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Justices of the Constitutional Court paid a working visit to the Court of Justice of the European Union

29-03-2022

On 28–29 March, at the invitation of the President of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Koen Lenaerts, the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, as well as Justices Gintaras Goda, Vytautas Mizaras, Algis Norkūnas, and Daiva Petrylaitė, paid a working visit to the CJEU (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg).

The delegation of the Constitutional Court met with the President of the CJEU, Koen Lenaerts, the President of the Tenth Chamber of the CJEU, Irmantas Jarukaitis, as well as the judges at the General Court Virgilijus Valančius and Rimvydas Norkus. The meeting was also attended by other judges of the CJEU, First Advocate General at this Court, Maciej Szpunar, and other representatives of the CJEU.

During the visit, the justices of the Constitutional Court participated in the round-table discussions “Judicial independence: Standards and challenges of implementation in EU Member States” and “From national constitutional identity to the European integration – Relationship between the national Constitution and EU law”.

In this discussion, the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, emphasised that Lithuania had not yet had such incompatibility or conflict of constitutional provisions and EU law as was the case for the constitutional courts of some other EU Member States.

“The principle of the geopolitical orientation of the State of Lithuania, which is closely linked to the constitutional values enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution – the independence of the state, democracy and the republic – and which presupposes the European and transatlantic integration chosen by the Republic of Lithuania, means membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union and NATO and the necessity to fulfil the relevant international obligations related to this membership. The full participation of the Republic of Lithuania, as a member of the European Union, in the European Union is a constitutional imperative based on the expression of the sovereign will of the Nation and the full membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union is a constitutional value. It is clear from the provisions of the Constitution and the official constitutional doctrine that membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union has become an inseparable part of the national constitutional identity. Therefore, when interpreting the Constitution and formulating the official constitutional doctrine, the Constitutional Court must take into account, among others, EU law, because it is the Constitution itself that obliges it to do so. Especially since both the Constitution and EU law protect and defend the same fundamental values such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the principle of a state under rule of law, and respect for human rights,” Danutė Jočienė stressed.

The Justice of the Constitutional Court, Algis Norkūnas, presented to the participants of the discussion “Judicial independence: Standards and challenges of implementation in EU Member States” the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court on the constitutional principle of the independence of judges and courts and on the guarantees resulting therefrom.

“In the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, these principles and guarantees have been interpreted broadly and from the point of view of various aspects. Nevertheless, the independence of judges and courts and its limits still remain a topical issue, both in terms of the social and material guarantees of judges when considering the appointment and/or dismissal of judges, and in terms of the scope of the applicable immunity of judges. For example, the Constitutional Court has accepted three petitions that came from courts, requesting an examination into the constitutionality of the legal acts adopted by the Seimas and the President of the Republic, by which justices of the Supreme Court of Lithuania and the Court of Appeal of Lithuania were dismissed,” Algis Norkūnas said.

The delegation of the Constitutional Court participated in the working meetings with: Virgilijus Valančius and Rimvydas Norkus, judges at the General Court; Mr M. Aleksejev, Head of Unit, Registry of the Court; Ms L. Satkutė and Ms I. Jablonskaitė-Martinaitienė, administrators, Research and Documentation Directorate; Ms N. Točickienė, Head of the Legal Translation Unit for Lithuanian Language of the Directorate General for Multilingualism, and lawyers from that unit. The delegation of the Constitutional Court also participated in the oral hearing of the Grand Chamber of the CJEU in Joined Cases C-702/20 DOBELES HES and C-17/21 GM.

The Constitutional Court cooperates closely with the CJEU and has requested the interpretation of provisions of EU law in pending constitutional justice cases. The Constitutional Court also intends to renew its contacts with the Judicial Network of the European Union created on the initiative of the President of the CJEU and the Presidents of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts of the Member States, which aims to share and exchange information and documents useful for the application of EU law.

The Court of Justice of the European Union reviews the legality of legislative acts, of acts of the Council, of the Commission and of the European Central Bank, other than recommendations and opinions, and of acts of the European Parliament and of the European Council intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis third parties. It also reviews the legality of acts of bodies, offices or agencies of the Union intended to produce legal effects vis-à-vis third parties. This Court has also jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings concerning the interpretation of the EU Treaties and the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions, bodies, offices, or agencies of the Union (paragraph 1 of Article 263 and paragraph 1 of Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).

Photo by courtesy of the Court of Justice of the European Union