The Supreme Court is linked with other national, international and supra-national courts by functional and other relations. On 27 April 1995, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter – also the Convention on Human Rights). On 1 May 2004, when Lithuania became a member of the European Union, the Supreme Court became one of the courts of the European Union. The Supreme Court must ensure effective application of EU legislation and compliance with the highest international human rights protection standards. Therefore, not only formal institutional but also informal co-operation is becoming highly important.
In accordance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, where an issue of interpretation of EU law or the validity of EU legal acts is raised, the Supreme Court, if it considers it necessary to do so in order to resolve the dispute brought before it, has the obligation to apply to the Court of Justice of the European Union with a request for a preliminary ruling. As soon as Protocol No 16 to the Convention on Human Rights, which Lithuania ratified by the Law of 11 June 2015, comes into force, the Supreme Court will be in the position to apply to the European Court of Human Rights with a request to provide an advisory opinion.
In 2016, The Supreme Court joined the Superior Courts Network, the objective of which is to ensure mutual exchange of case law and information related to the application of the European Convention on Human Rights. In 2018, the Judicial Network of the European Union set up by the Court of Justice of the European Union will become operational; the Supreme Court of Lithuania will also be a member of the network. Moreover, experience and knowledge with these courts is intensively shared during various visits, meetings, conferences.
The cooperation of the Supreme Court with courts and institutions of other states takes place through joint projects, other events or initiatives. The Supreme Court is a member of the Network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union and takes part in conferences of the Supreme Courts of Central and Eastern Europe. Between 2016 and 2017, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts of Latvia, Spain and Hungary and the universities of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Antwerp (Belgium) implemented the project ‘Supreme Courts as guarantee for effectiveness of judicial systems in the European Union,’ which was partly financed by the European Union. The Court maintains very close relations with the Supreme Courts of other Baltic states. Each year there are working meetings and discussions with colleagues from the Supreme Courts of Latvia and Estonia and visits by delegations of courts from other countries.
Being an important part of the judicial power, the Supreme Court maintains a constructive dialogue with the legislative and the executive powers. Although the Supreme Court does not have the right to initiate legislation, public authorities quite often address the Supreme Court requesting its opinion on draft legislation related to the operation of courts. In its opinions, the Court does not assess the political expediency of drafts. The Court only turns its attention to the clarity, potential outcomes, consistency with the existing case law or international obligations, etc. In some cases, representatives of the Supreme Court apply to entities with the right to initiate legislation with recommendations to adopt or amend certain legislative provisions, take part in the drafting of legal acts, meet with officials from other State authorities to discuss the issues of common concern.
The Supreme Court is, first of all, the national court at the top of the pyramid of Lithuanian courts of general jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court maintains close relations with other courts, shares best practices, organises annual or thematic meetings on issues relevant for the courts and disseminates information about the most recent case law of Lithuanian and international courts. Lithuanian courts have the opportunity to use the database of key interpretations of law developed in the case law of the Supreme Court, which is administered by specialists of the Supreme Court.