Press release, 25 October 2012
Mrs Irena Degutienë, Speaker of the Seimas, welcomed the participants and guests of the international conference, entitled Standards of the European Constitutional Heritage, organised to mark the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.
“Following the restoration of independence in 1990 and international recognition of Lithuania’s statehood in 1991, our state embarked on de facto implementation of the commitments announced de jure on 11 March 1990. Apart from the reestablishment of the national institutions and institutional consolidation, there was a need to create and improve the legal framework. The national referendum in 1992 approved the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania as the foundation for the implementation of this task”, Degutienë said.
In the Speaker’s opinion, constitutional development, democratic principles and effectiveness of the constitution are characteristic features of all democracies and serve as indicators of progress, democracy and value-based orientation.
“As we look into our daily lives and our history, we can be proud that Lithuania has always been a constitutional state, notable for its constitutionality not only in the context of our national history, but also in the context of European and global of constitutional traditions. The constitutional tradition may well be traced down to the three Lithuanian Statutes drafted in the 16th century, which formed the foundation of the state in the distant past. Historical chronology reminds us that the Statutes were drafted at a time when Lithuania, the last country in Europe to have adopted Christianity in 1387, swiftly took over the Western cultural values of the Roman tradition in the 15th century, and became an integral part of Central Europe in the 16th century. The Statutes became a hallmark of intensive civilizational development in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) (other European nations did not need it, as they had adopted Christianity much earlier). Concurrently, Lithuania played an important role in spreading civilization to the neighbouring countries. Perhaps not only lawyers and historians, but also the general public should know that the Statutes were used as a precedent in courts in Poland and Livonia and informed the process of editing and amending legislation in Russia. Finally, the Statutes were the key feature of Lithuania’s sovereignty during its historical union with Poland through marriage as well as the Union and confederation periods. The Lithuanian Statutes in general and the Third Statute in particular were drafted in a way that met the needs of the GDL citizens in the space of 250 years and survived longer than the state did.”
The Speaker of the Seimas pointed out the need to remember yet another document in this context, namely, the Constitution of 3 May 1791: the first constitution to have been adopted in Europe and the second constitution in the world.
“The 1791 Constitution was an attempt to revive the joint Polish-Lithuanian state awaiting reform throughout the entire 18th century. Reforms were implemented and culminated in the adoption of the Constitution. The document was meant to ensure protection of the Republic from the influence of other countries, notably the Russian Empire. For the most part of the 18th century, Russian troops were stationed on the territory of Lithuania and Poland. Ever since the times of Peter the Great, Russian military blackmail was permanent. In the 20th century, the re-established independent Lithuania remained committed to the continuity of the constitutional tradition. The Act of 18 February 1918 marked the beginning of the constitutional traditions in the newly established Lithuania. Later, in 1920, the Constituent Seimas adopted the Interim Constitution, and in 1922 the Constitution of Lithuania was endorsed. It was the first Constitutional Act of the Republic of Lithuania and its main features met the general democratic constitutional requirements. Finally, our modern Constitution was adopted in 1992 and continues to serve as the basis for our state today.”
The Speaker noted that she made reference to the facts mentioned above in order to remind the audience once again that the Constitution is always a direct reflection of the nation’s political and social maturity, experience and place in history and the present.
“In Lithuania’s history, every Constitution marked the nation’s readiness for independence and was a sign of independent and dignified self-regulation marked by a high level of political culture. Of course, this is a universal democratic provision that applies to all democracies, not only to Lithuania. It is no coincidence that the most important branch of law for any country is precisely the constitutional law, termed the national law. In particular, it establishes the key political, social, and economic principles, the law enforcement mechanism, and regulates the relations between the state and the citizens”.
The Speaker called on all the professors and teachers whose work it is to engage with the young generation and future lawyers to spread the message that the Constitution is not only a formal set of articles applicable to the resolution of legal disputes. “It is an indicator of the standard of public legal culture and culture in the broad sense of the word, which we need to raise through our professional and moral endeavours. This is the foundation for the existence of the state”, Degutienë said.
Secretariat of the Speaker of the Seimas
Juozas Ruzgys, Advisor to the Speaker of the Seimas, tel: +370 5 239 6023, +370 698 42073