"Openness and clear-cut rules must be respected both domestically and internationally. The principle of sovereign equality of states and the related property immunity remains an imperative of international law."
The St Petersburg International Legal Forum was established in 2011 by a presidential directive.
During the three years of its existence, the forum has become known as a high-level platform for dialogue between the government, businesspeople, lawyers, judges, economists and the world’s leading research fellows.
Alexander Konovalov (Minister of Justice): Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to welcome you to the opening of the 3rd St Petersburg International Legal Forum.
This year the plenary session of the forum is being held at a unique venue: the new Mariinsky Theatre, which opened just two weeks ago. It was built not far from the site of the first permanent theatre in the city, the Kamenny (Stone) Theatre. It was the inspiration for the famous Mariinsky Theatre, which is known for its renowned performers and an outstanding drama school plus the harmonious combination of conservatism, tradition and the preservation of cultural heritage. It combines tradition with a new, sometimes revolutionary, approach to classical and modern productions.
Experts say that the magnificent acoustics of this hall enable each tone and aspect of a musical piece to be emphasised. Without a doubt this venue has beautiful interiors, wonderful acoustics and is home to brilliant performances from musicians and their instruments. However, none of this would mean anything without the music, which teaches the public about timeless values, people in history, mankind itself and its quest and striving for truth and love. Just like music, justice and the law should (regardless of the excellent skills of lawyers) serve the basic values of law, protect people, their freedom and safety, fight lawlessness and defend justice.
Ladies and gentlemen! We are confident that all participants of the 3rd St Petersburg International Legal Forum and everyone present here share this understanding of the law and its administration. That’s why it is so important to see all forum participants here. For the third time, St Petersburg is providing the platforms for a thoroughly competent and lively discussion by experts, representatives of various fields of legal expertise and law schools on a wide range of legal issues.
Alexander Konovalov: We hope that the quality of discussions that will be held annually at the International Legal Forum in St Petersburg will provide for its gradual transformation into a specific business incubator for new approaches and new ideas in law enforcement that will be applied in Russia and everywhere beyond.
Today we expect nearly 60 roundtable discussions on a broad range of issues as part of the forum, from nuclear law to sport law, from regulating relations in the sphere of arts and culture to regulating subsoil use. We hope that the quality of discussions that will be held annually at the International Legal Forum in St Petersburg will provide for its gradual transformation into a specific business incubator for new approaches and new ideas in law enforcement that will be applied in Russia and everywhere beyond.
Ladies and gentlemen, we regard the first two forums that were held in St Petersburg as a good beginning, and now is the time for action. Welcome to St Petersburg! I wish you all success!
Presenter: Ladies and gentlemen, I invite onstage the plenary meeting’s moderator Alexander Vershinin, general director of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library, DSc in Law, and participants in the plenary meeting of the 3rd St Petersburg International Legal Forum Valery Zorkin, chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court; professor Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Oxford University; His Excellency Mr Peter Tomka, President of the International Court of Justice; His Excellency Mr Ivo Opstelten, Minister of Security and Justice of the Netherlands; Mr Michael Reynolds, President of the International Bar Association; and Berik Imashev, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
I welcome Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues. I welcome all those who have arrived in St Petersburg for the 3rd International Legal Forum.
I think that the organisers’ idea to make the forum a traditional and necessary event in the schedule of many lawyers has been realised. I am pleased that today my colleagues, leading experts from different countries, who represent different spheres of law and jurisprudence, are here in this room. There are many new faces here too – fortunately this wonderful hall can accommodate all of us – as well as those who attended previous forums. I will repeat that I find this to be evidence of the forum’s popularity. I can also add to what has already been said about the forum’s location, the recently opened stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. You are among the first visitors to this hall and can evaluate its uniqueness and the highest level of acoustics. Anyway I hope that what I am saying can be heard on the other end of the hall, and in the balcony.
It is hard to build such a modern facility and it is even harder to breathe life into its new walls. This resembles the objective Russia faced twenty years ago when the legal framework of our country was being formed and new economy was being established.
Dmitry Medvedev: A large number of laws have been passed that have defined Russia’s development in these twenty years. Fundamental documents and codes have been passed, including the Civil Code. I wouldn’t say we have succeeded in everything, but that would have been impossible. I am confident that legislation will be improved anyway. The rules will change as life itself calls for improving our legal system.
This year marks the 20th anniversary since the establishment of the Russian Constitution and the new Russian Parliament. A large number of laws have been passed that have defined Russia’s development in these twenty years. Fundamental documents and codes have been passed, including the Civil Code, which is a major achievement of lawyers who are also present in this hall. I wouldn’t say we have succeeded in everything, but that would have been impossible.
I am confident that legislation will be improved anyway – and I hope that you think so too. The rules will change as life itself calls for improving our legal system.
A plenary meeting of this forum a year ago focused on new challenges in a globalised world. We also discussed competition and cooperation between legal systems. There have been changes since then, but overall instability in the global economy only confirms the positions we formulated last year. At the same time, there have been new trends, some of them related to the interdependence of the national legal systems and their correlation with international law. Immanuel Kant wrote about this in his time.
By the way, I recently read a book on this issue by one of our prominent scientists, Sergei Alekseyev, who passed away not long ago. He surely was an intellectual.
Now I’d like to talk about several specific issues. The first concerns the competitiveness of national legal systems or national jurisdictions, which is very important both for individuals and for businesses, including small firms and global multinationals.
The development of communication technologies, international integration and business globalisation has created an illusion that a state affiliation of people and companies are no longer important. Some people live in one country but have businesses in other countries and property in still other countries, and it is a fact that the business environment is often the key argument for choosing a nationality. There is fresh evidence of this. The same is true of multinational corporations, which no longer feel legally connected to the country where they originated or are headquartered, or where their key business interests lie.
But the global economic recession, which has lasted for a long time, has shown that this conclusion is premature, to say the least. We see that the need to support national businesses leads to attempts to re-nationalise legal systems and in some cases slows integration and even results in the rebuilding of legal barriers on the border. No wonder people and companies seek the assistance and protection of their respective countries.
Current cataclysms on the global markets have forced businesses to scrutinise national legislation more closely, and it is notable that this is a two-way street: the government offers tax concessions, discounted loans and subsidies in the hope that businesses will not use so-called grey schemes but will play by the rules and respect the balance of private and public interests.
Even those countries which traditionally held their doors open to foreign business, including Europe, are more widely using their national legal systems. National legislation is becoming a competitive advantage for luring businesses back to their home countries. It offers a positive impetus for developing national legislation, creating favourable business conditions and improving the investment climate.
