Constitutionalism in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania : A Study in Comparative Constitutional Law
Abstract: This thesis deals with the present constitutions of Estonia (1992), Latvia (1922) and Lithuania (1992). Their content and implementation by judicial means are examined and compared with each other. The choice of constitution - a new or an old - is also discussed. The term 'constitutionalism' is understood as an expression of the idea of the evolution in practice of a normative constitution and, furthermore, a constitution that is applied as positive law. This term serves as a point of departure for creating a comparative framework. A model is suggested and it includes three legal criteria of constitutionalism: hierarchy of legal norms, protection of certain constitutional rights and judicial review of constitutionality, The constitutions enjoy a supreme position because of the mechanisms for constitutional amendments. As concluded from constitutional case law, there are difficulties in maintaining the supremacy of statutes in relation to legislation enacted by government. Procedural guarantees, political rights and freedoms and the right to property are provided for at the constitutional level. However, their implementation is problematic, especially in the field of procedural law. Social and economic rights are established and may be enforced. Through the introduction of judicial review of constitutionality, these constitutions are made operative as supreme, positive law to be applied by a special chamber of the Supreme Court (Estonia) or a constitutional court (Latvia, Lithuania). Notwithstanding the differences between these judicial bodies resulting in, for example, a narrow or wide character of the review, their functioning is essential for the implementation of the new constitutional order. New constitutions are advantageous as instruments of change in a period of constitutional transition, especially when accompanied by a constitutional court with a well-balanced circle of petitioners. Reinstating the 1922 Constitution of Latvia has seen advantages mainly in the sphere of legislation.
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