The second trilateral meeting of the justices of the constitutional courts of the Baltic States is held in Vilnius
On the initiative of the Constitutional Court, the second trilateral meeting of the justices of the Supreme Court of Estonia, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, and the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania takes place in Vilnius on 9–10 June. Its topic is “Contemporary Constitutional Challenges”.
The meeting is attended by the President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, Justices Elvyra Baltutytė, Vytautas Greičius, Giedrė Lastauskienė, Vytautas Mizaras, Algis Norkūnas, and Janina Stripeikienė, the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, Aldis Laviņš, the Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, Irēna Kucina, Justices Gunārs Kusiņš and Artūrs Kučs, the Justices of the Supreme Court of Estonia, Nele Parrest, Velmar Brett, and Kaupo Paal.
The President of the Constitutional Court, Danutė Jočienė, emphasised that the topic of this trilateral meeting in the context of the European events is extremely relevant – the independent and sovereign State of Ukraine has been under military invasion of Russia for more than a hundred days. No one could even imagine that, in the 21st century, fundamental constitutional values – democracy, the rule of law, and human rights – must be defended with a weapon in hand. Therefore, constitutional courts must remain a strong guarantor of those values in any situation, while strengthening the independence and territorial integrity of states.
Danutė Jočienė thanked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Estonia, Villu Kõver, and the justices of that court, the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, Aldis Laviņš, and the justices of that court for the joint initiative of the three constitutional justice institutions of the Baltic States to remove the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the Constitutional Court of Belarus from the Conference of European Constitutional Courts.
“Only by acting together can we not only achieve the practical implementation of the values protected by our constitutions, but also realise the aim of the Council of Europe to pursue peace, which is based on the idea of justice and international cooperation and is essential for the preservation of humanity and civilisation,” Danutė Jočienė said.
According to the President of the Constitutional Court, the recent years have become a real test for the constitutional courts, because it was necessary not only to observe, but also to assess how the fundamental constitutional values – democracy, the rule of law, the protection of human rights and freedoms – are respected and protected in specific unprecedented circumstances, such as in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has to be noted that, in these difficult times, there is a tendency to refer complex political issues to the courts, which have no right to participate in politics. Since most of the challenges to the rule of law in recent years are also relevant in many countries, constitutional review institutions need more than ever to support each other, and also need an active dialogue with international judicial institutions in order to find the most comprehensive and consistent answers to various constitutional challenges, at the same time answering highly sensitive questions to society about the legitimacy, justification, and proportionality of restricting the exercise of one or another human right and freedom, for instance, in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Danutė Jočienė said. “The dissemination of case law related to similar constitutional problems helps to find new constitutional ideas and solutions. Therefore, dialogue between judges and courts, the sharing of experience related to the implementation of constitutional principles and requirements, the creation, development, or even reinterpretation of the existing constitutional doctrine, the discovery of new concepts adapting the living law to the new circumstances or, conversely, the preservation of established court structures and their case law are of utmost importance to all of us today.”
The justice of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, Gunārs Kusiņš, considers cases related to the constitutional review of the state of emergency in Latvia as one of the most important challenges in recent years.
“The restrictions in Latvia were provided by means of legislative acts, Cabinet regulations and administrative decisions. The Constitutional Court is competent to review regulatory measures of general application – the laws and Cabinet regulations. The legality of administrative acts was examined by the administrative courts,” Gunārs Kusiņš explained. “Our ambition was to reconcile the exceptional with the fundamental – indeed there was a necessity and obligation to preserve the good health of as many people as possible, it couldn’t be achieved without encroaching on other fundamental rights. Nevertheless, the Court was able to balance the interests in presence, to examine the proportionality of the measures taken. Therefore, we had no hesitations to strike down the measures – which were justified as to their aim – however exceeded as to what was reasonable to achieve it.”
The justice of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Supreme Court of Estonia, Nele Parrest, when reviewing the most important changes in the constitutional doctrine of Estonia, noted that almost every case seems to have some important nuances that help to develop the understanding of law and constitution, and that, in principle, almost every case seems to be the most interesting and the most important one at the time you are resolving it. The justice has identified, in her opinion, three most important topics from her practice in recent years: the judicial control of socio-political choices made by the parliament (reform of pension system), the rights of same sex couples, EU law and constitutional review.
The Vice-President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia, Irēna Kucina, presented the most important cases of that court over the last two years. These include cases related to the right of individuals to a fair trial, tax laws, administrative-territorial reform, and issues of the ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
Justice Vytautas Mizaras, presenting the most important constitutional justice cases in Lithuania in 2021–2022, emphasised the influence of individual constitutional complaints on the development of constitutional problems and the protection of human rights.
“This is confirmed by the fact that in most constitutional justice cases dealt with subsequent to individuals’ complaints, the Constitutional Court recognised the contradiction of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution. This means that individuals, while defending their violated constitutional rights or freedoms, at the same time provide an opportunity for the legislature to correct errors in the country’s legal system,” Vytautas Mizaras said. The justice also emphasised the particularities of constitutional justice cases related, among others, to the right to freedom of religion and belief, to the safeguarding of the rights of a state servant in cases of temporary removal from his/her duties, as well as to the implementation of the right to apply to the court of cassation determined by the specificity of cassation.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania started cooperation with the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia immediately after the establishment of that court in 1996. The first trilateral meeting of the justices of the Constitutional Courts of Latvia and Lithuania and the Supreme Court of Estonia took place in Riga in 2019.
The photo gallery of the event can be found here.