The participants of the international conference dedicated to the Day of the Constitution have focused their attention on constitutional heritage, the development of the official constitutional doctrine, and prospects for the sustainability of the Constitution
On 25 October 2022, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania together with the Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) held the International Conference “From the National Constitution to Transnational Constitutionalism”, dedicated to mark the 100th anniversary of the Constitution of the State of Lithuania of 1922 and the 30th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania of 1992.
The aim of the conference was to discuss, with representatives of constitutional justice institutions of other countries and the Lithuanian legal community, the significance of the Constitution as supreme law in resolving constitutional challenges extending beyond national borders.
Addressing the participants of the conference, Gitanas Nausėda, the President of the Republic of Lithuania, noted that the legal tradition of the restored independent State of Lithuania includes respect for the principles of international law and compliance with international obligations. It is our duty to protect universal democratic values, such as respect for human life and dignity and the territorial integrity of states.
“The serious violations of international law committed by the Russian regime in Ukraine these days remind us once again of the importance of the inevitability of punishment for international crimes. The guilty must not escape responsibility. Success in ensuring this principle will depend not only on Ukraine’s military victories, but also on your efforts as members of the legal community. In the fight against the crime of aggression, all tools are suitable – both international law and national constitutions together with national law. I invite all of you to contribute to the creation of an international order based on law and justice. The security, independence, and continuity of the democratic tradition of Lithuania will also depend on this,” Gitanas Nausėda, the President of the Republic of Lithuania, said.
Welcoming the participants of the conference, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, emphasised that our current Constitution was not derived from law, but from the political will of the People, embodying the supreme sovereign power, to conclude a so-called social contract and to live according to it.
“Today we finally agree that the Constitution is not only an act of supreme legal force, but also law par excellence. Ideal law. Law without legal gaps. The measure of ordinary law. And we no longer call the Constitution the main law of the country, because it is an unforgivable legal faux pas. It is extremely important for everyone, including politicians, to understand what the Constitution is and to whom it is intended, to feel its strong back, and to comply, individually or collectively, with its provisions as a standard of conduct, as it is worth it,” Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, said.
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė recalled in her greeting that, when we approved in 1992 the social contract in what sort of country we wanted to live, we could rely on the tradition that had been interrupted by the occupation. She said:
“There was no doubt that we wanted to live in an independent democratic republic. It is very important that the provisions of the Constitution should become, in the long run, an inseparable part of society, and that the principle of the rule of law should be understood not as coercion, but as the embodiment of justice, and that we look at the state as a necessary precondition for the common good. A very important mission in defending, nurturing, and interpreting the Constitution lies with the Constitutional Court, so we can only be glad that throughout its existence, although its composition has changed and various criticism has been expressed, this court has remained above political storms and helped to unravel the threads of extremely complex legal disputes.
Let us be such politicians who are concerned about common matters, who understand that important decisions should be made not about short-term impressions or images, but about long-term consequences. The parliaments, presidents, governments complete their terms of office, but the state remains. Therefore, when we talk about respect for the Constitution, it must be the attitude of every citizen, realising that the agreed rules are what allows us to stay together and build the future of Lithuania together.”
Danutė Jočienė, the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, noted that both anniversaries commemorated in the conference today – the 100th anniversary of the first permanent Constitution of the State of Lithuania, adopted in 1922, and the 30th anniversary of the longest valid Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, adopted on 25 October 1992 – are important for the development of the constitutionalism of Lithuania.
“Between these constitutions, there are seven decades full of changes, during which the life of the State of Lithuania has changed dramatically several times. However, the links between these constitutions clearly show that both 104 years ago, when the independent Republic of Lithuania was born, and 32 years ago, when its independence was restored, the attitude of the creators of the constitutions of Lithuania was essentially the same: according to the famous Lithuanian lawyer Prof. Mykolas Romeris, it was ‘confidence in democracy as the gospel of salvation, as a recipe for happiness and social justice, … which must immediately give the perfection of the state order …’”, Danutė Jočienė said. “On the other hand, the researchers of the history of the constitutionalism of Lithuania notice the principles and features of modern democracy as early as in the 16th century in the Statutes of Lithuania, which reflected the tendencies towards the codification of European law, and in the Constitution of Two Nations of 1791, which was, by the way, the second (after the United States) written constitution in the world and the first in Europe. The rich constitutional heritage has laid solid foundations for the current Constitution, which enshrines not only the democratic commitment of all citizens of Lithuania to live according to, and obey, the fundamental rules consolidated in the Constitution for the present and future generations, but also the commitment to transmit to future generations the experience and maturity of statehood, which provide the necessary guarantees of historical survival.”
According to Danutė Jočienė, on such a prominent occasion, the Constitutional Court is pleased to welcome in Lithuania not only the representatives of the closest neighbouring constitutional review institutions of the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Estonia, with which the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania has long-standing working relations and the established cooperation traditions, but also guests from many other countries. Among the more than a hundred conference participants, there are eighteen delegations of foreign constitutional justice institutions, Koen Lenaerts, the President of the Court of Justice of the European Union, judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union, former justices and presidents of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, judges of other courts of Lithuania, politicians, representatives of the Prosecution Service of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Bar Association, legal scholars, and representatives from other institutions.
The discussions of the conference participants in the four sessions reflect current issues and provide an opportunity to share the experience of constitutional justice institutions of different countries in protecting the supremacy of the Constitution and law.
In the first session “Constitutional traditions and constitutional endurance”, devoted to discuss the centenary constitutional heritage, which laid the solid foundation for the current constitutional order, the keynote presentations were delivered by Aldis Laviņš, the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, and Egidijus Jarašiūnas, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and former judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The session was moderated by Haroldas Šinkūnas, Dean of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University. The participants of the discussion, following the keynote presentations, included Villu Kõve, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Estonia, and Domnica Manole, the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova. In the discussion, insights were also shared by Vytautas Sinkevičius, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, who contributed to the emergence of the Constitution.
In the second session “Constitution-centric legal system: the art of constitutional interpretation”, which addressed the development of the official constitutional doctrine, the keynote presentations were given by Egidijus Kūris, a judge of the European Court of Human Rights and former President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, and Toma Birmontienė, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and professor of the Law School of Mykolas Romeris University. The moderator of the discussion was Vytautas Mizaras, a justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and professor of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University. The discussion was joined by: Christoph Grabenwarter, the President of the Constitutional Court of Austria; representatives of the constitutional courts of Albania, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia; as well as Egidijus Šileikis, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania.
In the third session “Transnational dimension of national constitutions”, dedicated to discussing the relationship between the national constitutional legal system and the international and European Union legal systems, the keynote presentations were read by Koen Lenaerts, the President of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and Danutė Jočienė, the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania. The discussion was moderated by Elvyra Baltutytė, a justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania. The discussion was attended by: Irmantas Jarukaitis, a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union; Pierre Nihoul, the President of the Constitutional Court of Belgium; Jana Baricová, a member of the Venice Commission and judge of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic; Alvina Gyulumyan, a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights; and Lyra Jakulevičienė, the Dean of the Law School of Mykolas Romeris University.
During the fourth session “Constitutional lessons leading towards a path forward”, the challenges faced by the constitutional courts and possible solutions to them were discussed. In this part, the keynote presentations were read by Stephan Harbarth, the President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, and Gintaras Goda, a justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania. The session was moderated by Prof. Dr. Vytautas Nekrošius of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University. The discussion was attended by: Serhiy Holovatyi, the Acting Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine; representatives from the constitutional courts of Armenia, Georgia, and Romania; Stasys Šedbaras, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and the Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania; and Algis Norkūnas, a justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania.