How old are the current constitutions in Europe?

In which year was the current constitution of each European country ratified?


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Map of Europe showing the year the constitution was ratified.

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A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed. It is usually written down in a single document or a set of legal documents. When it’s encompassed in a single document, it’s called a codified constitution. The UK is an example that has an uncodified constitution. Their constitution is written in numerous fundamental Acts of a legislature, court cases or treaties.

In most European countries, their current constitution was ratified sometime in the 20th century. The UK and San Marino are the only countries where the current constitution was ratified before 1800. Five countries have a constitution that was ratified in the 19th century: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Six countries have a constitution that was ratified in the 21st century: Finland, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and the Vatican.

We can see that for a lot countries, the year of ratification is close to the end of either communism or an authoritarian regime. A lot of eastern European countries ratified their current constitution in the early 90s, after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In Spain, the constitution was ratified 3 years after the death of its former dictator Franco. Same in Portugal, where a new constitution was ratified 2 years after the end of the Salazar dictatorship.

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