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Judgement date :13/12/2016
This case was examined under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which guarantees the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held, by a majority of 9 votes to 8, that there had been a violation of said article.
The case concerned a social security benefit paid to the applicant, Ms Nagy. She had received a disability benefit for almost ten years, which was then withdrawn. Her claim to re-start the payments was dismissed, because a legislative change had meant that she was no longer eligible to receive the benefit. The amendment introduced new eligibility requirements, whereby the length of service criteria was replaced with the requirement that an applicant had to have had at least 1,905 days of uninterrupted social security cover in the last five years, in order to qualify for a disability pension. The applicant had only 947 days. The applicant complained that the removal of her disability pension had violated her right to the protection of property.
The ECtHR first established that Article 1 of Protocol No.1 was applicable in the present case as the applicant had been provided with an ‘existing possession’ (her disability benefit) and had a ‘legitimate expectation’ to continue receiving the possession which amounted to a property right as per Article 1 of Protocol No.1. [Para. 94].
The ECtHR thus turned its attention to whether the interference with the applicant’s right was justifiable. The interference was considered lawful, as it was based on a legislative act (see Iatridis v. Greece [GC], no. 31107/96, § 58, ECHR 1999-II; Wieczorek v. Poland, no. 18176/05, § 58, 8 December 2009; and Vistiņš and Perepjolkins v. Latvia [GC], no. 71243/01, § 96, 25 October 2012), and to have served a legitimate aim of general or public interest which was to t to protect public funds by rationalising the system of disability-related social-security benefits. [Paras 112, 113, 120, 121].
In addition, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 requires that any interference be reasonably proportionate to the aim sought to be realised (see Jahn and Others v. Germany [GC], nos. 46720/99, 72203/01 and 72552/01, §§ 81 94, ECHR 2005 VI).
In this sense, ECtHR noted that the applicant was subjected to a complete deprivation of any entitlements, rather than to a commensurate reduction in her benefits, such as by, for example, calculating an allowance pro rata on the basis of the existing and missing days of social cover in view of the fact that her social-security cover was only 148 days short of the required length.
In the light of the above considerations, the ECtHR held that the disputed measure failed to strike a fair balance between the interests at stake and that there was no reasonable relation of proportionality between the aim pursued and the means applied. [paras 123, 124]. The ECtHR therefore found that, notwithstanding the State’s wide margin of appreciation in this field, the applicant had to bear an excessive individual burden (see Kjartan Ásmundsson v. Iceland, no. 60669/00, § 45, ECHR 2004 IX), amounting to a violation of her rights under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. [Para. 126].