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The Association of Constitutional Justice of the Countries of the Baltic and Black Sea Regions

Content updated: 08-05-2019 07:27

 

In October 2015, on the initiative of the Constitutional Court of Moldova and the Constitutional Court of Lithuania, The Association of Constitutional Justice of the Countries of the Baltic and Black Sea Regions (hereinafter referred to as the BBCJ or the Association) was established. The Declaration on the Establishment of the Association was signed by the Presidents of the Constitutional Courts of Lithuania and three Eastern Partnership countries of the European Union – Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. It is expected that more institutions exercising constitutional jurisdiction will join the Association in the future. 

The Association was established in order to bring the long-standing cooperation between the constitutional courts to a higher level, to institutionalise and consolidate it, as well as to promote and strengthen the motivation of the partner countries to participate in joint activities. The new regional cooperation of the constitutional courts will open opportunities to even more actively contribute to the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights in the Eastern Partnership countries, as well as will help to generate new initiatives to ensure firm and consistent support to Eastern partners that have chosen European integration and need comprehensive support in order to defend their European choice and territorial integrity. In addition, this cooperation will provide constitutional courts with opportunities to share their good experience more efficiently and more frequently, and to put such experience into practice; it will also encourage an even more intensive and meaningful dialogue between constitutional courts. The Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine have actively contributed to ensuring compliance with the principles of the rule of law; therefore, it is sought to strengthen the independence of these institutions, which guarantee the protection of constitutional values and principles, and to consolidate the European dimension in the activity of these courts. 

The Declaration on the Establishment of the Association underlines that constitutional courts have a particularly important role in ensuring the supremacy of the constitution in the legal system and constitutional justice and in guaranteeing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as declares the commitment to respect the independence and sovereignty of states and their territorial integrity. The Association also affirms the resolve of the partners to represent, in solidarity and unity, the interests of the regional constitutional courts in the constitutional justice organisations of the world and Europe. 

The activities of the BBCJ are carried out by the General Assembly and the Secretary General. The General Assembly is composed of the presidents or delegated representatives of constitutional courts or other constitutional justice institutions that are members of the BBCJ. Having convened on 25 October 2018 in Vilnius and taking into account the enlargement of the BBCJ and seeking the more effective dissemination of information about the activities of the Association, the General Assembly specified the Statute of the BBCJ in greater detail and agreed on the ways of sharing information. 

The Statute of the BBCJ in its wording currently in force and the founding Declaration of the BBCJ can be accessed on the website of the Constitutional Court at declaration-and-statute_bbcj-with-amendments.pdf.

The General Assembly is convened by the President of the BBCJ. The presidency of the Association is held by each member of the Association for a one-year term in rotation on the basis of the English alphabetical order of the names of the states represented by the members of the Association. The presidency of the BBCJ was held by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova in 2016, by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine in 2017, and by the Constitutional Court of Georgia in 2018. In 2019, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania took over the presidency of the BBCJ.

The 1st Congress of the Association took place on 30 June–1 July 2016 in Chisinau (Moldova). The topic of this congress was “The Role of Constitutional Courts in Protecting Democratic Values.” It was attended by the President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, Justice Gediminas Mesonis, Justice Algirdas Taminskas, and the Secretary General, Ingrida Danėlienė.  

In parallel, the first meeting of the General Assembly of the Association was convened in Chisinau to discuss the relevant issues concerning the activity of the Association, its development, and new initiatives of its members. 

On 21 July 2016, expressing its concern about the events in Turkey, where thousands judges had been detained or removed from posts, the Association drew attention to the fact that the rule of law must be observed and the independence of the judiciary must be ensured in a democratic society.  

The full text of the statement issued by the Association in this regard can be found at http://www.bbcj.eu/constitutional-court-moldova-rallies-behind-venice-commission-condemning-attempted-coup-d-etat-turkey-aftermath/ 

On 31 May–2 June 2017, the meeting of the General Assembly and the 2nd Congress of the BBCJ on the topic “The Role of Constitutional Courts in Interpreting the Provisions of National Constitutions in the Context of the Generally Recognised Principles and Norms of International Law and EU Law and Judgments of International Courts” were held in Kharkiv (Ukraine). The events were attended by the delegation of the Constitutional Court, headed by the President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas. 