It is vital to adopt standards that will preclude unfair competition between legislations, which sometimes happens, and that will also establish the rules of behaviour in the competition of national legislations and the limits of nationalisation and liberalisation of legislations. These standards must include the settlement of conflicts between the courts’ competences, mutual recognition and implementation of decisions of foreign courts, as well as legal guarantees during the sequestration of property, deprivation of personal freedom and criminal prosecution. The relevant legal systems must be thoroughly reviewed and substantiated.
Dmitry Medvedev: We have consistently improved corporate legislation as of late. We’re trying to make Russian legislation more attractive for doing business and to make the rules of the business game understandable and transparent.
As for concrete actions, we have consistently improved corporate legislation as of late. We’re trying to make Russian legislation more attractive for doing business and to make the rules of the business game understandable and transparent. A federal law has been drafted within the framework of the roadmap on optimising the procedure for establishing businesses.
In accordance with this draft law, the time it takes to incorporate a legal entity with state extrabudgetary funds will be reduced from five to three business days. The results of this roadmap will, of course, improve our positions overall and improve Russia’s position on international rankings, which we are not entirely satisfied with, to put it mildly. Our goal is to move into the top 20 countries in terms of ease of starting a new business. Amendments to the Civil Code have been submitted to the State Duma in order to significant liberalise the law on private joint-stock companies. The issue is about redistributing corporate control by agreement of the participants and improving the accountability of individuals in charge of companies, including so-called shadow directors.
In addition, work is underway to develop an institution that provides an alternative to judicial consideration of disputes. Of course, I mean commercial arbitration, the arbitration tribunal, which is sought after by businesses as a means of fast, high-quality and professional settlement of civil disputes and as a guarantee that the rights and interests of entrepreneurs are protected. Frankly, Russian arbitration still has a long way to go compared to other countries. The faster we advance in this area, the better it’ll be for businesses and the judicial system, which is overburdened with routine cases.
Clearly, the appeal of national jurisdiction and a favourable business environment largely depend on the openness of the government, the quality of government administration and government services. Like other countries, increasing amounts of data about the work of ministries and departments are being posted online. Draft laws and regulations prepared by the Government are publicly discussed, which, of course, improves public oversight over the legislative process.
Dmitry Medvedev: Like other countries, increasing amounts of data about the work of ministries and departments are being posted online. Draft laws and regulations prepared by the Government are publicly discussed, which, of course, improves public oversight over the legislative process.
The Government has submitted draft laws to the Duma that are designed to increase the transparency of the judicial system. For example, judges are required to make public information about so-called non-procedural appeals on cases under their consideration (which is practised in a number of highly successful jurisdictions). The draft laws additionally regulate the bringing of judges to disciplinary liability. It is planned to equip the courts with audio and video recording equipment and expand access to information about their online activities.
We can see the positive results of this work, and we will certainly continue to do it. Of course, there are difficulties as well – for example, the separation of publicly available information from personal data. The arbitration courts have had a great deal of success in this area. Today, they provide almost full access to all judicial acts and are willing to open many case records. The situation with courts of general jurisdiction – the ones that our citizens use more often than any other courts – is more complicated. Like in any judicial system, the confidentiality of personal information is a priority. In order to publish information on court cases, personal information should be redacted, which is a difficult and time-consuming task, especially since it is often difficult to determine the boundaries of the private sphere in a global information society. We are now discussing this issue with experts and lawmakers. It is essential to resolve it without any detriment to individual rights.
There’s one more point that I would like to make: openness and clear-cut rules that must be respected both domestically and internationally. The principle of sovereign equality of states and the related property immunity remains an imperative of international law.
Many Russian companies (either directly or through representatives) work in foreign countries. Everybody is aware of instances where such companies are discriminated against or used in underhand foreign policy dealings, and their property is jeopardised. Court proceedings (not secret, either) are often used as a tool to exert political pressure on a particular state. This, of course, leads to tensions between the countries, discredits the notion of rule of law, undermines the credibility of international law and ultimately harms those who engage in unilateral actions and violate international law. We are monitoring such situations. Like any other state, we will respond to them and take appropriate measures in accordance with international law. In addition, we are thinking about protecting the interests of the Russian state and its interests in foreign countries. We are ready to respond to them on Russian territory. In particular, a special law is being drafted regarding the property immunity of the state. It will establish modern and fairly clear rules of foreclosure on the property of a foreign state under Russian jurisdiction, which will hopefully enhance its competitiveness.
There’s one more issue related to international investment regulation. The shortcomings of modern international law in the field of investments, which was developed back in the pre-globalisation era in the 1970s, have become particularly evident during the recent economic crisis. I’m talking about the legal situation where foreign investors enjoyed more privileged treatment than domestic ones. Such privileges are provided in many states. We have them in Russia as well, such as the well-known “grandfather clause”, which allows foreign investors to avoid the effect of new laws on taxation and other spheres, going as far as withdrawing from national jurisdiction during the resolution of disputes between companies with foreign investment. This encourages various offshore schemes where they pretend to import foreign capital into Russia and attempt to manipulate the judicial jurisdiction. All this hinders real investments and distorts the many international treaties on international protection and promotion of foreign investment that we have signed and ratified.
Dmitry Medvedev: We are certainly interested in foreign investments in the Russian economy, and I hope that we are doing enough to attract them. In terms of the amounts of investment, Russia is among the fastest growing economies internationally. However, I’m convinced that the rights of domestic and foreign investors should be protected equally.
We are certainly interested in foreign investments in the Russian economy, and I hope that we are doing enough to attract them. In terms of the amounts of investment, Russia is among the fastest growing economies internationally. However, I’m convinced that the rights of domestic and foreign investors should be protected equally. We need new legal mechanisms for countries that receive investments. We will begin to develop them in the near future.
By the way, we have discussed many of the issues that I’m raising now at G20 and other international meetings, as well as during the development of the legal framework of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. We are taking into account international experience, particularly the experience of the European Union, in developing transnational law. This kind of law unites and harmonises the systems of the participating countries, but at the same time does not impose complete uniformity. Importantly, our Eurasian project should preserve the best of what’s available in national jurisdictions, our national legal systems.
All of the above issues are being debated, including by experts from the UN, the Hague Conference on Private International Law and other international judicial institutions whose representatives are here today. Clearly, constructive decisions can be formed only on the basis of consensus with due account of the positions of all interested parties. I hope that the discussion here in this hall and at the sidelines of the forum will be positive and will help address these issues.
Colleagues, I have touched on just a few issues that will be discussed during the forum. There are many complex and very interesting topics for lawyers now. For instance, one of them, which I’ll not discuss now – perhaps others will speak about it – is the growing influence of technology, the internet and social media on the law. I think that our forum can also contribute to this.
