MODERNIZATION OF THE INSTITUTION OF THE FIFTH REPUBLIC IN THE LIGHT OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL ACT OF 23rd JULY 2008 (O modernizacji instytucji V Republiki w swietle ustawy konstytucyjnej z 23 lipca 2008 r.)
The article deals with the July institutional modifications of the Fifth French Republic. Those changes, prepared by a special committee, established upon request of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and chaired by É. Balladur - were passed by the Constitutional Act of 23 July 2008 on Modernization of the Institutions of the Fifth Republic. They are focused on three basic factors: the reduction of the role of the executive power, strengthening of the position of Parliament and establishing new organs and procedures for protection of rights and freedoms of citizens. Mechanisms for rationalization of parliamentary system, adopted 50 years ago, have led to the situation where the legislative power is subordinated to the executive power. In order to reinforce ('restore') the position of Parliament in relation to the executive, its limited discretion in determining the agenda of debates has been restored and the possibility to apply the procedure of Article 49 paragraph 3 has been reduced. In order to improve quality of the work of the chambers the following actions were implemented: the time limit for consideration of a given legislative proposal was extended, the number of standing committees was increased; new formal requirements were imposed on legislative proposals; parliamentary chambers have been allowed to benefit from the assistance provided by experts of the Council of State. There are essential modifications of the oversight function of Parliament, which will be able to assess the activities of not only government but also, in a way, of the President. The said reform extends constitutional regulation on parliamentary investigative committees and allows Parliament to apply for assistance to the Chamber of Auditors within the area of review of the execution of budgetary laws and laws on financing of social security, as well as to assess public policies. Among new means and mechanisms for protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens it is worth mentioning the procedure of prejudicial questions addressed by the Council of State or the Court of cassation to the Constitutional Council, in case of doubt about constitutionality of statutes. This procedure permits the ex-post review of constitutionality of statutes which has been rejected by French constitutional tradition. Moreover, the reform set up a new office responsible for the defence of rights (le Défenseur des droits) whose powers will be more widespread than those of the current Mediator of the Republic. French citizens have also been granted the right of popular legislative initiative - bill submitted under this procedure would be subject to approval by means of a referendum. The recent constitutional reform is undoubtedly the most comprehensive one among those implemented to date. However, in the opinion of numerous constitutional law scholars, it is 'insufficient' or 'superficial'. Nevertheless, its final assessment would only be possible after the adoption of several organic and ordinary laws and modification of the rules of procedure of parliamentary chambers.
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