In 2023, Romania marks a special historical moment: 100 years since the adoption, promulgation and entry into force of the Constitution of Unified Romania. This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on an event of overwhelming importance in the constitutional history of our country. The Constitutional Court of Romania has unanimously decided to declare 2023 the “Year of the Centenary of the Constitution of Unified Romania”, thus underlining the unique significance of the adoption of the 1923 Constitution and its contribution to the consolidation of the unitary Romanian national state.
The 1923 Constitution and historical context
The adoption of the 1923 Constitution was a significant moment in Romania’s history, illustrating the deep desire for national unity and the consolidation of democracy. “At this historic moment,” as Ion I.C. Brătianu, leader of the National Liberal Party, pointed out, “we are witnessing the realisation of our centuries-old dream: the union of all Romanians under the same Constitution.”. With the adoption of this Constitution, Romania entered a new era of constitutional stability and democratic development.
It served as a point of continuity and constitutional stability in a complex context in which the map of the Romanian territory was redrawn. This evolution began in 1864, with the implementation of the Developing Statute of the Paris Convention. The 1923 Constitution was drafted in the context of exceptional historical events that affected Europe and reflected the ideological influences of the liberalism of the time. This fundamental law successfully blended national constitutional elements with contemporary European views.
Continuity and contribution to constitutional history
Over a period of 15 years, the Constitution of 1923 represented an element of continuity, being applied consistently throughout Romania. Its reintroduction for 3 years, after a discontinuity of more than 6 years, in a Romania affected by the consequences of the Second World War, revealed its viability in terms of the democratic ideas and values it promoted. From this chronology of events, its conceptual incompatibility with the authoritarian regime established in 1938 or with the totalitarian regime established in 1948 stands out and, consequently, with their establishment, the fundamental law had to be repealed, thus becoming a landmark of Romanian constitutional history.
Consolidation of the unitary national state
What makes the 1923 Constitution remarkable is its ability to strengthen the Romanian national identity and to ensure the cohesion and coherence of the national legal system in the face of the considerable diversity of legal norms and views on the organisation of state power. This document played an essential role in harmonising and unifying the existing legal systems in Bessarabia, Dobrogea, Bukovina and Transylvania, thus contributing to the efficient functioning of the Romanian state.
Key provisions of the Constitution of 1923
The 1923 Constitution introduced essential provisions on the characteristics of the state, the organisation and functioning of the state powers, the electoral system, the financial, military and administrative organisation and founded the principle of universal, equal, direct and secret vote. At the same time, it gave priority to the public interest over the individual interest and strengthened the prerogatives of the legislature over those of the monarch and proclaimed the values of civil liberties in the spirit of a mature democracy.
The Constitution firmly underlined the national, unitary and indivisible character of the Kingdom of Romania, countering possible separatist tendencies.
The 1923 Constitution was the first to introduce in Romania’s constitutional history “the right to judge the constitutionality of laws and to declare inapplicable those that are contrary to the Constitution” through Article 103. This principle was taken up and further developed in subsequent constitutions and became an essential part of the Romanian legal system. The Constitutional Court of Romania, established in 1992, now has the role of exercising this right and ensuring respect for the Constitution in all areas.
The principles and values promoted in the 1923 Constitution, such as the rule of law and the separation of powers, have continued to be reference points in Romania’s development as a constitutional state. They have been reinforced in subsequent constitutions, including the 1991 Constitution, which is the country’s current fundamental law.
The lasting significance of the 1923 Constitution
The 1923 Constitution was an essential milestone in Romania’s constitutional development. It crystallised a strong national consciousness, ensured national cohesion and remained a symbol of democracy and national unity in Romania’s history, even after its repeal. Thus, in 2023, we celebrate not only an anniversary, but also the valuable legacy of this Constitution, which carved the constitutional history of our country.
Legal Intern R&R Partners Bucharest
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