary session, on October 15-16, 2010, Paragraph 98 of which says:
“Indeed, only the government has legislative initiative in budget matters (Article 93 § 1), the parliament cannot change the draft budget (§ 3) and increased public spending, reduced revenues or additional financial obligations vis-à-vis the current budget need to be approved by the government (§ 6). It would seem appropriate that the parliament be more significantly involved in budget matters.”
We want to highlight that Article 67 § 2 further affects power of the parliament to at least have a say in socio-economic policy and devise over the economic development of the country. Therefore, this article contradicts the fundamental principles of constitutionalism and democracy.
We want to emphasize that no country in the world has constitutional limitations on introducing new taxes. Almost all constitutions of the European countries read that tax policy is to be set by ordinary legislation. Moreover, several European constitutions explicitly forbid holding a referendum on the issue of taxes. It is widely agreed that a democratic constitution should not entrench a particular economic and budgetary policy.
We also note that content of this article is a relic from the extremely flawed and widely contested constitution-making processes of the previous government of Georgia.
We kindly urge the Venice Commission to express its opinion on Article 67 § 2 of the draft Constitutional Law on Amendments and Changes to the Constitution of Georgia. We stand ready to provide further information as required.”