I sincerely wish all those present here interesting and productive discussions and, of course, pleasant experiences while staying in St Petersburg, one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Alexander Vershinin (Moderator of the Forum plenary session, Director General of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library): Mr Medvedev, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues. As you can see, the plenary session opened with an introduction to the theme of the Forum which is, just to remind you, “Competition and Cooperation between Legal Systems: the Role of the Law in Ensuring the Development of Society, the State and the Economy”.
The speakers at the Plenary Session represent the judicial community and the Bar, national justice bodies and diverse legal schools. It is very clear to me – and you can see it yourselves – that they feel very much at home on this stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, the brand new stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. So we are looking forward to highly authoritative assessments and the most progressive ideas in the legal sphere. We have an hour and 20 minutes, which means every speaker will have up to 10 minutes, or 11 minutes at most. If anyone has any questions or comments on the presentations please let me know.
In accordance with tradition, the discussion at the Plenary Session will be wrapped up by the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev.
Esteemed colleagues, to promote the development of relations between Russia and the Netherlands 2013 is the Year of Russia in the Netherlands and the Year of the Netherlands in Russia. Therefore I am pleased to give the floor to a politician who has been elected Mayor of several Dutch cities on more than one occasion, who is, needless to say, a trained lawyer and today is the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice. Mr Opstelten, please.
Ivo Opstelten (via interpreter): Your Excellency, the Prime Minister, it is a great honour and a pleasure for me to be able to speak to you at the opening session of the International Legal Forum, which is gaining more and more weight in the international community. Last year my former British counterpart Kenneth Clarke said that the Forum attests to the adherence of the Russian Government to the rule of law. The rule of law and cooperation in the legal sphere are key elements in the current Year of Russia in the Netherlands and Year of the Netherlands in Russia. So you will see a fair number of speakers from the Netherlands on the programme over the next few days. I hope they will contribute to the success of this Forum.
When President Putin visited the Netherlands on April 8 as part of our Year of Russia in the Netherlands and Year of the Netherlands in Russia he was greeted by the then head of state Queen Beatrix; you will probably have seen these pictures on television. You saw the coronation of our new king Willem-Alexander last month. And you probably noticed his wife, Queen Maxima. One of her predecessors was the Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna, the daughter of the Russian Tsar. In 1816 she married crown Prince Willem, who later became King Willem II. Our new king is a direct descendant, the great-great grandson of Anna Pavlovna. As you know and can see, our countries have very diverse ties. In his speech to the Dutch parliament our new King said: “Democracy is based on mutual trust. People respect a government that respects the law. Very often this offers a perspective to citizens. The government should also trust the people, the citizens who must be aware of their common responsibility for the promotion of public interests and must be ready to protect the interests of one another.” These words pinpoint the essence of a democratic state based on the rule of law: the law provides guarantees to the people, above all in their relations with the government. The law also gives people and companies legal certainty within which they can live and work in conditions of freedom. Our new constitutional monarch is guided in his actions by our Constitution, a democratic constitution, and he too has stressed the need for trust. He said that if the government wants to win the trust of its people it must begin by trusting the people. The government must see society as part of the democratic process. Responsible citizens can say what they like in order to strengthen mutual trust. The government for its part must act in a transparent manner, it must be accountable for its actions and it must allow citizens to freely express their thoughts. Recent studies have shown that the rule of law, legal certainty and mutual trust are essential for sustained economic growth. In times of globalisation, trust between states and cooperation between their legal systems are also key factors of development because they create legal confidence in trade, in the services sector and in industry. There needs to be legal protection for citizens who cross borders for work, on family matters or as cultural tourists.
Russia and the Netherlands of course have very close ties in this area. For example, we have worked together over a period of time to update the Russian Civil Code. This will be the topic of one of the roundtables. I would also like to stress that some of the roundtables here are devoted to new and very forward-looking forms of cooperation in the judicial sphere and in the area of cyber security, in the field of evidence and forensic medicine. These are all very complicated problems that cannot be solved singlehandedly. The Netherlands Forensics Institute is at the forefront in its field, especially in the field of cyber-forensics, in the use of DNA. Our experts will compare their achievements, look at possibilities for cooperation with Russian partners and partners in other countries. The Netherlands is very glad that many Russian companies have a high opinion of our business climate, our stable legal system, and the quality of our legal system is an inalienable part of that climate. It transpired just recently that the building of a Russian oil terminal at Rotterdam port will go ahead. That means 800 million euros in investments, which will increase the handling of Russian oil and petroleum products by Rotterdam’s ports. It is also proof of our mutual trust, our faith in the benefits that will accrue from working together in the field of economics and law.
Friends must have the opportunity to criticise each other constructively. When the Netherlands makes mistakes we readily discuss them. We not only seek to rectify them, we want to learn from those mistakes so that we don't repeat them. We are happy to accept critical remarks and recommendations from Strasbourg and Geneva. This may sometimes be unpleasant and costly, but we believe it is absolutely necessary because it means investing in the future. We will insist that a number of fundamental values are indispensable for sustained social and economic development, they are: respect for the rights of individuals, freedom of expression and the independence of the courts of law.
In spite of all the differences between our countries, in spite of the differences between our societies and political views, we have much in common, we have common interests and we face common challenges. We are conducting an open dialogue based on the treaties we have signed. Treaties have been signed within the framework of organisations such as the UN and the Council of Europe, which embrace universal values to which we all adhere. It is one thing to formulate values in the shape of laws and treaties but it is a very different thing to put them into practice. There is a difference between the law in books and the law in life, and we are proud that the Hague has many agencies that are implementing these values as part of international relations. They include a number of international courts (Peter Tomka, President of the UN International Court of Justice, will of course speak about this in more detail) and I have the pleasure of inviting you at 9 p.m. to attend the presentation of these institutions.
I also look forward to the continuation of our constructive dialogue and strengthening of cooperation between Russia and the Netherlands on the basis of such instruments as the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Russian Public Prosecutor’s Office and my Ministry. Thank you for your attention.
Moderator: Thank you very much, Minister. The next speaker also represents a point of view from the Netherlands, only it is a point of view from the Forum because our discussion is about to be joined by the head of the above mentioned UN International Court of Justice. The Court is located in the Hague and is thought to be the only key UN body that is not located in New York. Since 2012 its President has been Peter Tomka, who incidentally is a graduate of Charles University in Prague. And I should point out that he has been elected as a judge from Slovakia for a second nine-year term. We have a unique opportunity to hear the views of the President of the International Court of Justice on the development of the practice of resolving interstate disputes, and perhaps the creation of new mechanisms to prevent them. You have the floor.
