President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening colleagues. I congratulate you once again on the 20th anniversary of Russia’s Constitution.
A number of important and diverse events took place in the run-up to this date, including under the Constitutional Court’s aegis. I think it is very good to see that these were not formal events, but real exchanges that were useful and saw the substantive participation of academics, experts, government representatives and members of civil society.
In short, this was all varied and useful work, and I am sure that this kind of engaged discussion will enrich Russia’s legal environment and serve as further confirmation that our Constitution is a living and modern law that has big development potential.
Colleagues, the Constitutional Court plays a leading role in bringing theory and practice closer together. The Court is essentially the preacher and interpreter of the law. Your legal opinions set the tone for the law-making process and help to strengthen guarantees that citizens’ rights and freedoms will be respected.
This makes the Constitutional Court’s principled and sometimes even unbending stand all the more important. This is especially so as Russian society has not yet entirely freed itself from the so-called ‘legal nihilism’ that our younger colleagues referred to.
I met just recently with law students at Moscow State University’s Law Faculty, and I must say that they too raised this issue.
At the same time, let me say that I do not see grounds for pessimism, especially if we look at the amount and quality of your work and the results it is producing. Colleagues, your efforts have done much to change thinking among the Russian authorities and to develop a law-making culture.
You stand guard over the constitutional provisions and defend the Constitution’s spirit and letter. This is a reliable barrier to keep the authorities and society from overstepping the bounds of the constitutional framework.
Respect for the Constitution and its basic principles, and unswerving compliance with its provisions do not just happen on their own. These things must be nurtured and taught, sometimes even amongst the legislators. We see that the Constitutional Court is ever vigilant to catch mistakes and legal oversights and correct them every time, and we should be fair in saying too that such mistakes are becoming fewer now.
A few years ago, failure to comply with the Constitutional Court’s or other courts’ rulings was a serious problem. Today, things are changing for the better. I think it is symbolic that just on the eve of this anniversary, you made a ruling that defends the highest status of our Constitution and proposed an algorithm for action in cases when European Human Rights Court rulings contradict our Constitution’s provisions. I think that you did this in an exceptionally proper fashion from the legal point of view.
We know that various European states have encountered these same issues, and each solves the problem in their own way. In some countries they take a very clear-cut line and settle in favour of their own constitutions.
I think the Russian Constitutional Court has found optimal solutions, and very rational ones too in legal terms, as I said. You have proposed a very rational means of implementing European Human Rights Court decisions without going against the Russian Constitution’s provisions in the process.
Colleagues, we cannot overestimate the huge part the Constitutional Court plays as a resolute defender of our country’s Constitution. I want to thank all of you sincerely for your highest professionalism and your honest and conscientious work.
I ask that you pass on my congratulations on this occasion to all judges who have worked in the Court over these last 20 years, and to all of the Court’s staff. I am referring to everyone who is not here today in this hall, but who have supported you in your work or performed your duties in the past and now work elsewhere or have perhaps have since retired.
They have all played an important, tangible and substantial role in establishing constitutional law and justice in the Russian Federation and strengthening our country’s Constitution.