The heritage of the May 3 Constitution is in the spirit of European political compromise

Gediminas Kirkilas
Gediminas Kirkilas DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

The heritage of the May 3 Constitution of the Two Nations, signed between Poland and Lithuania 228 years ago, is in the spirits of European political compromise.

Polish historian Julius Bardach argued, that the Constitution was reciprocally equal, as Poles took into account Lithuanian needs and interests. The document for the first time in European history divided the branches of power, executive and legislative, as well as judiciary, as was foreseen by Montesquieu.

For me, as a member of parliament, it is very important that the Constitution legitimised the parliament, essentially almost elected by the professionals, Seimas and Senate, despite that the Senate was headed by the monarch with limited powers.  

On 26 April, we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Lithuanian – Polish cooperation agreement, which played an exceptional role not only in bilateral relations, but also in the integration of both countries into the European Union and NATO.

There is no doubt that we can call it the certain tradition of the Constitution of May 3, 1791, when two countries agree on strategic goals, not necessarily always easily. In any case, the efforts of almost 20 years by Lithuanian and Polish politicians, diplomats, scientists and public figures to make the heritage of the May 3 Constitution significant, have been fruitful.

Nowadays, the May 3 Constitution is important also for broader regional cooperation, considering now Ukraine and in future – Belarus. Today, we cherish the memory of the 1863 uprising insurgents, paying respect for relationship of Poles, Belarusian and Lithuanians with the past, which unites all.

The May 3 Constitution may have later collapsed because of Russian intervention, but also, because in the Polish-Lithuanian state there was no better integration policy, as Ukrainians were left out. Therefore, the memory of the Constitution prompts us to not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, but to rely on regional cooperation, based on our historical tradition and today challenge. Together with the Poles we aim at doing it with Ukraine.

Gediminas Kirkilas, Vice-Speaker of the Seimas, Chair of the European Affairs

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