Peter Tomka (President of the International Court of Justice): Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen (in Russian; further via interpreter): Distinguished guests, I am delighted to be able to address the plenary session of the St Petersburg International Legal Forum as a representative of the United Nations, specifically its supreme judicial body, the International Court of Justice in the Hague. The ideals underlying the UN Charter have made a significant contribution to shaping the concept of supremacy of the law (especially in the sphere of compliance with the law), a concept that has become one of the cornerstones of the present-day world order. Today nobody would deny that the values enshrined in the UN Charter have contributed to the development of a more just and democratic society.
It is easy to see that the UN Charter truly upholds fundamental values and convictions: one only has to look at the preamble to that document to see that such concepts as fundamental human rights, the dignity and value of human life, and equality of men and women are treated as sacred in this document.
Next. The text of the Charter urges the need to use the international apparatus to promote economic and social progress of all nations.
Thus international law, the primacy of law, which is undoubtedly part of the UN architecture, along with the maintenance of international peace and security, has contributed to the formation of the international community, which is committed to improving people’s lives all over the world.
There is no doubt that this goal is best achieved or at least sought through strengthening the rule of law in the international arena, which in turn would contribute to the building of society based on justice and equality. In fact the Charter highlights the symbiosis of these ideals and compliance with the principles of international law based on the commitment “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained and can contribute to social progress and improving living conditions with greater freedom."
It is to a large extent due to the UN Charter that international law is acquiring ever greater importance today. Gone are the times when the decisions of the majority of states on their actions in the international arena were made regardless of its principles. Today international law is often taken into account in developing the domestic policies of a state; its principles often provide the basis for the rulings of national courts, especially on matters that have to do with international norms in the field of human rights and other international aspects, notably economics. International law is constantly invoked by politicians, its norms are frequently cited by members of civil society and other parties that uphold certain rights. Indeed, the UN Charter has paved the way for the development of substantive norms and principles of international law, but the growing number of mechanisms of peaceful settlement of disputes has played an equally important role in ensuring that the law becomes the basis of the development of the international community, the state and the economy. In other words, the subjects of international law need agencies to which they can turn with their claims to protect their rights. The creation of mechanisms, the settlement of disputes in various segments of the international community, is to be welcomed, because such bodies are a reliable means of compliance with legal standards and principles highly valued by the entire international community.
The UN International Court, which is often referred to as the World Court has, under the UN Charter, unique powers of the supreme judicial body of the United Nations. In other words, the Court’s main task is to administer international justice within the UN framework through peaceful settlement of bilateral disputes between the member states that come to the Court.
In its work the Court invariably operates within its jurisdiction and seeks to deliver balanced and fair decisions on the basis of the evidence presented and the legal arguments advanced by the parties as well as in accordance with applicable norms and principles of international law. Besides, the judiciary function is subordinate to the fundamental goal envisaged by the UN Charter, namely: “to conduct by peaceful means, in accordance with the principles of justice and international law, the settlement or resolution of international disputes or situations that may lead to the disruption of peace.” This goal is a mirror reflection of the principle whereby, under the Charter, all the United Nations members resolve their international disputes by peaceful means in a way that does not threaten international peace and security and justice.
Peter Tomka: The UN International Court’s main task is to administer international justice within the UN framework through peaceful settlement of bilateral disputes between the member states that come to the Court.
In its daily activities the Court seeks to enhance the role of law in international relations by settling disputes that come before it, but the significance of its decisions by no means ends there. The Court’s judicial practice has a direct impact on the development of international law. The well-argued decisions of the Court are seen by many as an authoritative source of international law and are closely studied by legal scholars, the legal services of Foreign Ministries, international organisations and UN member states. Often the Court’s decisions provide a model for assessing the legality of certain actions of members of the international community. Furthermore, the Court’s judicial practice has played an important role in the work of arbitration and other international courts that have been using the Court’s decisions with a fair degree of flexibility in preparing their own arguments. The Court’s practice has played a considerable role in implementing projects in the sphere of codification initiated by the International Law Commission.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has made efforts to enhance the role of the Court in the settlement of international disputes. Just recently he launched a campaign aimed at increasing the number of states that unilaterally accept the Court’s jurisdiction as binding. We fully support that initiative, which is very far-sighted because it stimulates the UN member states to consider the peaceful resolution to international disputes through the judicial procedure to be a fruitful model for settling differences, which in turn contributes to the achievement of the goals under the UN Charter.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen. Of course, we face various challenges, and there is sometimes a need to resort to the mechanism of peaceful settlement of disputes, and we are entering an era that is full of new challenges. At the same time we see that the participants in the international process seek to resolve the disputes among them through peaceful settlement means. This encouraging trend is confirmed by the growing number of mechanisms for resolving disputes. All these mechanisms have one good quality in common: the desire to oppose unilateral actions of certain states that find themselves in a conflict situation, to ease the tensions between conflicting parties and to use peaceful means of resolving differences based on legal principles.
In the light of the above, it is clear that international law can be regarded as an instrument that stimulates states to comply more fully with their obligations, encourages politicians and representatives of the executive branch to act more in line with the ideals of justice and democracy, and ultimately move towards improving the lives of people around the world. The International Court will continue to play its part in working towards the goals I have mentioned, passing decisions on the cases that are put before us in good faith with a high degree of impartiality and independence in accordance with the norms of international law and within its jurisdiction. Thank you very much.
Alexander Vershinin: Thank you very much. Our next speaker is a representative of the English legal system, Professor Timothy Endicott, a specialist in the field of legal philosophy and legal theory. His scholarly works have been translated into Italian, Spanish and Chinese. I know that he has travelled to perhaps every continent on lecture tours. Professor Endicott has for more than five years been the dean of the law faculty of one of the world’s oldest universities, Oxford University. I know that he toured almost all the continents with his lectures.
Professor Endicott has led the Faculty of Law at Oxford University – one of the world’s oldest universities – for over five years now. Half of the master’s degree students in this law school are foreigners, which is perhaps another way of exporting legal instruments. Over to you, Mr Endicott.
