2018 Saint Petersburg: Welcome Address by Christos Giakoumopoulos
International Conference "Constitution in the Global Change Epoch and the Goals of Constitutional Review" at the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation
Saint Petersburg, 15 May 2018
Dear President Zorkin,
Dear Minister Konovalov,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am extremely honoured by this opportunity to welcome you on behalf of the Council of Europe!
The annual conferences held at the Russian Constitutional Court on the eve of the Saint Petersburg International Legal Forum have become an excellent tradition.
Being the founding architect and main promoter of the pan-European legal space, the Council of Europe values its privileged relationship with the constitutional and supreme courts of its member States. I am delighted to see many of them represented today by their presidents and justices.
Such meetings become all the more important today in light of the fact that Europe and the world are facing a number of threats and uncertainties which are closely linked to the phenomenon of “global change” referred to in the Conference’s title.
Constitutional review has a special function in this regard. Indeed, the courts engaged in such review act, in essence, as allies in the pursuit of law and justice, and as allies in the fight against arbitrariness and abuse. Communication between national and international courts - a judicial dialogue across borders - is primordial in order to achieve the goals of constitutional review considering its increasing universal dimension.
I would like to emphasise this universal dimension of constitutional review as we embark to celebrate later this year the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has profoundly influenced all modern constitutions of the world. As you know, the UN Universal Declaration was immediately followed by the European Convention on Human Rights with its unique judicial system, which continues to shape modern constitutionalism in Europe and beyond.
The Russian Constitutional Court has consistently held that the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights protect essentially the same values and safeguards. Today and tomorrow, we will speak a lot about the 20th anniversary of Russia’s accession to the European Convention in May 1998, a milestone in the history of modern Europe. Admittedly, no legal system is perfect, but the continuing role of the European Convention’s system for peace and cooperation in Europe could hardly be overstated these days.
Your Constitutional Court, Mr President, has repeatedly demonstrated that the Convention is our “common wealth” and that it belongs to all courts of Europe with judges being the primary Convention actors. The Russian Constitutional Court had started to apply the Convention long before it was ratified and it continues to play an important role in its daily implementation along with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. You, Mr President, have always promoted an enhanced dialogue between the Strasbourg Court and its national counterparts in order to overcome diverging interpretations, possible incomprehension, and the exceptional tensions. We cannot agree more about the method to be used. And there is no conflict that cannot be resolved through constructive dialogue, interaction, and sticking to our common values!
Can this international judicial dialogue help all constitutional and supreme courts in the effective exercise of their duties in line with both their constitutional traditions and international law? May this dialogue also serve as an anchor, where necessary, in increasingly turbulent times of global change?
With these rhetorical questions in mind, I wish both the organisers and the distinguished guests to enjoy the privilege of having most enriching discussions in this splendid Senate Hall of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.
And I would like to thank once again President Zorkin and Minster Konovalov, as organisers of the Saint Petersburg International Legal Forum, for offering us such a great opportunity!