No. 24




Fundamental Constitutional Principles*

15 December 2011


RiTo No. 24, 2011

  • Madis Ernits

    Adviser, Research Department, Chancellery of the Riigikogu

This article discusses the fundamental principles of the Estonian Constitution from the viewpoint of the jurisprudence and legal literature of the Supreme Court of Estonia.

The author identifies the principles of human dignity, democracy, rule of law and welfare statism as the fundamental constitutional principles in the practice of the Supreme Court. However, the catalogue is not necessarily final; its completeness is not claimed by the Supreme Court either. Several authors of legal literature have proposed their own catalogues of the funda-mental principles of the Constitution – Rait Maruste, Heinrich Schneider, Kalle Merusk, Uno Lõhmus, Taavi Annus and Robert Alexy. In addition to the aforementioned, there was also an expertise by the Constitutional Law Workshop on the European Constitutional Treaty that attempted to review the subject matter. Each proposed catalogue differs from the catalogue of the Supreme Court and from each other. Further, the author examines the differences between them and concludes that the most appropriate starting point for future discussions is the catalogue of the Supreme Court, which includes human dignity, democracy, rule of law and welfare statism. The author recommends regarding the principle of Estonian identity as one of the fundamental constitutional principles. The Supreme Court recognizes the latter as a principle, but not as a fundamental principle. Thus, the catalogue of the fundamental constitutional principles remains open.

Full article in Estonian

* The paper is based on the introductory article of the author’s book “Põhiõigused, demokraatia, õigusriik” (”Fundamental Rights, Democracy, Rule of Law”, 2011) and reflects the personal views of the author