ECHR judgment of 13 December 2016 in the case of Belane Nagy v. Hungary (aplication No. 53080/13).
In 2013 the applicant was assisted in the preparation of the aplication. Subsequently, the aplication was communicated to Hungary.
In the case, a complaint was successfully considered on the loss of pension benefits in connection with the newly introduced criteria for obtaining rights to them. The case involved a violation of the requirements of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The circumstances of the case
In 2001, the applicant was awarded a disability pension, which was canceled in 2010 after her incapacity for work was reduced as a result of a different methodology. In subsequent years, she underwent new examinations and was eventually assigned to the appropriate qualification level. However, the new legislation, which entered into force in 2012, introduced additional criteria to meet the established requirements, which the applicant did not meet and which related to the duration of the coverage of social insurance. As a consequence, although her degree of disability in other cases would have given her the right to receive a disability benefit under the new system, her claims were rejected. The applicant complained that she had lost her livelihood, guaranteed only with a disability allowance, as a result of legislative changes applied by the authorities in the absence of justice, despite the fact that there was no improvement in her health. In the judgment of 10 February 2015, the Chamber of the European Court established by four votes "for" against three "against" that the case involved a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. In particular, the Chamber of the European Court stated that the applicant was completely deprived of care due to a sharp and unpredictable change in the conditions for her access to disability benefits. On June 1, 2015, at the request of the Government of the respondent State, the case was referred to the Grand Chamber of the European Court.
Concerning compliance with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. (a) Applicability of the complaint. Under certain circumstances, the lawful expectation of obtaining property can be protected by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. A legitimate expectation must have a more concrete nature than simple hope, and should be based on a legal norm or legal act, such as a judicial decision. At the same time, property interest, recognized in accordance with domestic law, even if it can be annulled under certain circumstances, may constitute property.
Changes in social security legislation can be taken as a reaction to public changes and development of views on the categories of people in need of social assistance. If the domestic legal conditions for granting any specific form of benefits or pensions change and the interested person does not fully answer them in connection with the changes in such conditions, careful consideration of the individual circumstances of the case, in particular, the nature of the changes in the claim, is required to verify the existence of a sufficiently established material property interest in accordance with domestic law.
The applicant complied with all the conditions that gave her the right to receive a disability pension for almost 10 years. The decision to grant her a disability pension on the basis of the provisions of the applicable instrument that formed the basis for the initial grant of the right, therefore, can be considered as representing the existing property. Throughout this period, she could, on the basis of this act, maintain a legitimate expectation of continuing to receive disability payments if her disability was maintained at the required level.
The question was whether the applicant still had a legitimate expectation of receiving a disability benefit when the new legislation came into force in 2012. However, The amendment to the legislation specifically established a condition for certain categories of insured persons, including the applicant, that was not predictable during the relevant potential contribution period and which they could not satisfy after the entry into force of the new legislation. During the period between the termination of the applicant's disability pension in 2010 and the introduction by the legislator of a new claim for contributions in 2012, the applicant not only continued to be a part of the social security system, but also continued to meet the required length of service requirements for receiving disability benefits. Consequently, without receiving a pension, she continued to have a legitimate expectation covered by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. Probably, it is meant that the Disability Act N CXCI of 2011, which was put into effect in 2012, established additional criteria for applicants. In particular, instead of the requirement for seniority in the previous legislation, interested persons were required to have at least 1,095 days covered by social security for a five-year period preceding the submission of the application. Those who did not meet this requirement could be granted rights if throughout their careers the break in social coverage did not exceed 30 days or if they received a disability pension or rehabilitation benefit as of December 31, 2011, which did not apply to a pension deprived of 2010 to the applicant.
The applicant's right to receive benefits at the expense of this social insurance system was violated in a way that led to a decrease in her pension rights. Thus, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 was applicable to the present case.
(b) Compliance with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. The European Court recognized that the interference met the requirement of legality and pursued public interest in protecting public funds by rationalizing the system of social insurance payments in connection with disability. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 requires that any interference be reasonably proportionate to the objective pursued. The necessary fair balance will not be established if the individual carries an individual and excessive burden. The applicant was fully deprived of her rights, and not to a proportional reduction of her benefits. She had no other significant income for existence and had difficulty in obtaining profitable employment, referring to a vulnerable group of disabled people. The impugned measure, although aimed at protecting public funds and rationalizing the system of social insurance payments in connection with disability, consisted in the adoption of legislation, which under the circumstances did not establish a fair balance between competing interests. Such considerations could not justify lawmaking with a retrospective effect and in the absence of transitional measures appropriate to the specific situation that entailed the deprivation of the applicant's legitimate expectation that she could receive disability benefits. Such a fundamental interference with the applicant's rights was not combined with maintaining a fair balance between competing interests. There was no reasonable relationship between the proportionality between the pursued goal and the means employed. Despite the broad margin of appreciation of the Government of the respondent State, the applicant had to bear an excessive individual burden.
In the case there was a violation of the requirements of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention (adopted by nine votes "for" with eight "against").
In the application of Article 41 of the Convention. The Court awarded the applicant EUR 5,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage and EUR 10,000 in respect of pecuniary damage. See the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court in the case Kopecky v. Slovakia of 28 September 2004, aplication no. 44912/98, Stec and the Grand Court of the European Court of Human Rights Others v. United Kingdom) of 6 July 2005, aplication s Nos. 65731/01 and 65900/01, Kjartan Asmundsson v. Iceland, judgment of 12 October 2004, aplication No. 60669/00, Klein v. Austria, judgment of 3 March 2011, application no. 57028/00, European Court of Human Rights The case against Moskal v. Poland, dated September 15, 2009, aplication No. 10373/05.