Address by the President of the Constitutional Court Aldis Laviņš to the representatives of foreign missions in Latvia


Aldis Laviņš
President of the Constitutional Court

Address to the representatives of foreign missions in Latvia

Riga, 27 May 2022

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am truly honoured to renew the tradition started by the Constitutional Court in 2019 and to address you today in person, in the courtroom of the Court.

Our meeting comes at a time when the international community has not yet recovered from the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, but has entered a new crisis, unjustifiable and heartless in 21st century Europe, triggered by Russia’s aggressive attack on Ukraine. In these difficult times, we appreciate the importance of solidarity and unanimity in defending universal human values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

So, thank you all for your time for today’s meeting!

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests!

Allow me to start with the changes in the composition of the Constitutional Court since our last meeting. On 20 April, 2021, Anita Rodiņa took up office as judge. On 11 February, 2022, the term of office of judge Sanita Osipova expired and on that date Irēna Kucina took up office as judge. A few days ago, Daiga Rezevska resigned as a judge, and until a new judge takes office, the Constitutional Court will work in the composition of six judges.

There have also been changes in the leadership of the Court. In the elections held in March this year, the Constitutional Court judges entrusted the powers of the President of the Court to me, while Judge Irēna Kucina was elected as the Vice-President.

At the same time, the traditions of adjudication established during the 26 years of the Constitutional Court’s existence have remained unchanged, based on independence, impartiality and collegiality, and aimed at protecting the values of a democratic state governed by the rule of law and ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia.

The Constitutional Court is an independent constitutional body belonging to the judicial branch of power, which exercises the competence established in Article 85 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia – to adjudicate disputes on compliance of legal norms with norms of higher legal force. The Constitutional Court, as an institution of the judicial power, must ensure the control of the other branches of State power, the protection of fundamental rights of the individual and the existence of a legal system which, as fully and comprehensively as possible, eliminates regulation that is incompatible with the Constitution or other legal norms of higher legal force.[1] The institution of constitutional review and the mechanisms for protecting human rights are particularly characteristic of the European legal space.

Although the Constitutional Court is a relatively new constitutional body in the Latvian constitutional order, it has become a guarantor of the rule of law in Latvia and a guardian of quality legal thought in Latvian society.[2] However, in today’s fast-changing world, in the age of modern technology and information, we cannot afford to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labour. Maintaining and raising the standard of independence, quality and public trust we have achieved requires hard and continuous work. Together with all the judges, we are a solid team in promoting a democratic Latvia under the rule of law and ensuring the protection of fundamental rights for everyone.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

We all share the opinion that key words for the Constitutional Court today and in the future are the following: independent, professional, modern, open and internationally recognised.

The independence of judges and courts is one of the fundamental principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law and an indispensable prerequisite for the exercise of everyone’s right to a fair trial.[3] The judiciary must be free from undue influence by the legislature and the executive, political pressure, interference by any institution or private person in the work of the court, and other factors that impede impartial administration of justice. Judicial independence is important for everyone who goes to court and counts on fairness in the administration of justice.[4] Therefore, the Constitutional Court will continue to maintain a high standard of independence and impartiality in its activities, will stand guard over the independence of the judicial system through its rulings, and will maintain a dialogue with the other branches of state in order to seek new means to strengthen the independence of the Court.

In order to ensure that the Constitutional Court’s administration of justice complies with the Constitution, the Constitutional Court not only must be independent and impartial, but also professional and competent. Law is constantly evolving, and international, European Union and national law are in harmony and interact with each other, so judges must constantly work to keep up to date with developments in the European legal space and other legal systems. Equally important are the professional skills of the staff of the Court and their development. Therefore, the Constitutional Court is committed to ensure that the Court’s judges and staff have opportunities to participate in professional development events and exchanges with colleagues at the national and international level.

Up-to-date information and new knowledge cannot be obtained unless internal processes are streamlined and modern technologies are used. Our strong belief is that the Courts need to be modern and digitally developed. The Constitutional Court takes decisive steps towards the new information technologies and smart IT solutions thus using advantages of the 21st century. These are not just distant goals and expectations. In the circumstances of Covid-19, the work of the Constitutional Court did not stop even for a day, we continued to perform our functions in remote and hybrid modes. We intend to further digitise the circulation of legal documents. Judges of the Constitutional Court also have a vision on possible improvements of the legal framework in order to streamline the Constitutional Court process. The Constitutional Court will continue its development towards e-solutions thus enabling the society and authorities to communicate with us, not in paper format but more and more in a digital format.

Let me continue with our concept of sustainability and environmental responsibility. Green policy guidelines have been approved by the Court as part of its commitment to sustainable development. They commit the Court to reduce the amount of waste, including printed paper, and to recycle waste as far as possible, to save resources and otherwise promote environmentally friendly behaviour.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests!

