Opening speach in the conference dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland


Aldis Laviņš
President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia

Gdansk, 16 October 2016

Highly esteemed Mr. President of the Constitutional Tribunal,
Highly esteemed Mr. Mayor of Gdansk,
Honorable judges,
Ladies and Gentlemen!

I have the genuine pleasure to address this audience at the conference dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland.

This year the Constitutional Court of Latvia celebrates its 20th anniversary. At the end of May we met in Riga with Polish and other colleagues and in a friendly atmosphere discussed the issues related to judicial activism.

The Constitutional Tribunal was established 10 years earlier than the Constitutional Court of Latvia. It was at that time when the Soviet regime was still existed. From a comparative constitutional law aspect the establishment of the Constitutional Tribunal already in a communist state, in my opinion, must be considered an extraordinary event. „As legal scholars have emphasized, disregarding the political and legal circumstances the Constitutional Tribunal even at that time played an important role and was able to ensure that the board public perceived the institution as a democratic body.”

Next, when great political changes occurred in the 1990s – the Constitutional Tribunal, on the one hand, was perceived as guarantor of democratic changes, but at the same time it lacked sufficient competence provided expresis verbis by Constitution to fulfill these expectations. In spite of that the Constitutional Tribunal coped with this tense situation. It found a creative solution which was based on a rather broad interpretation of the principle of the rule of law.

Why am I mentioning these facts? It is because the Constitutional Tribunal`s experience so far quite obviously has proven that the Tribunal has the ability to overcome difficulties and to fulfill its main task – to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and to ensure the values enshrined in the Constitution. In spite of the fact that currently certain tensions are noticeable in Poland, I am sure that the Tribunal will be able successfully cope with it.

Since the Constitutional Tribunal has an immensely import role in protecting and implementing constitutional values in various situations, also during crises and in exceptional situations, the topic chosen for this conference is very relevant in the particular time and place. It is important that the judges are not the only ones who talk about it. Scholars of law, who have the leading role in developing the legal thought, perhaps offer the best environment for such discussions. Secondly, it is important not only to speak, but also to be heard. To be heard by politicians and by the society, in the interest of which the Constitutional Tribunal acts and protects constitutional values.

Today we are celebrating the 30th anniversary. The period of time – be it 20, 30 or 50 years – will be only as significant as judges themselves make it – through their work, their contribution to the development of the rule of law and to strengthening of democracy. I am sure you can look at these 30 years with a great pride that the Constitutional Tribunal has been devoted to protecting the values enshrined in the Constitution.

I wish that after the next ten year period, which of course will be full of new challenges, the Justices of Constitutional Tribunal could say – we have done our best, having been completely devoted only to the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

Please allow me once again to greet you – on my own behalf and behalf of my colleagues at the Constitutional Court of Latvia – on this very important anniversary. I would also like to express my deepest respect and gratitude to the Gdansk City Council for supporting the Constitutional Tribunal.