Timothy Endicott (Dean of the Faculty of Law, Oxford University) (via interpreter): Thank you, Professor Vershinin. Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, I teach law, and professors of law have certain responsibilities. It’s not possible to teach law to the leaders of legal science who have gathered at this forum in St Petersburg... I’m honoured to be here. We have at our university talented students from St Petersburg and other countries. I know that Mr Medvedev, as well as many others in this beautiful auditorium, also taught law. Mr Medvedev taught Roman law, and this subject is actively taught at my university. We would like our students to learn about the origins of civil law. They will learn about the Justinian code written 1,500 years ago. This desire, the constant desire to pay their debts and fulfil their duties ... Notably, we can borrow much from the civil law of the Byzantine Empire, but we can also take a lot from today’s civil code. We can talk about overcoming the boundaries between geography, geopolitics and culture, we can learn from each other's wisdom, but we can also learn from our respective mistakes. I hope that the representatives of Russia and other civil law countries can learn from mistakes of states based on common or private law and take advantage of the mutual legal training system.
In addition, we can develop law in a flexible manner, while using the doctrine of precedent, in order to impart greater stability to the law. The advantage of the stability of common law is evident in the behaviour of the parties to the international process that practise London law or New York law. English law is a great British export commodity, but there’s no guarantee that English judges or other judges will be able to achieve the correct balance between flexibility and stability. In fact, if you come to a lecture on the law of treaties at my university, you’ll hear the professor criticise judges, explaining to students why the latest rulings were incorrect. As a matter of fact, it’s the students' job to understand what the judges did wrong and what better solutions were available. So, our students are learning from failures and successes of the judges. Even as we read the Habeas Corpus Act, we see that the judges practicing this private law had come up with the defence and prosecution process, and this process was then used to bring plaintiffs to trial. But I always tell my students at Oxford that 400 years ago the judge made a mistake: the king couldn’t get enough money for the war with the French, and the nobles refused to provide such funds. They were brought to trial, and the judge said that there was no way to put them on trial, because this rule applies only to lower officials, not senior ones. Thus, the Habeas Corpus Act could not be used to control the actions of the state. If judges cannot use those powers that have been granted to them, then there’s a problem. The state is based on common law, and the Habeas Corpus Act in commercial law provides stability to the culture where the judges actually behave bravely, but obey the role of law.
We should learn from setbacks and successes. We discuss various disputes and conflicts, and ways to resolve them. After all, students should study the trade of judges based on the common law tradition and the experience of judges in the resolution of various disputes. As a result, students begin to understand that the resolution of disputes is a tool used for developing law. This supports judicial independence and independent thinking in judges and attorneys. I believe it’s important to teach students to think independently. Lawyers must be able to decide for themselves what they think. Under the common law system, students are trained not to agree with their professors just because they are professors. However, there’s the other side to it: we do not want to reflect this in our promotional and educational materials. We teach students how to provide convincing evidence. We give students the opportunity to get the tools that will enable them to operate successfully within their chosen profession, and they will thus be able to build a defence against the arguments that cannot be defended.
The rule of law is not always the highest good. Of course, I would like to be able to say that the rule of law is critical for the development of society in any country within the international legal system in the 21st century, but it is also necessary to recognise not only the good side of this concept, but also its downside. As professionals, you should give some tools to lawyers in order to understand the shortcomings of the concept of the rule of law. If a murderer should receive the higher-order justice, the judge may, for whatever reason, try not to implement such a concept. However, rule of law involves high costs. In your country, and in my country, there are too many legal procedures, and, perhaps, lawyers are not accountable enough to their clients. So here’s the lesson that we can learn from training judges in the common law system: we must recognise the shortcomings of common law and be prepared to pay the appropriate price.
In any case, we can do better in any legal system. Not all of us deserve golden stars for acting fairly with regard to our citizens. Ask yourself what is your legal system, as well as the international legal system and dispute resolution system worth. I believe that we can always say that we can do better and achieve better results. Of course, this does not justify the system, but if your system is good enough, you can always do better.
Alexander Vershinin: Thank you, Mr Endicott. Politicians and legal professionals are closely monitoring the development of the post-Soviet countries. The legal system of Kazakhstan is one of the most dynamically developing and is having a significant influence in the Eurasian Economic Community and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
As you know, I am going to give the floor to Berik Imashev, Doctor of Law and Minister of Justice of Kazakhstan. Please, over to you.
Berik Imashev: Esteemed Mr Medvedev, forum participants. Interest in the St Petersburg legal forum has been growing from year to year, as you can see from the expanding geography of its participants, and this is logical, because globalisation calls for the integration of national legal systems. It also explains the interest in this forum of both government officials and non-governmental lawyers.
This forum offers us an opportunity to analyse the current situation and development trends in the national legislation and its connection to international law. I want to thank the forum organisers and participants for the highly professional discussion of the issues on our agenda.
The trend for various types of cooperation between international law and national legislation has become a fact of life. Changes in one lead to changes in the other, and lagging behind the new demands of the modern world can slow down the development of countries and international integration. In his Strategy Kazakhstan-2050: New Political Course of the Established State, President Nursultan Nazarbayev writes that legislation must not only protect national interests but also keep pace with a dynamically developing legal environment.
In this case, a dynamically developing legal environment includes a country’s international legal obligations. The Kazakh government is taking steps to improve the competitiveness of Kazakhstan’s legal system in all basic areas. For example, the idea of Eurasian integration, which our president advanced at Moscow State University in 1994, has led to the establishment of a Common Economic Space. The successful development of the Eurasian Economic Union of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus must be based on a formal agreement for harmonising and standardising the economic laws of its member countries.
The definition of the notions of “harmonisation of legislation” and “standardisation of legislation” has only been offered in theoretical studies but has not yet been sealed in the national legislation of Belarus, Kazakhstan or Russia, although these notions are crucial elements of legal integration. Should these definitions be formalised in a law? If so, should it be done in a national law or in public international treaties?
Berik Imashev: This forum offers us an opportunity to analyse the current situation and development trends in the national legislation and its connection to international law.
I am drawing your attention to this issue in order to stress the need for formulating our countries’ common stance on the normative definition of these notions. For example, the Common Economic Space countries are discussing a draft of a model law on competition. The law sets out the organisational and legal foundations of protecting competition and ensuring the free movement of goods by preventing and precluding monopolistic and unfair competition and preventing government authorities from erecting barriers to fair competition.
The adoption of such a law should be followed by the coordination of the legislation of the three member states. How should this be done? The choice is between approximation, harmonisation and standardisation of national laws on competition. Theoretical works interpret the approximation of laws as a process during which several countries choose a common policy in a given area. Harmonisation entails adopting common legal principles, approaches and concepts in the development of national legislation. And standardisation is about the coordinated introduction of identical laws by several countries.
However, the draft of a model law on competition sets out the goal of approximating national laws regulating economic relations in the field of competition, even though the model law also includes common principles and approaches to this issue. We believe that this is evidence that the three states need to formalise common definitions of the approximation, harmonisation and standardisation of national legislation. This can be done by each of the three states adopting a special law, signing an international treaty or formalising these definitions in model laws drafted for each economic sector. The ultimate choice should be based on law-enforcement practice.
