President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia Aldis Laviņš stresses the importance of balancing the constitutional identity of the country and the rights of the European Union at an international conference in The Hague
On 31 August and 1 September 2023, President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia Aldis Laviņš and Adviser to the President Andrejs Stupins participated in the international conference “EUnited in diversity II: The Rule of Law and Constitutional Diversity” organised by the Court of Justice of the European Union, the Constitutional Court of Belgium, the Constitutional Court of Luxembourg, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands and the European Commission in The Hague, the Netherlands.
Aldis Laviņš presented a paper on the importance of balancing the constitutional identity of the EU Member States and the rights of the European Union in the second panel “The primacy of European Union law and the equality of European Union citizens before the law”.
“The concept of constitutional identity is open to European Union and international law, but at the same time it implies that the most important values enshrined in the Constitution must be taken into account when applying European Union law,” said Aldis Laviņš.
The introduction to the lecture introduced the participants to the concept of constitutional identity and its development in the case law of constitutional courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union. The President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia stressed that the recognition of the concept of constitutional identity in no way implied a rejection of the common European values. On the contrary, the recognition of constitutional identity is a practical tool to protect, for example, freedoms of establishment and movement, balancing them in certain cases with the national legal framework.
As an example of such balancing, Aldis Laviņš highlighted the Constitutional Court of Latvia case No 2020-33-01 on restrictions on private higher education institutions to implement study programmes in foreign languages. In this case, the Constitutional Court of Latvia referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union for a preliminary ruling on whether the protection of the national language, which is part of the constitutional identity of Latvia, justifies restrictions on the freedom of establishment and business activities. This is one of the cases in which the CJEU has recognised the constitutional identity of a Member State as a means of influencing the balance between national and EU law.
In his presentation, the President of the Constitutional Court of Latvia proposed for discussion three possible criteria for a national value to be recognised as part of constitutional identity: it must derive from the Constitution, it must reflect values of particular importance in a given Member State that live in the consciousness of the nation and unite the people, and it must be subject to assessment by the courts of the Member States of the European Union and by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which, in dialogue, determine whether constitutional identity can, in a given case, be the basis for balancing the application of European Union and national law.
The conference “EUnited in diversity II: The Rule of Law and Constitutional Diversity” brings together representatives from the constitutional and supreme courts of the EU Member States, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission. Participants give presentations on the role of the courts in protecting the European Union’s fundamental values, the rule of law and human rights.
The first conference “EUnited in diversity” took place on 2 and 3 September 2021 in Riga. The conference in The Hague is informally known as “Riga II”.
Before the conference, the delegation of the Constitutional Court of Latvia visited the Embassy of Latvia in the Netherlands to discuss with Ambassador Aiga Liepiņa the issues of international cooperation of the Constitutional Court of Latvia, as well as legal news in Latvia and the world.