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The activity of the Constitutional Court in the area of development cooperation and democracy promotion: the project of 2017–2018

 

About the project

Consistently strengthening relationships with the constitutional courts of the Eastern Partnership countries of the European Union, the Constitutional Court implemented the project “Assistance to the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine in Ensuring the Implementation and Protection of the Principles of the Rule of Law in the Context of Regional Challenges” (hereinafter referred to as the Project), financed under the Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. The Project was launched in 2017. The aim of the Project was, by sharing experience gained by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, to strengthen the role of the constitutional justice institutions of the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries – Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine – in ensuring the implementation and protection of the principles of the rule of law.

The activities carried out within the framework of the Project

The Preparatory Meeting of the Vilnius Forum. On 24–25 October 2017, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania organised the Preparatory Meeting of the Vilnius Forum, during which the delegations of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine discussed the role of constitutional courts in ensuring the rule of law.

The purpose of the meeting was to identify those issues in relation to ensuring the rule of law that were of major concern to the Project partners, and to clarify the areas calling for wider discussions and more comprehensive analysis. With regard to the further stage in the implementation of the Project, the representatives of the Constitutional Courts agreed to actively share the gained experience in the area of ensuring the rule of law and focus special attention on the issues related to the independence of constitutional courts, human rights limitations, and responsible governance. The relevant regional challenges were also discussed with researchers from the Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis.

The heads of the delegations of the Constitutional Courts met with H. E. President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė. During the meeting, the discussion addressed the importance of constitutional courts in building a state governed by the rule of law, the legal framework reforms under way, the reinforcement of the system of courts, as well as assistance by the Republic of Lithuania in strengthening the constitutional courts of the countries participating in the Project and enhancing the processes of democracy therein.

Issues concerning the ensuring of the rule of law were discussed in a meeting with the representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor General. The activity of the Office of the Prosecutor General was introduced to the delegations from the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine; Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis, his deputies, and other prosecutors shared their experience of international legal cooperation in criminal cases, and presented the international projects involving the joint participation of the representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor General and colleagues from Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine.

The Project partners also joined the events held on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania – the ceremony of unveiling the commemorative plaques on the facade of the Constitutional Court and the solemn sitting of the Seimas. At the solemn sitting, reports were delivered by Dainius Žalimas, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, and Tudor Panțîru, President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova.

The Questionnaire. As the court implementing the Project, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania prepared a questionnaire on ensuring and protecting the principles of the rule of law and circulated it to the Project partners asking them to fill it out. The questionnaire was aimed to create the preconditions for determining the issues of particular importance to the constitutional justice institutions of the partner countries in the area of the implementation and protection of the principles of the rule of law in the context of regional challenges. The questionnaire included questions of topical relevance to the Project partners, which had been formulated in the areas outlined at the Preparatory Meeting of the Vilnius Forum – the independence of constitutional courts, human rights limitations, and responsible governance. Subsequently on the basis of the provided responses to the questionnaire, the issues of concern to the Project partners were identified and the relevant experience of the Constitutional Court was summarised. 

The joint publication. A joint publication on ensuring the implementation and protection of the principles of the rule of law was published in 2018. This publication was based on the relevant jurisprudence of the Project partners (Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine).

The Vilnius Forum. A conference of the justices of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine – the Vilnius Forum – was held on 25–26 October 2018. During the conference, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, as the court implementing the Project, and the Project partners shared relevant experience. The members of a delegation from the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland attended the conference as guests. 

Having met in Vilnius a year before, the participants of the Project defined the most relevant issues for the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. After the questionnaire had been prepared on the basis of these issues, the participants of the Project provided their answers to it. Therefore, according to the President of the Constitutional Court, Dainius Žalimas, the Vilnius Forum was devoted to discussion on the issues of relevant concern to all the Constitutional Courts participating in the Project based on their experience. 

 “It is very important that we, working together in this Project, can identify the problems we are facing in our work and can jointly seek solutions. At the Vilnius Forum, a comprehensive analysis of the challenges to the independence of constitutional courts based on the case law of our courts, as well as the jurisprudence related to the interpretation of the constitutional principle of responsible governance and response to the use of democratic standards against democracy, was presented,” said Dainius Žalimas. 

The independence of constitutional courts is not only one of the essential principles of a democratic state under the rule of law. As this issue continues to be of relevant concern to many countries, it was among the topics of the Vilnius Forum. Another topic was the principle of responsible governance. The Constitutional Court has in its jurisprudence developed the official constitutional doctrine of responsible governance. According to the principle of responsible governance, it is essential that all state institutions act while being conscious of their responsibility and undertake reasonable and fair decisions. In addition, the justices of the Constitutional Courts shared experience about how freedom of expression is guaranteed in the national constitutions, how this freedom is interpreted in the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Courts, and how it is ensured in the lives of the states. Representatives from the Constitutional Courts, earlier filling in the questionnaire, had indicated the use of democratic standards against democracy as one of the issues of major concern. As the institutions of direct democracy can also at times be used against democracy, this issue is especially pertinent when it comes to freedom of expression, the way it is guaranteed in the national constitutions, interpreted in the jurisprudence of the constitutional courts, and ensured in the lives of the states. Therefore, this topic was also discussed at the sessions of the Vilnius Forum. 

The participants of the Vilnius Forum were presented with the joint publication containing the reports of the participants of the Project, the case law of the Constitutional Court on selected topics, the most relevant jurisprudence of the Project partners, and an overview of their case law. 

 Publications within the framework of the projects:

   

The Implementation and Protection of the Principles of the Rule of Law in the Context of Regional Challenges in Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. Vilnius, 2018, 208 p.
This publication is a compendium of reports for the International Conference of the Justices of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine (Vilnius Forum) of 25–26 October 2018 and the relevant material – the doctrine of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, and the latest jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania concerning the principles of the rule of law.

 Contents     PDF

The Implementation and Protection of the Principles of the Rule of Law in Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. Vilnius, 2016, 210 p.
This publication is a compendium of reports from the International Conference of the Justices of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine (Vilnius Forum), held in Vilnius on 24–25 October 2016, and the relevant material – the doctrine of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Courts of Georgia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, and certain reflections on the application of the principles of the rule of law following the analysis of questionnaire responses carried out by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania.

 Contents     PDF