We believe that this work should be completed with due regard for national interests. It should focus on the national priorities which have been sealed in our countries’ constitutions and which are connected with the legislative will of each of the given countries to adjust international laws to national legislation and national legal procedure. However, this is an issue for scientific and practical debates, including at the St Petersburg legal forum.
Thank you for your time and the honour to speak at the opening session.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr Minister.
The year 2013 is also the year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution. The Constitution largely determines the development of society and the state, legislation and judicial practice. The Russian Constitutional Court is an agency that checks this development against the Basic Law. It is no coincidence that its chairman, Doctor of Law, Professor Valery Zorkin, participates in the St Petersburg International Legal Forum on a permanent basis, if I may say so. Please, Mr Zorkin, over to you.
Valery Zorkin (Chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court): Mr Medvedev, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I will not deliver a speech as Chairman of the Constitutional Court or talk about our current business. Instead I would like to share with you the conclusions I have drawn from my reflections in the Constitutional Court on Senate Square. I would like to talk about the law and how it is being affected by global changes, something I have been studying as a researcher in recent years.
Modern law is being affected by global changes, but in any event it is absolutely clear to all of us that these changes bring with them not only new opportunities but also high risks of an uncertain future. Voltaire was once asked about the difference between an ass and a man. He replied: an ass walks in a circle, while a man develops in a spiral. But a spiral can both go down to Dante’s Hell and upwards. Another big difference, Voltaire said, is that an ass has no choice, whereas a man can choose between these two directions. In our current reality we can see that there is movement towards both good and evil. At any rate, researchers and practical workers are warning about an extremely dangerous erosion of the international legal system.
Certain major powers as well as formal and informal state coalitions are increasingly often attempting to replace the decisions of the UN and the UN Security Council with their own, and to make sovereign states adopt domestic economic and social policies that directly contradict their constitutions. This means that we are witnessing the emergence of a growing number of powers and coalitions of states, which, in fact, seek to usurp the prerogatives of international lawmaking and law enforcement and eventually disrupt the contractual nature of the international lawmaking process and the operations of international and national courts, based on these treaties and conventions. This means, in effect, substituting the resolution of problems using legal methods by strong-arm practices.
I dare say that the collapse of statehood, which one of these informal coalitions engineered in Libya, has not yet been sufficiently rationalised and evaluated from a legal point of view by the international community. Nor has the significance of this disaster been fully realised as a long-term generator of chaos in that huge region of Africa, or the meaning of the campaign against Libya as an illegal precedent on a global scale involving a new kind of military intervention in the affairs of nation states.
I also dare say that both the events in Libya, Egypt and Syria and the confiscation of depositors’ money in Cyprus are not just signs of a new era of global turbulence proclaimed by Ms Condoleezza Rice; in fact they amount to a total negation of the principles of human life, which have been brought by the modern era and which we are used to regard as indispensable to our existence as the air we breathe. I mean among other things human rights, the rule of law and the legitimacy of the Constitution.
But legality is being eroded not just at the international level. There are different types of novelty after all. History teaches us that if this torrent of novelty is not channelled into a regular stream by well-considered and timely legal measures, the inevitable result is chaos, strife, wars and revolutions. The deeper and wider the torrent of novelty that brings chaos in its wake, the harsher and more painful the legal measures that have to be used at the eleventh hour to deal with the chaos. This is why legal reforms are one of the most important aspects of the institutionalisation of any serious social transformations, an institutionalisation that should be very cautious, well-conceived and, let me stress, preemptive.
This conclusion may seem paradoxical to some, because more often than not the majority of laws institutionalise and legalise retroactively the relations that have naturally taken shape in society. But this is true only in situations where we have relatively low-key historical dynamics and where past experience helps us plan, predict and to some extent regulate the future. But past experience – everyday, social, political and legal – is not always much help during crises and transitional periods, where lawyers risk being like generals preparing for past wars and lose those coming up. This is why I will now speak not about experiences but about the methodology of reform (please forgive me for what might be a bold metaphor) as a methodology for managing the future. After all, methodologically every successful reform in history was carried out precisely in this way. These reforms were preceded by an immense preparatory legislative effort and had a clear-cut legal infrastructure. The latest example of this kind is the Singapore miracle worked by Lee Kuan Yew’s reforms.
Apart from being successful, which is due to what I would call an efficient management of the future, these reforms have another crucial aspect: they are built upon a firm social basis, without which any reform will just be a question of marking time. Reforms will always need flexible yet very strong and strict legal regulation. History teaches us that reformers form a social support base that enables them to implement reforms along the lines of what specialists call an authoritarian modernisation, unless what they do is at odds with public perceptions of fairness and propriety.
Large-scale studies have been carried out into successful modernisations both in the West (from The Netherlands and Britain to France and Germany) and in the East (from Japan and Korea to Taiwan and Singapore). These studies show convincingly that modernisation calls for the strengthening of a state’s regulatory functions. The slackening of these functions and their partial handover to civil society is possible only if modernisation proves successful. The widespread notions – I would call them fairy tales – about the slackening of state legal regulation being a prerequisite for reforms are due to the incorrect use of the market economy idea. Having nothing to do with science, these notions are a consequence of incorrect analogies with the well-known idea about the invisible hand of the market allegedly needing nothing more than to be left to its own devices. I am not disputing the fact that the market is successful, and in many cases that is so precisely because the invisible hand of the market is at work and a slackening of regulatory functions has occurred.
I’m asking you as a researcher: name a country where reforms were implemented with a weakened regulatory role for the state. Don’t we see in today's global economic crisis the results of this weakening when manipulations on financial markets caused a global economic and even political crisis, and, I would even say, a global credibility crisis? Signs of global turbulence will transform humanity into a set of global risk societies with an uncertain future if we ignore the advice given in his time by Mr Voltaire.
