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Human Rights in Times of Crisis: The Greek Cases before the ECtHR, or the Polarisation of a Democratic Society

Ioanna Pervou

Keywords: Human Rights; Right to Property; Greece; Crisis; European Court of Human Rights; Democracy; Margin of Appreciation; Proportionality

The recent jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights has dealt with a number of cases on the issue of the Greek economic crisis. It has considered the reduction of salaries and retirement pensions of public servants as a result of the State's obligations under the Memorandum of Understanding with its lenders (Koufaki & ADEDY v Greece), the reduction of wage supplements and allowances due to public servants' change of contractual position (Giavi v Greece), while proceedings for the bonds haircut of individual investors are pending (applications submitted on October 2014). In all these cases, the Court has not found a violation of the applicants' right to property, or economic interests. In addition, the Court enlarged the respondent State's margin of appreciation regarding the measures needed to cope with the crisis, on the grounds of the principle of subsidiarity. In these judgments, the Court reiterates the dicta of the national courts in support of its rationale, a practice introduced rather recently. In the above cases, the Court applied the three-part test, and justified the limitations of the applicants' right to property as ‘necessary in a democratic society’, according to its established terminology. The decisions received excessive criticism because the Court's judgments are considered heavily politicised. The economic crisis brings the right to property to the forefront of legal discussions, further revealing its association with the democratic rule.

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