Speech by Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of the Seimas, at the commemoration of the anniversary of the Constitution of 3 May
Press release, 3 May 2018
Honourable Members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,
Mr Andriy Parubiy, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine,
Ms Beata Mazurek, Deputy Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, we are celebrating an extraordinary day, the anniversary of the Constitution of 3 May 1791. I am delighted that distinguished guests from Ukraine and Poland have joined us on this occasion. This is the proof of solidarity among our nations. United we are strong.
The Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania of 1992 reads: ‘The Lithuanian Nation, having created the State of Lithuania many centuries ago, and having based its legal foundations on the Lithuanian Statutes and the Constitutions of the Republic of Lithuania […].’ The constitutional evolution in Lithuania began in as early as 1529 when the first Statute of Lithuania was adopted. This is the source of our justified pride.
In the 18th century, representatives of the Four-Year Sejm of the Commonwealth of the Two Nations saw the significance of and the need for reform and drafted a constitution based on the principle of division of powers. This Constitution laid the foundations for a new era of European parliamentarianism and modern democracy.
The Constitution of 3 May 1791, together with the Mutual Pledge of the Two Nations adopted on 20 October 1791, underlined the importance of the rule of law and expressed respect to human rights and freedoms.
This was the first written Constitution in Europe and the second in the world. It offers us an excellent opportunity to reflect on the meaning and significance of the constitutional principles.
Differently from the US Constitution, aimed at establishing a commonwealth, or the French Constitution, adopted several months later and aimed at consolidating the achievements of the Revolution, the Constitution adopted by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in a historically difficult period of time sought to preserve the state.
Unfortunately, our nations suffered from historical ruptures, were supressed by the Tsarist rule, language bans and deportations. However, the feeling of affinity, sustainable neighbourhood and solidarity of the disadvantaged helped us to withstand. Having restored our independent states 100 years ago, we all experienced a complicated and disastrous 20th century, marked by occupations, wars, loss of post-war resistance fighters and tragic deportations, further aggravated by the Holocaust, the Holodomor and genocide of nations. We have been denied human rights and European values laid down in the Constitution of 3 May 1791 for a long period of time.
Tadeusz Kosciuszko, leader of the 1794 uprising against the Tsarist oppression, used the motto ‘for our freedom and yours’ to mobilise Lithuanians, Poles, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and other nations on our soil to defend the European ideals of the Constitution of 3 May. In the mid-20th century, a free and united Europe was built under the same motto.
Today, we call on the descendants of the authors of the Constitution of 3 May to do everything possible to enable all the states established within the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to become part of a united and free Europe.
Today, we are united more than ever as we share major current and future challenges, such as aggression in Ukraine, which is in the vicinity of the European Union, further European integration of Ukraine, and the future of a free and united Europe.
Let me point out an excellent example of the integration of our three countries in the face of external threats. I am referring to LitPolUkrBrig, a joint Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian military brigade, named after Konstanty Ostrogski, Grand Hetman of Lithuania, and a figure of our common history.
As we witness the threats from the East, we have to stand united and jointly overcome new challenges. There is no such thing as small nations. Shared human values can help to overcome the most powerful forces. We are setting an example for other nations, such as Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Our parliaments are contributing greatly towards Ukraine’s European integration.
We have been enjoining the membership of the EU and NATO for 14 years now. These are major collective structures that help to ensure freedom and security of democratic and free nations of the Western world. We consistently advocate for the continuity of NATO’s open door policy. We support Ukraine’s approach to NATO and its European aspirations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I congratulate you on the anniversary of the Constitution of 3 May. May you never cease taking pride in the friendship and unity among our nations and sates, which help to build up our strength.