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Last update: 06-11-2007
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Legal order - Lithuania

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Sources of law or legal acts laying down legal provisions 1.
2. Other sources of law 2.
3. Hierarchy of sources of law 3.
4. Implementation of international obligations in Lithuania 4.
5. The different authorities empowered to adopt legal provisions 5.
6. The process of adopting these legal provisions 6.
7. The process of entry into force of national legal provisions 7.
8. The means of resolution of conflicts likely to arise between different legal provisions 8.

 

1. Sources of law or legal acts laying down legal provisions

Sources of law are the official means by which legal provisions are expressed and consolidated.

Legal act - an official written document adopted by competent State institutions under which legal provisions are consolidated and explained or which specifies the basis on which legal provisions are applicable in each individual case. The following are the different types of legal act according to the nature of the legal information laid down in them:

  1. Regulatory legal acts - decisions by State institutions expressed in written form establishing, amending or repealing regulations of a general nature, applicable to any legal or natural persons and authorised by the State. Regulatory legal acts are divided into two groups:
    • Laws - legal acts bearing the greatest legal force, adopted by the Parliament (Seimas) of the Republic of Lithuania or by national referendum, setting out general legal provisions aimed at regulating the principal human relations, and representing the highest level of legal force. A law is considered a fundamental source of law.
    • Secondary acts - regulatory legal acts adopted on the basis of laws, putting them into effect and providing for their implementation. Secondary acts cannot contradict a law. A secondary act can take the following forms:
      • Resolutions of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament)
      • Government resolutions
      • Instructions and orders of ministerial departments
      • Resolutions and decisions of local authorities and administrative institutions
      • Others
  2. Interpretative legal acts are adopted for the purposes of demonstrating the meaning and substance of legal provisions in force. They are adopted by the institutions responsible for interpreting the legal provisions in question.
  3. Individual implementing legal acts are a means by which provisions laid down in legislation are implemented. Individual acts have legal implications similar to regulatory legal acts, but they are not granted the status of sources of law since they do not establish commonly applicable rules of a general nature, and the provisions incorporated in them are aimed at specific persons in specific cases and are applicable only once, that is, they are valid only until the social circumstances to which they relate cease to exist (appointment to a post, warning, award of a pension etc.).

2. Other sources of law

In addition to regulatory legal acts, the following are also classified as primary sources of law:

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  • General principles of law (principles of good faith, justice, individual responsibility, moderation) are considered an integral part of the Lithuanian legal system and are used as a basis both for interpreting statutory legal acts and for filling legislative gaps. Furthermore, under Section 135(1) of the Lithuanian Constitution, universally recognised principles of international law also form part of the Lithuanian legal system, and Lithuanian courts are therefore obliged to apply and observe these principles.
  • Legal conventions - these are rules of conduct authorised by the State which have emerged in the public domain as a consequence of their repeated and enduring application. The Lithuanian Civil Code lays down that such conventions are a direct source of law. A convention may be applied where a law or a treaty directly specifies that it should be applied or where there is a legal regulatory gap. A convention which contradicts general principles of law or imperative legal provisions is not applicable.

The following are recognised as derivative sources of law:

  • Legal precedent - a judgment by a court in a given case made for example by a court of the same or lower instance adjudicating a similar case. Under the Lithuanian legal system precedents are largely used for consultative purposes.
  • Legal doctrine.

3. Hierarchy of sources of law

Legislative hierarchy is a stepped system consisting of a chain of subordination. It indicates the position, significance and primacy of an item of legislation, depending on the role, significance, constitutional authority and competence of the institution adopting the legal act. This hierarchy is founded on the differentiation of legal force: a legal act allocated a lower position in the hierarchy must not conflict with a legal act occupying a higher position within the hierarchical system. The following legislative hierarchy has been established within the Lithuanian legal system:

