Justices of the Constitutional Court paid a working visit to the Court of Justice of the European Union. 28–29 March 2022, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (photos by courtesy of the Court of Justice of the European Union)
Since its very establishment in 1993, the Constitutional Court has been developing cooperation with constitutional courts of other states, international organisations, and international courts; it is an active member of international community. The dialogue taking place among the justices of constitutional courts during bilateral and multilateral meetings, international conferences, and other events is useful for strengthening the interrelations of constitutional justice institutions and improving the qualifications of justices, and the acquired experience shared is especially useful for the Constitutional Court in ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution in the legal system and in administering constitutional justice when resolving constitutional justice cases.
The Constitutional Court has friendly relations with the constitutional justice institutions of various countries. Professional contacts are maintained with the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Austria, which is the oldest such a court in Europe, with the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, which has huge authority among the constitutional justice institutions, and with the Supreme Court of Estonia. Particularly close professional contacts are developed and the exchange of experience in annual bilateral conferences are carried out with the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia and the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland, close contacts are kept with the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia, communication is maintained with the constitutional courts of other states, such as Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Portugal, Slovakia, etc.
The cooperation of the Constitutional Court with the Supreme Court of Estonia, the Constitutional Courts of Latvia and Germany is particularly unique and is presented on a global scale as an example to be followed, because bilateral judicial conferences on various issues of constitutional jurisprudence are particularly useful, sharing experience addresses complex or similar legal problems arising in the field of constitutional justice and tackles challenges faced by the constitutional courts. The second trilateral judicial meeting of the Supreme Court of Estonia, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, and the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, which was scheduled for October 2021 but did not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting restrictions, will take place in June 2022.
There is particularly close cooperation between the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) – delegations from that court have visited the Constitutional Court on several occasions, and justices of the Constitutional Court participated in annual seminars and international conferences organised by the ECtHR. In April 2022, an official visit of a delegation from the ECtHR to the Republic of Lithuania took place (head of the delegation was the President of the ECtHR, Prof. Dr. Róbert Spanó, and the other two its members were a judge of the ECtHR, Prof. Dr. (HP) Egidijus Kūris, and the Deputy Registrar of the ECtHR, Abel Campos), during which the delegation also visited the Constitutional Court, discussed with the justices and employees about the fundamental principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the principles of subsidiarity, shared responsibility, the State Parties’ margin for manoeuvre, and other principles, the relationship between the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, the influence of the jurisprudence of the ECtHR on the development of constitutional doctrine, the problems of the lawfulness and proportionality of human rights restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, etc.
In the spring of 2022, the Constitutional Court joined the Superior Courts Network, which was set up by the ECtHR and which is designed to promote dialogue between the ECtHR and national courts of the States Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights, including through the exchange of case law relevant to all states.
The Constitutional Court also actively develops relations with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and has applied to it for the interpretation of the provisions of European Union (EU) law when resolving constitutional justice cases. In 2022, the Constitutional Court renewed its cooperation with the network of EU justice, established on the initiative of the CJEU and the Presidents of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts of the Member States through the Forum of the Judges of the Member States, which was organised on 27 March 2017 by the CJEU on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. The justices of the Constitutional Court and the CJEU have repeatedly exchanged working visits, during which they discussed the influence of EU law and the case law of the CJEU on the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, and the activities of the Constitutional Court as one of the national courts creating common European values.
In 2015, the Constitutional Court was visited by a judge of the United Nations International Court of Justice, Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade, who is one of the most distinguished professors of international law and whose contribution to the development of international law based on the highest humanist values is particularly significant. He is the first judge of that court to visit Lithuania.
One of the priorities of international cooperation in recent years has also been cooperation with the constitutional courts of the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries by transferring the experience of the Constitutional Court to them. In order to raise this cooperation to an even higher level, the Association of Constitutional Justice of the Countries of the Baltic and Black Sea Regions was established in 2015.
Since its very establishment, the Constitutional Court has been an active member of important international organisations of constitutional justice institutions – in 1997, it became a full member of the European Conference of Constitutional Courts (CECC), and was one of the initiators of the establishment of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice (WCCJ) – an organisation that brings together constitutional control institutions from countries around the world.
The Constitutional Court also actively cooperates with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), which is the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters. Together with the Venice Commission, an international conference will be co-organised, dedicated to the 100 anniversary of the Constitution of 1922 and the 30 anniversary of the Constitution of 1992, which will take place in Vilnius in October 2022.
On 2 March 2022, the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, Aldis Laviņš, and the President of the Supreme Court of Estonia, Villu Kõve, by their joint letter, addressed the CECC, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, which is currently holding the presidency of the CECC, and the President of the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), Claire Bazy Malaurie, by calling, among other things, for the withdrawal of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation from the CECC due to the aggression conducted by the Russian Federation against the independent and sovereign State of Ukraine.
The joint letter underlines that the situation caused by the aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine is a deep concern to all Europe, state institutions, many international and non-governmental organisations.
By that joint letter, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, and the Supreme Court of Estonia expressed their solidarity and unity with their Ukrainian counterparts and the People of Ukraine and condemned the acts of aggression by the Russian Federation against the independent State of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.
The joint letter of the constitutional justice institutions of the three Baltic States stressed that the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation had so far not made any clear statement on condemning the aggression by the Russian Federation against another independent state; moreover, the jurisprudence of that court raised reasonable doubts whether it was following the universally recognised constitutional principles of the rule of law, democracy, and the protection of human rights; thus, on the basis of paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Statute of the CECC, “there is ... important reason for concluding that effective co-operation in good faith between the Conference and a member is no longer possible” and, therefore, such a member “may be declared to have lost its membership”.
At the same time, the joint letter of the constitutional justice institutions of the three Baltic States proposed the withdrawal of the associate membership of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus for the contribution of the Republic of Belarus to the aggression conducted by Russia against the independent State of Ukraine.
Furthermore, this joint letter suggested initiating, on behalf of the CECC, amendments to the list of speakers of the 5th Congress of the WCCJ “Constitutional Justice and Peace”, which will take place in October 2022, by withdrawing the President of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, Valery Zorkin, from the list of speakers.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, which holds the presidency of the CECC, opened the procedure for voting on the withdrawal of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation from the CECC. Without waiting for the outcome of the vote and accusing the CECC of political intriguing, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation informed that, on 5 March 2022, it was withdrawing from the CECC.
The 4th Congress of the World Conference on Constitutional Justice, 11–14 September 2017, Vilnius. Photo by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania