President Pavel Rychetský on candidacy of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic to host the XVIIIth Congress of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts in 2020
The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic became a member of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts in Warsaw almost twenty years ago. Over the past two decades, it has benefited from the opportunity to draw from the experience and ideas of its European partners to enrich its own case law and the system of constitutional protection. However, I believe that the time has come to become more involved in the activities of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts.
I am therefore honoured to submit the candidacy of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic to host the XVIIIth Congress of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts in 2020.
The Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic is a full member of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts and the World Conference on Constitutional Justice, and an active participant in the activities of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. It maintains bilateral relations with a number of European constitutional courts and has already organised a number of international conferences. Therefore, I am firmly convinced that the experience and expertise of our Constitutional Court coupled with its excellent organisational infrastructure will meet all the requirements for hosting the XVIIIth Congress of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts.
There are also other reasons that led me to submit our candidacy for organising the next Congress. I am alarmed by the current developments in Europe and the gradual erosion of the very values that our constitutional courts were made to protect. I believe that the Conference of European Constitutional Courts should actively support the independence of constitutional judiciary in the individual Member States and extend its assistance to those members who, for various reasons, may require our collective support in the future.
My other argument supporting our candidacy lies in an approaching important anniversary. The year 2020, when the XVIIIth Congress of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts is to be held, will mark the 100th anniversary of the inception of European constitutional justice. This institutional primacy was shared by the Constitutional Courts of Czechoslovakia and Austria and it would be my greatest honour and privilege to celebrate its anniversary at a Congress held in the Czech Republic. While the current seat of the Czech Constitutional Court is situated in Brno, I would prefer to hold the Congress at the place where European constitutional justice was born – in Prague. The capital of the Czech Republic is suitable to host the Congress on account not only of its traditions, beauty and history, but also of its geographic location and transportation convenience.
History of CECC
The first Conference took place in Dubrovnik, 1972, at the initiative of the presidents of the constitutional courts from Germany, Austria, Italy and the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Essentially, it was meant to provide a regular basis for the exchange of experience in constitutional practice and jurisprudence in a general, European context, with due regard for the principle of judicial independence.
Even in the absence of a formal statute, such regular meetings continued under the aegis of the "Conference of the European Constitutional Courts", being hosted by other constitutional courts once they had acceded: at first, in 1978, the Swiss Federal Tribunal, then the constitutional courts of Spain in 1981 and Portugal in 1984. At the Lausanne Conference of 1981, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Communities were co-opted as observers, followed by the European Commission for Democracy through Law ("The Venice Commission" of the Council of Europe") in 1996.
Membership increased with the accession of the French Constitutional Council and the Turkish Constitutional Court (in 1987); nonetheless, it was only the '90s that brought an unparalleled enlargement to the Conference, as a result of so many constitutional courts having been established in Central and Eastern Europe, but also due to the growing interest shown by some other national courts from "traditional, long-established democracies. One after the other, admission was granted to constitutional courts and similar jurisdictional bodies from Belgium and Poland (1990), Hungary (1992), Croatia, Cyprus, Romania, Slovenia (1994), Andorra, the Russian Federation (1996), the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Malta, Liechtenstein (1997), the Republic of Macedonia (1999), Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Latvia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine (2000), Luxembourg (2002), Estonia, Ireland, Norway (2003), Denmark, Montenegro, Serbia (2006), and finally, Monaco (2008), so that the Conference has now reached an almost "pan-European dimension".
Apart from its full-fledged members, the Conference also includes an associate member (Belarus), and a number of observers and guests (courts from non-European countries, such as Israel, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others).
Considering the many organizational, but also technical questions posed by such increased participation, it became all the more necessary to establish a formalized framework and statutory rules for the Conference to attain its objectives: at present, its running is based on a Statute (adopted at the XIth Conference, Warsaw, 1999) and Regulations (Brussels, 2002).
The Conference of European Constitutional Courts, which was established in Dubrovnik in 1972, brings together representatives of 40 European constitutional or equivalent courts conducting a constitutional review.
The Conference organises congresses at regular intervals. It promotes the exchange of information among its members on issues relating to the methods and practice of constitutional review and provides a forum for the participants to share opinions on institutional, structural and practical problems in the areas of public law and constitutional jurisdiction. Besides, it takes measures to strengthen the independence of constitutional courts as an essential element of the guarantee and implementation of democracy and a state under the rule of law and pays particular attention to the protection of human rights. It strongly supports the improvement of lasting relations between European constitutional courts and similar institutions.
The chairmanship of the Conference of European Constitutional Courts, rotating every three years, can only be held by a court that is a full member of the Conference.
Among other things, the Statute of the Conference sets forth a number of fundamental criteria which have to be met to obtain full membership:
"The status of a full member may be granted only to European Constitutional Courts and similar European institutions which exercise constitutional jurisdiction, in particular reviewing the conformity of legislation, and which conduct their judicial activities in accordance with the principle of judicial independence, being bound by the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law and the duty to respect human rights. In this respect the Conference shall follow the practice established in previous conferences and by the Council of Europe" (Article 6).
The aims pursued by the Conference of European Constitutional Courts are set out in Article 3 of the Statute, in that
"[it] shall hold at regular intervals a Congress. It shall promote the exchange of information on the working methods and constitutional case-law of member courts together with the exchange of opinions on institutional, structural and operational issues as regards public-law and constitutional jurisdiction. In addition, it shall take steps to enhance the independence of constitutional courts as an essential factor in guaranteeing and implementing democracy and the rule of law, in particular with a view to securing protection of human rights. It shall support efforts to maintain regular contacts between the European Constitutional Courts and similar institutions."
In conformity with the statutory norms, the bodies of the Conference are
1. the "Circle of Presidents", the central decision-making body composed of the Presidents of the Courts and the institutions with full member status; and
2. the Congress, which is held every three years, attended by full members, associate members, but also observers, such as supranational European courts, commissions and institutions of the Council of Europe and the European Union dealing with issues of constitutional jurisdiction, (non-)European constitutional courts, and guests.
The chair of the Conference (and of the "Circle of Presidents") is held by the President of the Court which is to host the next Congress; the same court will also provide the Secretariat of the Conference.
Statut (84 KB, PDF)
Regulations (81 KB, PDF)
Members (41 KB, PDF)