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  • The Constitution - this legal act bears the greatest legal force and lays the foundations for establishing and applying the law, setting out public procedures, the relationship between State authorities and the public, and the organisational principles of political governance. No law or other legal act may contradict the Constitution.
  • Constitutional acts - these regulate particular significant legal relations, are adopted under special procedures, and are a constituent part of the Constitution.
  • International treaties ratified by the Seimas - these are international treaties concluded on behalf of the Republic of Lithuania which do not contradict the Lithuanian Constitution and are ratified by the Seimas.
  • Codified acts (codes) - these are cohesive, legally integral acts, internally harmonised on the basis of a uniform concept, defined by their high degree of regulatory summation, providing for the comprehensive regulation of a certain area of social relations (for example the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedures, the Criminal Code, the Labour Code etc.).
  • Ordinary laws - adopted on the basis of the Constitution, Constitutional laws and ratified international treaties, taking into account regulatory requirements arising on a public level.
  • Secondary legal acts (see question No 1).

4. Implementation of international obligations in Lithuania

Pursuant to the Lithuanian Constitution only published laws are valid. Lithuanian treaties which have entered into force must therefore be implemented in Lithuania. A failure to observe and/or implement an international treaty which has entered into force cannot be justified on the grounds of domestic (national) legislative provisions. According to the Lithuanian Constitution, international treaties that have been ratified by the Lithuanian Seimas are components of the Lithuanian legal system, therefore, just as in many other continental European countries, international treaties ratified in Lithuania may be directly applicable.

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Pursuant to the Law on International Treaties of the Republic of Lithuania and certain other national laws, where there is a conflict between Lithuanian national laws and a ratified international treaty, primacy is accorded to the ratified international treaty. Hence, if certain conditions are regulated in an equivalent manner under an international multilateral or bilateral treaty the provisions of the treaty rather than those of domestic (national) law must be applied. However, where a certain issue is regulated by a bilateral and a multilateral treaty, primacy is accorded to the bilateral treaty. It should be noted that where a certain issue is regulated under a bilateral treaty between the Republic of Lithuania and EU Member States, and by European Union legislation, primacy is accorded to EU legislation.

International conventions to which Lithuania is a signatory must be interpreted and applied by the Lithuanian courts within the context of foreign case law.

European Union law

Since regulations are effective on a direct basis and are applicable directly, no special acts or other legislation need to be adopted to provide for their implementation.

Directives are not directly effective in Member States, therefore they establish obligations only to the extent necessary to achieve the results laid down in a given directive, whereby national bodies freely choose the means and measures for their implementation.

5. The different authorities empowered to adopt legal provisions

The Seimas is the only institution with the authority to adopt laws. All other legal acts adopted by State authorities must comply with the Lithuanian Constitution and other laws.

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Other regulatory legislation may be adopted by:

  1. the Seimas (resolutions)
  2. the President (decrees)
  3. the Government (resolutions)
  4. ministerial and other Government institutions (orders)
  5. regional governing officials (orders)
  6. local authorities (decisions, orders)

6. The process of adopting these legal provisions

International treaties

The Seimas ratifies Lithuania's international treaties by means of laws. The President of Lithuania puts forward international treaties for ratification by the Seimas on his or her own initiative or following a proposal by the Government.

Lithuania's international treaties not subject to a ratification procedure pursuant to the Lithuanian Constitution, this Law on the international treaties of the Republic of Lithuania or the treaty itself, are approved by means of a decision of the Lithuanian Government. The ministry responsible for implementing a given international treaty cooperates with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put the treaty forward for approval by the Lithuanian Government.

Laws

The procedure for issuing laws consists of the following stages:

  1. implementation of an initiative to issue a law;
  2. registration and review of the draft law by parliamentary committees;
  3. review of the draft law in a parliamentary session;
  4. adoption of the law;
  5. signature and promulgation of the law.

Members of the Seimas, the President and the Government are entitled to initiate laws in the Seimas. The Seimas is obliged to discuss any proposals for laws put forward to the Seimas by 50 000 eligible voters. Proposals to amend or supplement the Lithuanian Constitution must be put forward to the Seimas by a group consisting of no less than a quarter of the members of the Seimas or no less than 300 000 eligible voters. Draft laws are notified in the publications Seimo kronika and Valstybės žinios.

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During sessions of the Seimas, the expediency, conception, fundamental provisions and principles of a given draft law are discussed, and all amendments and supplements by persons entitled to initiate the issue of law received by the lead committee are submitted, together with any amendments to draft laws approved by the committee, as proposed by the President, the Government or a member of the Seimas.

