President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia Aldis Laviņš attends the international conference in Kosovo and emphasises the importance of constitutional identity of countries in safeguarding democracy and the rule of law in Europe
From 22 to 25 October, the President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia Aldis Laviņš and Adviser to the President Andrejs Stupins participated in the conference “The Contribution of Constitutional Courts in Protecting and Strengthening Fundamental Values of Democracy, Rule of Law, and Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms” organised by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Kosovo in Pristina. Aldis Laviņš gave an address on the role of constitutional courts in balancing European Union and international law with the constitutional identity of a country.
The Constitutional Court of Latvia supports the integration of Kosovo’s legal system into a single European judicial area, including by sharing the experience in dialogue with the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights. Given that at the end of last year Kosovo applied for membership in the European Union, Aldis Laviņš began his presentation by congratulating his colleagues from the Constitutional Court of Kosovo on this significant event and accented the necessity to analyse how the values discussed at the conference are protected in practice by the constitutional courts of the European Union Member States.
Membership of the European Union means unity in diversity that is also characterised by the constitutional identity of each Member State. There has been much discussion in the last decade in Latvia about the unalterable core of the Constitution, recognising that it consists of constitutional values such as the rule of law, the national language, and fundamental human rights. The protection of these values enshrined in the Constitution guarantees the existence of the Latvian nation, thus forming the constitutional identity of our country.
The President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia emphasised that both European Union and international law respected the constitutional identities of countries. As an example of such balancing, Aldis Laviņš highlighted case No. 2020-33-01 on restrictions on private higher education institutions to implement study programmes in foreign languages. Following a request for a preliminary ruling from the Constitutional Court of Latvia, the Court of Justice of the European Union concluded that the protection of the national language could justify restrictions on the freedom of establishment and freedom to conduct a business. Consequently, the Constitutional Court of Latvia recognised that the benefit to society from the restriction of the fundamental right of a merchant outweighed the adverse consequences arising for private higher education institutions in relation to the restriction of their right to engage in commercial activities. This case is a clear example of how the constitutional identity of a country can coexist harmoniously with the requirements of the European Union legal framework.
“Constitutional identity of countries and common European values are complementary elements that instead of division enable to achieve a balance in the application of national law, European Union law, and international law to protect democracy and the rule of law,” Aldis Laviņš highlighted.
The conference was organised within the framework of the 14th anniversary of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Kosovo. It brought together global judges and legal experts from the constitutional and supreme courts, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Commission on Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission), and universities around the world.