Along with the delegations from the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Ukraine – the members of the BBCJ, the meeting of the General Assembly and the 2nd Congress were attended by representatives of the Constitutional Courts of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Montenegro, the Supreme Court of Estonia, the Venice Commission, and other international organisations. 

Convened in Kharkiv on 1–2 June 2017, the 2nd Congress of the Association adopted a resolution, the full text of which can be accessed here. 

On 20 October 2017, the Association expressed its deep concern with regard to the pressure exerted by the President of the Republic of Moldova on the Constitutional Court of the country and his interference with the activity of this court. More information is available at http://www.lrkt.lt/en/news/other-news/bbcj-condemns-the-pressure-put-by-the-president-of-the-republic-of-moldova-on-the-constitutional-court-of-the-country/973

On 17 October 2017, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova held that the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova could suspend the President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, from office, since he, having not appointed the Minister of Defence for more than 10 months, had failed to fulfil his constitutional duties. This judgment of the Constitutional Court of Moldova was passed after Prime Minister Pavel Filip had applied to the Parliament, requesting it to suspend the President of the country from office, because he had not fulfilled his constitutional duties. Article 89 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova allows the Parliament to suspend the President of the Republic from office. Following this judgment of the Constitutional Court of Moldova, the President of Moldova began publicly threatening to dismiss the judges of the Constitutional Court, imprison them, and change the court decisions. 

In a statement signed by the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, Dainius Žalimas, the President of the Constitutional Court of Georgia, Zaza Tavadze, and the Acting Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, Viktor Kryvenko, the following was held: 

“Under the principle of the rule of law, in every democratic state, the constitution, including the jurisprudence of the constitutional court, binds all individuals, institutions and state authorities. The constitutional court safeguards the supremacy of the constitution, since it is a fundamental constitutional value. This can only be fulfilled if the constitutional court is genuinely independent. Therefore, the authority of the constitutional court and, specifically, its exclusive power to officially interpret the constitution, must be respected by all state institutions and officials, including the head of state. 

The BBCJ declares its support to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova and considers inadmissible any actions of state authorities and officials that undermine the fundamentals of democracy and the rule of law, the authority of the Constitutional Court, violate its independence, and are, therefore, unacceptable in a democratic state.” 

At the preparatory meeting of the 3rd Congress of the BBCJ and the meeting of the General Assembly held on 3–4 April 2018 in Tbilisi (Georgia), the Presidents of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Ukraine signed a statement condemning aggression and stressing the necessity to prosecute persons responsible for it. 

The BBCJ Statement on Condemning and Persecuting Aggression and Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories of the BBCJ Countries, 4 April 2018, Tbilisi

At its meeting in Tbilisi on 4 April 2018, the General Assembly of the BBCJ agreed on the enlargement of the BBCJ. In accordance with the Statute of the BBCJ and having regard to a request and a motivation letter submitted to the Acting President of the BBCJ by the President of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland, Julia Przyłębska, confirming support for the principles and aims outlined in the Declaration on the Establishment of the BBCJ and its Statute and declaring the willingness of the Constitutional Tribunal to become a member of the BBCJ and to contribute to the achievement of the said principles and aims, the BBCJ unanimously decided to admit the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland to the Association of Constitutional Justice of the Countries of the Baltic and Black Sea Regions as of 16 May 2018. 

The Resolution on Membership of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland in the BBCJ, 3 April 2018, Tbilisi 

On 16–17 May 2018, the 3rd Congress “The Role of the Constitutional Courts in the European Integration Process” of the BBCJ took place in Tbilisi (Georgia).  

The participants of the 3rd Congress were presented with the report prepared by the Secretary General of the BBCJ and with the dates and topics for upcoming events and meetings. Most topics of discussion at this congress were related to the EU integration process: harmonisation between national law and EU law, integration into the EU, and constitutional justice.

In his report “European Integration and Constitutional Justice: Lessons Learned by Lithuania”, the President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, defined the role of the Constitutional Court in carrying out the constitutional reforms related to EU membership.

All relevant information in connection with the activity of the BBCJ is published on the website http://www.bbcj.eu/.