A law is considered to have been adopted when the majority of members of the Seimas participating in a session have voted in favour of the law. Constitutional laws of the Republic of Lithuania are adopted when more than half of all members of the Seimas vote in favour of the law, and can be amended when no less than three fifths of all members of the Seimas vote in favour of amendment.

Within ten days of receiving a law adopted by the Seimas the President either signs and officially promulgates the law, or returns it to the Seimas on a reasoned basis for a further reading. If the President fails to sign or return a law adopted by the Seimas within the specified period of time, the law enters into force upon its signature and official promulgation by the President of the Seimas. A law which has undergone a further reading by the Seimas is considered to have been adopted where any amendments and supplements put forward by the President are adopted or where, in the case of a law, more than half of all members of the Seimas vote in favour, or, in the case of a constitutional law, no less than three fifths of all members of the Seimas vote in favour.

Amendments to the Constitution arising from other clauses within the Constitution must be debated and two rounds of voting must be held in the Seimas. There must be an interval of at least three months between the two rounds of voting. A draft law on amendments to the Constitution is considered to have been adopted by the Seimas where at least two thirds of all members of the Seimas voted in favour at each round of voting. There must be an interval of at least one year before any amendments to the Constitution that failed to be adopted are submitted to the Seimas for reconsideration.

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7. The process of entry into force of national legal provisions

Article 7 of the Constitution lays down that only laws that have been published are valid. Laws and other legal acts are officially promulgated in the publication Valstybės žinios.

Laws of the Republic of Lithuania enter into force following their signature and promulgation by the President in Valstybės žinios, unless a later date for entry into force is specified in the law in question.

A law amending the Constitution adopted by referendum enters into force no earlier than one month following the date of the referendum adopting the law.

Legal acts adopted by the Seimas, except laws, presidential decrees, Government resolutions, ministerial or governmental orders, other regulatory legal acts issued by the heads of State authorities and collegial bodies, enter into force on the day after their publication in Valstybės žinios, except where the legal act in question specifies other procedures for entry into force.

Regulatory legal acts adopted by representative and executive bodies of local authorities enter into force on the day after their publication in the local press or on the day after official notification of their adoption in the local press and the publication of the entire text on the corresponding local authority's website, except where the legal act in question specifies a later date for entry into force.

8. The means of resolution of conflicts likely to arise between different legal provisions

Where a ratified Lithuanian international treaty which has entered into force lays down provisions that conflict with those laid down in Lithuanian laws or other legal acts which were valid at the time the treaty was concluded or which entered into force after entry into force of the treaty, the provisions of the Lithuanian international treaty are applicable.

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Any law or other legal act which conflicts with the Constitution is invalid.

The Constitutional Court rules whether laws or other legal acts of the Seimas conflict with the Constitution, and whether legal acts of the President or the Government conflicts with the Constitution or laws. Lithuanian laws or other legal acts of the Seimas, the President or the Government are no longer applicable from the day on which a ruling by the Constitutional court is officially published stating that the act in question conflicts with the Lithuanian Constitution. Rulings by the Constitutional Court concerning issues for which it has been granted jurisdiction under the Constitution are final and cannot be appealed.

The Constitutional Court also presents its opinion as to whether a given Lithuanian international treaty conflicts with the Constitution. A final ruling is made by the Seimas on the basis of the Constitutional Court's opinion regarding an international treaty.

Where the Constitutional Court does not have the jurisdiction to control the compatibility of a regulatory legal act with the Constitution or with laws and a court establishes that this regulatory legislation or a part thereof conflicts with law or Government legal act, the court is not obliged to take this legal act into account when making a ruling. Courts of general jurisdiction are entitled to suspend proceedings and to issue decisions to address cases to the administrative courts, requesting verification on whether a given legal act or a part thereof is consistent with a law or Government legal act. A regulatory legal act (or a part thereof) is considered to have been repealed and is usually no longer applicable from the day on which a valid decision by an administrative court declaring it (or part of it) unlawful is officially promulgated.

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Last update: 06-11-2007

 
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