In one of its judgments the Constitutional Court has recognised that every person must be guaranteed the right to freely obtain information on the activities of the judiciary.[5] Moreover, this information should be provided not only on request, but also proactively, through an active dialogue with other branches of government, the media and society at large. That is why an independent, professional and up-to-date Court is also characterised by its openness to such dialogue. In recent years, the Constitutional Court has implemented a number of dialogue activities: comprehensive press releases are prepared on each case initiated and examined on the merits; video commentaries by judges on judgments are recorded or press conferences are held; public court hearings are broadcast on the Court’s Youtube channel; information on the Court’s work is also published on its Twitter account; the Court publishes analytical publications on fundamental rights; holds interdisciplinary talks and publishes a podcast series. The Court particularly addresses school youth – Constitutional Court judges and staff members give lectures in schools, a competition of students’ drawings and essays is held every year, and thematic webinars are organised. This month, the Constitutional Court also opened its doors to a wider audience – for the first time the Court’s Museum was opened to visitors.  Allow me to share also statistics – more than 1000 visitors – adults, youth and children – visited the Court thus gaining knowledge about our Satversme and the work of the Court. It is important for us to develop and maintain a dialogue with the society. This way we can promote qualitative exchange of thoughts on modern challenges, safeguard values ​​and principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law. Through dialogue the judiciary is seen, heard and better understood by society. Dialogue is an integral and meaningful part of a democratic legal culture. We will continue to expand our activities aimed at informing the public about the values of the Constitution and fundamental rights.

Maintaining an active dialogue is important not only on the national but also the international level. We believe in the power and added value of the judicial dialogue between constitutional courts and their judges on European and global scale. Constitutional Court of Latvia is a part of the European judicial family, we need to listen to each other, learn from each other in order to understand how we can fulfil our mission in the most efficient way. The Constitutional Court of Latvia has also been an active member of the European legal system and the global community of constitutional courts, aware of the importance of international cooperation. The Constitutional Court establishes and maintains international cooperation relations with European constitutional courts and courts of other countries of the world. It engages in dialogue with the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Constitutional Court also makes an important contribution to the closer integration of the Eastern Partnership countries into the common European area of the rule of law. One of the priorities of the Constitutional Court is to strengthen our international engagement and cooperation in order to contribute to the development of the common European area of the rule of law and to initiate international debates on issues of importance for Latvia and the whole Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

This year Latvia celebrates 100 years since the adoption and entry into force of its Constitution, the Satversme, which is one of the oldest constitutions in force in Europe. However, the value of the Satversme is not so much in its considerable age, but in its content. The concise, interconnected and coherent legal rules of a century ago are still relevant and applicable today. Constitutional provisions not only reflect the past and determine the legal order in the present, but also call for thinking about the future and acting sustainably.

Sustainability is at the heart of the Satversme. The preamble of the Satversme emphasises that the Latvian state was established to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries. The Satversme requires responsible behaviour towards fellow human beings, future generations, the environment and nature. It defines Latvia as an equal member of the international community, defending the country’s interests and promoting the sustainable and democratic development of a united Europe and the world.

A sustainable democratic state governed by the rule of law cannot be built in a day or given as a gift, it must be built by working together. The Constitutional Court is also working on this every day, with its rulings and other activities. For example, in September this year, to commemorate the centenary of the Satversme, the Constitutional Court will hold the international conference “Sustainability as a Constitutional Value: Future Challenges”. The conference will discuss the sustainability of democracy and solutions to threats to democracy, as well as the sustainability of human rights – the possible need for new human rights and the protection of existing human rights in the age of modern technology. I am confident that together we will come up with new insights and solutions that we can share with the rest of the world.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Once again, allow me to thank you for your participation in this special meeting here in the Constitutional Court. Honourable Ambassadors, I would like to thank you each individually for your personal contribution to strengthen our relations in the field of law. We admit the important and responsible mission of each country’s diplomatic corps in maintaining international relations in a spirit of cooperation and ensuring peace throughout the world. The Constitutional Court of Latvia is looking for strengthening of our dialogue.

Thank you for your attention!

[1] See, for example, para 1.2 of the motives part of the Constitutional Court’s judgment of 22 February 2002 in case no. 2001-06-03 and para 12.2 of the judgement of 24 November 2017 in case no. 2017-07-01.

[2] Ziemele I. The Constitutional Court as a court of values: the first 25 years. Jurista Vārds, 07.12.2021, No. 49.

[3]See, e.g., Constitutional Court judgment of 18 October 2007 in case no. 2007-03-01, para. 26).

(Constitutional Court judgment of 18 January 2010 in case no. 2009-11-01, para. 7.1.).

(Constitutional Court Judgment of 12th of November, 2015, in case No. 2015-06-01, paragraph 11.1.)