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The delegation of the justices of the Constitutional Court visited the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany

03-12-2021

At the invitation of the President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, Stephan Harbarth, the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, and justices Gintaras Goda, Vytautas Mizaras, and Algis Norkūnas visited Karlsruhe (the Federal Republic of Germany) on 1–2 December. This was the first bilateral meeting of justices of the Constitutional Courts of Lithuania and Germany in the last decade.

The help of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in the creation of the Constitutional Court of our state was particularly important. In the first years of activities, the jurisprudence of this Court became one of the most commonly used sources of law, and the organisation of activities became an example when organising work in Lithuania. However, bilateral meetings of justices for sharing experience have not yet taken place. According to the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, “the bilateral meeting of the Constitutional Courts of two states, which is taking place today, is an excellent opportunity to start intensive institutional cooperation by exchanging experience and challenges in deciding constitutional justice cases, and it should also be emphasised that our Constitutional Court is already ready not only to learn from the German Court, which has much longer working experience, but also to pass its experience to it”.

The programme of the meeting included three main topics of discussions: the relationship between the national constitution and international law and European Union (EU) law, challenges in dealing with cases based on individual constitutional complaints, and changes in legal regulation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and issues of their constitutionality.

The report “The relationship between the national constitution and international law and EU law” of the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, emphasised the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution, which is consolidated in paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania. However, the developed official constitutional doctrine also points out another constitutional principle of respect for international law, i.e. the principle of pacta sunt servanda, which means the imperative to fulfil, in good faith, the obligations assumed by the Republic of Lithuania under international law, among others, international treaties. This is a legal tradition and constitutional principle of the restored independent State of Lithuania.

"Both the supremacy of the Constitution and the obligation to comply with international treaties and EU law stem from the Constitution itself, thus obliging the Constitutional Court both to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and not to deviate from the international commitments assumed. The Constitutional Court bears a huge responsibility to balance these values,” Danutė Jočienė said.

The report by justice Algis Norkūnas presented the institution of individual constitutional complaints and discussed the practice of the admissibility of these complaints, and the report by justice Gintaras Goda presented the most important cases considered subsequent to individual constitutional complaints.

The report by justice Vytautas Mizaras addressed changes in legal regulation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and issues of their constitutionality. The author reviewed the legal regulation consolidating measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its development, and discussed the petitions received at the Constitutional Court requesting to investigate the constitutionality of the legal regulation introduced in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany was represented in the meeting and the information on the said topics was presented by the President of this Court, Stephan Harbarth, Vice-President Doris König, and justices Christine Langenfeld, Yvonne Ott, Henning Radtke, Astrid Wallrabenstein, Ines Härtel, and others.

The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany consists of two Senates of eight justices each. The cases are examined by the chambers formed of three justices from both Senates. Eight justices of the Federal Constitutional Court are elected by the German Bundestag (lower house of the German parliament) and eight by the Bundesrat (representation of the German Länder); three members of each Senate must be elected from the supreme federal courts – Federal Court of Justice, Federal Administrative Court, Federal Finance Court, Federal Labour Court, and Federal Social Court. Anyone who is at least 40 years old and qualified to hold judicial office may be elected as justices of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. A justice’s term of office ends after twelve years or when the retirement age of 68 is reached.

Photo: President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, signs in the Book of Honorable Guests of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (photograph by Michael M. Roth, MicialMedia)