No. 15




Thanks to the Constitution

14 June 2007


RiTo No. 15, 2007

  • Märt Rask

    Märt Rask

    Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Estonia

The Constitution, which has been in force for fifteen years, is the fourth basic law in Estonia’s nearly ninety years of statehood. It is a good time to consider: what we can thank our Constitution for?

What has our statehood, our justice system, our individual liberties, become? One of the most important services of the implementation of the Constitution is certainly the fact that the Constitution started functioning as a legal act. For decades, constitutions of every stripe were considered anthologies of political declarations which lacked a link to real life and applicable law. Constitutional institutions comprised a set of instruments of public power which were supposed to function within the limits of a certain competence, defined by the constitution. Evidently it was a sign of the times that the content of the first constitutional supervision cases ruled on by the Supreme Court predominantly concerned disputes over the competence of state organs. In the course of these cases, the limits of the competence of the head of state, government and the parliament were specified. And although the entry into force of the constitution created the basis for a democratic state governed by the rule of law, on the popular level the idea of the supremacy of justice takes years if not generations to take root. The question of whether the people trust their own judgment and justice, or rather defer to whoever is in power, most likely depends strongly on the cultural background of a society. It is up to those who lead to choose whether they pursue the goal of enlightenment of the people or pandering to an unenlightened citizenry. In Estonia, thanks to the Constitution, the rule of law is a value that cannot be reversed.

Full article in Estonian