What follows from what I just said? As I have said and wrote in earlier works, it’s imperative to begin a cautious, thoughtful, but regular audit of the system of international law, including UN regulations and conventions. They say not to touch it. But I'm not speaking as a judge now, I want to point this out as a researcher. Well, “don’t touch it” sounds good, but what are we supposed to do if two UN principles are in conflict? One of them is the principle of national sovereignty and the inviolability of state borders, while the other is the right to self-determination. Which one are we supposed to uphold? Some prefer one, while others prefer the other. That’s impossible. When you have cake and coffee, you can’t put salt and sugar on the table and say, “Take whatever you like. The salt is very good, by the way.” The salt may well be good, but take another example where you are served a steak and offered a choice of salt and sugar, as well. “The sugar is fine,” they tell you, “it’ll go perfectly well with the steak.” The great American writer O. Henry’s character Bill Driscoll had the following point to make: there’s construction sand and there’s oats used as feed for horses. Substituting sand for oats is a bad choice for the horse. That’s why we should choose the reforms that suit our current needs. Most importantly, they should be forward-looking and be supported by the people. I believe we should never forget the fact that Kantian ethical behavior should underlie formal law in order for it to function well as a social regulator. The disconnect between formal law and ethical law will make even the best legal regulations inoperative. All societies and states are extremely sophisticated systems based on intrinsic culture, traditions, ethics and subtleties of the moral code that exists inside us.
Of course, all these systems have much in common. However, in our blanket regulations we should never lose sight of what’s unique and special in a particular system. Next, we need to realise that any reform is about systemic, social and government transformations that unavoidably jeopardise the stability of a system. Law is always a balance between flexibility and power in regulation, but it is absolutely unacceptable to drop the legal reins in times of reform, that is, to sacrifice the power of legal regulation in favour of flexibility whatever it may mean. We burned our fingers badly on this during perestroika and after when we lost our single country and brought untold misfortune on our citizens. This lesson should not be forgotten.
Valery Zorkin: Legal reforms are one of the most important aspects of the institutionalisation of any serious social transformations, an institutionalisation that should be very cautious, well-conceived and, let me stress, preemptive.
Here’s my last point today. It is totally unacceptable to set apart the individual and the state, the individual and civil society, or civil society and the state in mass consciousness and even more so in the legal system. The purpose and result of legal regulation should be a social situation where the citizen, civil society and the state exist in an inseparable, constructive and synergetic unity.
Today, the Russian state is working to overcome a legal barrier as it implements reforms. I hope that Russia will use global experience and the general provisions of jurisprudence, as well as its own lessons from the school of hard knocks, to finally embark on the right legal path.
Moderator: Colleagues, the International Bar Association is another regular partner of this forum. Two years ago, the association was represented by Akira Kawamura. This year, we have Michael Reynolds here as president of the association. A practicing lawyer, Mr Reynolds specialises in antitrust law, including information technology. In his role as president, he works to strengthen relations between lawyers around the world and, in particular, in the BRICS countries. Over to you, Mr Reynolds.
Michael Reynolds (President of the International Bar Association) (via interpreter): Thank you very much. Mr Prime Minister, colleagues, as president of the International Bar Association I have to say that I’m truly pleased to take part in the third forum. I’d like to congratulate you – the Ministry of Justice and the organisers of this wonderful forum – on your excellent work and on bringing together so many great lawyers, academics, researchers and economists from more than 16 countries. There are few cities in the world, as the Prime Minister mentioned, that are as beautiful and perfect for holding this conference as St Petersburg. The building where we are holding this conference is particularly beautiful.
Quite recently, the American Bar Association’s board decided to hold a meeting of our board of directors here in St Petersburg in 2015. This will bring major specialists and key players of the legal field right here to St Petersburg, and we are very pleased by this. As a representative of the American Bar Association, I should try to say something in your language, although I realise that I’ll make a lot of mistakes.
Sir Winston Churchill, the former British prime minister, said that you should never give up for fair of making a mistake. You should move forward no matter what. He said that success in politics is all about going from one mistake to another without showing any loss of enthusiasm.
(Speaks Russian) It is a great honour to participate in such an important and prestigious conference in St Petersburg ... As president of the IBA, I'm glad to see many Russian lawyers here. We are pleased to present four IBA sessions at this forum. Enjoy the conference!
(via interpreter) The International Bar Association was co-founded in New York in 1947 by 34 national bar associations. Beginning in 1980, we began to accept practicing lawyers as bar members. In 2013, the IBA was comprised of 200 different national bar associations and law firms from 160 countries; 50,000 private members work with us, and our membership includes 170 leading international law firms, including Russian ones.
What have I witnessed at the IBA over the years? In 1947, a very large number of lawyers and bar associations were European and came either from Europe or the United States. Now we are seeing a hugely expanding legal market and a huge increase in the number of lawyers from the BRICS countries and emerging economies. Here’s an interesting question: which country has the most lawyers? Many would say the United States. No, it’s India. There are 1.3 million lawyers in India. The United States comes second with about 860,000 lawyers. Brazil is third on this list with 700,000 lawyers. Interestingly, Mexico comes fourth with about 500,000 or so lawyers. China (with its rapidly growing number of lawyers and law firms) and Russia are next on this list. Indeed, Yevgeny Semenyako (President of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers) said at a conference yesterday that 20,000 Russian lawyers are under the age of 40, meaning that the legal environment is changing very quickly. These lawyers are very actively involved in practical work across many areas pursued by the International Bar Association. This includes mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, and antitrust regulations. There are areas relating to professional interests and ethics; there are other areas that relate to developing and strengthening bar associations across the world. Our human rights institution, known internationally as an institution that protects the rights of private individuals and strengthens the capacity of bar associations, is doing very important work in this area.
Since its inception, the International Bar Association has focused on promoting the rule of law. This is truly a fundamental right. The judicial community should be aware of it, and lawyers should be able to work without any political interference. In essence, the issue is about establishing a well-regulated environment conducive to working within the legal framework. Our association uses its collective experience – since we are now working through a network of international bar associations – to help many bar associations to create a strong system of internal controls including the establishment of strong ethical standards and meeting requirements that are fair and transparent. We are developing disciplinary rules and protect all our members from prosecution by states and governments.
Over the years, we have seen that the quality of lawyers’ work is improving across the globe. It hasn’t always been like that. A character from a Chekhov work says that doctors and lawyers never change: lawyers steal from you, and doctors steal from you and kill you. I think that we have come a long way since then.
The legal profession in Russia is undergoing a major reform. It is hugely important for our association. We are working with the Ministry of Justice of Russia to carry out this major task.
This major reform will have a strong impact on the Russian legal system when the clearly regulated status of lawyers will be properly recognised and based on the work of bar associations providing equal support to all lawyers. We will build on the general principles of the legal profession that all legal associations are based upon. They are: client confidentiality, confidentiality and resolution of conflicts of interest. We would like to thank the Ministry of Justice for the huge and important contribution they have made to the rule of law. As Mr Prime Minister said, there is indeed a direct link between the rule of law and economic development. A healthy legislative and judicial system that provides for the efficiency and transparency of the legal environment will open doors to economic prosperity. It was said only recently that within the European Union, the rule of law and compliance with the law are directly related to economic prosperity and confidence in economic investments.
Our association includes members from 160 countries. They are all leaders in their profession. Mr Prime Minister said that we live in a globalised world, therefore our actions and transactions are often truly global. However, the law remains national and legal risk management remains subject to national laws. This is why cooperation between various jurisdictions is of such great importance. This is what we are pursuing in our association. We intend to work thoroughly and closely with various services and government agencies to ensure every possible kind of support for practicing lawyers, and to carry out legal reforms that, as Mr Prime Minister said, Russia is also involved in, in order to strengthen legal confidence.
I can give you an example. One of the discussions at this forum by our association, with the direct involvement of the Federal Antimonopoly Service, is aimed at attracting very important international experts in antimonopoly law. Protecting human rights and improving independent legal associations around the world are of fundamental importance for us, specifically in societies that have gone through economic and political transformations in certain political contexts. Here is an example: we are now holding a workshop for members of the Tunisian judicial system and for members of parliament in various countries, including Mozambique, the UK and Lebanon. In 2008 in Afghanistan, our association played a leading role in establishing a new independent association of lawyers that has been out there for four years now. Many Russian lawyers have helped us in persuading Afghan lawyers that they need a strong legal association with a strong elected democratic council. We are proud of the fact that the Afghan Independent Bar Association now has 1,200 lawyers as members.
We also approved a delegation of the Human Rights Institute to Myanmar in order to study the issue of human rights there. I visited this country after a visit by our president and I saw a serious challenge that the association faces there as it attempts to introduce the general principles of the rule of law and make civil institutions function in a country that has not been able to make it happen since 1961.
It was a great honour for me to make this visit. I visited Aung San Suu Kyi (a Burmese politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate) at her beautiful home and she explained to me personally how greatly Myanmar needs change and strong mechanisms to ensure the rule of law. She said that their courts don’t have resources and are not provided with funding; that they are indeed ignored, and young people don’t want to be lawyers because lawyers are basically subject to the military regime. She asked us to organise workshops for judges, lawyers, aspiring lawyers and to sponsor their judicial system. Of course, we are responding to these requests.
To conclude, I would like to say that Russian lawyers and Russian legal firms are becoming increasingly involved in international transactions, particularly after Russia joined the WTO. The International Bar Association gives those lawyers the right to work with lawyers from other jurisdictions across the world who are leading professionals in their areas of expertise and can share their knowledge. Here in Russia the association organised and will continue to organise a large number of conferences on commercial courts, antitrust management, mergers and acquisitions. A very important conference will take place in Moscow on legal firm management, which will cover the general management of legal firms and best management practices. It will discuss common mistakes and what can be learnt from the experience of other countries.
I would like to repeat that we are actively supporting the reform of the legal profession in Russia as it’s being developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice. Reforms never go smoothly and easily. Peter the Great, the founder of this city, was responsible for radical reforms. He once said (I think it was after his visit to Rotterdam and Amsterdam where he studied shipbuilding), “I understand that despite the huge changes that have been made I have not been able to change myself.” Peter the Great also said, “Fate can be with us. It can be an obstacle but it will not keep us from moving forward.”
That is all I had to say, thank you.
Alexander Vershinin: Thank you very much, Mr Reynolds. I would like to thank all the participants for their very informative reports. I would now like to pass over to Mr Medvedev for the closing speech.
Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, our colleagues have raised very diverse and interesting issues, although they had many points in common, particularly in the discussion on rule of law. Almost all of our colleagues, including Mr Opstelten, Mr Tomka and Mr Reynolds touched on this subject. I’m confident that we are interested in any relevant experience, all the more so since we have stared dealing with this issue relatively recently – literally 20 years ago. Today our legal system is rapidly developing. It faces criticism, sometimes well-deserved and sometimes absolutely unjustified. But at any rate such talks are very useful and interesting for us because we still have a lot to do.
In general, we must admit that we lawyers no longer consider immutable many positions that seemed inviolable in the past century, last year, this year and perhaps even during the crisis. That said there still exist fundamental legal positions and values that are not subject to any revision in this century. I was pleased to hear this idea from my colleagues. I’m referring to the principles of international law. The human race spent much time and effort in the 19th and 20th centuries to create these principles and we must not abandon them, even during international crises or for any other reason.
My colleagues (and I want to thank them for their attention) have heard what I meant to say about the two opposing trends in national legal systems towards nationalisation and globalisation on a number of issues. I don’t think one of these trends will ultimately prevail over the other and I don’t want my statement to be interpreted as a claim that the national trend and national jurisdictions will dominate. Certainly not. Both trends will develop but with the understanding that national sovereignty has not been revoked and it remains one of the fundamental principles of international law.
Our Constitution is fairly young. Mr Zorkin has spoken about this. He said he spoke not as the Chairman of the Constitutional Court but as a scholar but it is difficult to separate these two capacities and when I listened to him I understood that he also spoke as the chairman. In any event we should not draw apart our Constitution. We should carefully study all constitutional processes in this country, all the more so as the world has brilliant examples of how long some laws can last.
Mr Endicott (Timothy Endicott, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Oxford University) recalled habeas corpus, which has been in force since 1679. Despite all the differences in our legal systems, I think in general this is a very good example of how a legal framework should develop. I’m sure the Brits have a host of complaints about their own legal framework, but there are plenty of opportunities for lawyers to make money by helping develop it.
Mr Reynolds (Michael Reynolds, Head of the International Bar Association) cited an interesting figure when he spoke about the number of lawyers in India. To be honest, I thought we already had more lawyers than 1.3 million but not yet. I can tell you from my own experience that our legal community is growing very fast. When I left St Petersburg for Moscow we had two or three educational institutions in St Petersburg (one is my alma mater) and now there are probably 50 of them. Naturally, the educational standards are also different. We must all get involved in legal education because we understand that a great deal depends on the education of students at faculties of law.
But in any event I strongly believe that we must develop international cooperation in this sphere as well, and we’ll do this by all means, all the more so since apart from undergoing its own transformation, Russia and its partners – Kazakhstan and Belarus – have established their own integration system, which we have just started developing. We are closely watching what is happening in the European Union and will try to learn from the mistakes of our European friends so as not to repeat them. Naturally, we hope our European friends overcome their current difficulties. I still think that integration is a great idea. Integration unions will bear economic fruit and serve the nations and peoples involved for many years.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m very pleased that we’ve had the chance to meet here in this hall. Again, I’m confident that the discussions held in this hall will be useful for our legal systems and us lawyers, because it is very important for those of us in this profession to communicate. I wish you all the best. Goodbye!