CASE OF POPOV AND CHONIN v. BULGARIA
(Application no. 36094/08)
17 February 2015
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Popov and Chonin v. Bulgaria,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Guido Raimondi, President,
Krzysztof Wojtyczek, judges,
and Françoise Elens-Passos, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 27 January 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 36094/08) against the Republic of Bulgaria lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by two Bulgarian nationals, Mr Dimitar Haralampiev Popov and Mr Veselin Arahangelov Chonin (“the applicants”), on 5 July 2008.
2. The applicants were represented by Ms V. Videnova and Mr G. Stoyanov, lawyers practising in Sofia. The Bulgarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Ms Y. Stoyanova, of the Ministry of Justice.
3. The applicants alleged, in particular, that the procedure whereby they were to receive compensation in lieu of restitution, in respect of forestry land expropriated from their predecessors, had been unjustifiably delayed by the authorities.
4. On 12 September 2012 the application was communicated to the Government.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicants were born in 1930 and 1953 respectively and live in Sofia.
6. Mr Popov is an heir of Mr M. and Mr Chonin is an heir of Ms F. Mr Popov is entitled to one eighth of the inheritance of Mr M., and Mr Chonin to one ninth of the inheritance of Ms F. The applicants’ two predecessors were co-owners of an afforested island in the Danube, currently named Tsibar, measuring, at the time of expropriation, 1,048,000 square metres. Ms F. owned another afforested island measuring 400,000 square metres and other forestry land on the shores of the Danube, totalling 9,300 square metres.
7. The above-mentioned land was nationalised in 1948.
8. As a result of the Danube’s fluvial activity over the years, Tsibar island’s area has increased and it currently measures about 1,500,000 square metres. The second island no longer exists.
B. Initial developments after the adoption of the Forests Restitution Act
9. On 21 October 1998, following the adoption of the 1997 Forests Restitution Act (see paragraph 27 below), Mr Popov and Mr Chonin’s mother, whom Mr Chonin later succeeded, applied for the restitution of their predecessors’ forests and forestry land.
10. By two decisions of 12 December 2000 the Valchedram land commission acknowledged that the heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. had the right to restitution or compensation. Finding that actual restitution was impossible because the forests had become “exclusive State property” (“изключителна държавна собственост”, see paragraph 28 below), the commission decided that the heirs would receive compensation bonds. Those decisions were served on the applicants on 5 October 2001.
11. In the meantime, legislative amendments entered into force repealing the provisions allowing the award of compensation bonds for properties falling under the Forests Restitution Act (see paragraph 27 below) and providing for a sole means of compensation, namely in the form of equivalent State-own land.
12. In the Valchedram district where the forests belonging to the applicants’ predecessors had been situated there was insufficient State-owned land to compensate the applicants and the remaining heirs. In a letter dated 2 July 2003 the Ministry of Agriculture therefore instructed the relevant authorities in the neighbouring Montana district to identify appropriate land.
13. In two decisions of 17 October 2003 the Montana Agriculture and Forestry Department allotted to the heirs of Mr M. a plot of 542,500 square metres, and to the heirs of Ms F. a plot of 933,800 square metres in the Montana district.
14. On 16 March 2004 the applicants applied for judicial review of those decisions, arguing that the allotted land and the forests were not equivalent to the ones their predecessors had owned.
C. Subsequent developments
1. As regards Mr Popov
15. On 27 December 2007, the Montana District Court gave a judgment in the proceedings brought by Mr Popov. Noting that the land and the forests allotted by way of compensation to the heirs of Mr M. were not equivalent to those owned by him in the past, it quashed the respective decision of the Agriculture and Forestry Department of 17 October 2003. Furthermore, on the basis of an expert report commissioned by it, the District Court observed that there were appropriate forests in the area of the village of Gorna Byala Rechka in the adjacent Varshets district. It thus remitted the case for a fresh examination with a view to allotting land in the specified area to the heirs.
16. The judgment was not appealed against and entered into force on 4 March 2008.
17. In a new decision dated 25 February 2009 the Montana Agriculture Department (former Agriculture and Forestry Department) refused to allot the land in the Montana district to the heirs of Mr M., reasoning that the State-owned forests in that area were not sufficient and that the compensation should be provided in the neighbouring Lom district.
18. On an unspecified date Mr Popov challenged that decision before the Montana District Court. In a judgment of 9 November 2012 that court declared the decision null and void as it contradicted the judgment of 27 December 2007 (see paragraph 15 above). It noted, in addition, that it had already been established that there were no appropriate forests in the Lom district. On the basis of expert reports commissioned by it, the District Court identified in the adjacent districts eleven different plots that were suitable to be provided to the heirs of Mr M., and acknowledged their right to receive those plots as compensation.
19. That judgment does not appear to have been appealed against and entered into force on an unspecified date.
20. In execution of the judgment, in three decisions given in January and February 2013 the Berkovitsa and Roman Agriculture Departments allotted to the heirs of Mr M. several plots of forestry land measuring 319,984 square metres in total.
21. In their submissions dated 21 February 2013 the Government assured the Court that the adoption of decisions transferring the remaining land to the heirs of Mr M. was imminent.
2. As regards Mr Chonin
22. In the judicial-review proceedings brought by Mr Chonin against the respective decision of the Montana Agriculture and Forestry Department of 17 October 2003, the Montana District Court issued a judgment on 6 July 2007. It found that the land allotted as compensation to the heirs of Ms F. was indeed of manifestly lower quality than the one previously owned by her. It also found that in the area of the village of Gorno Orizovo in the adjacent Varshets district, there was a plot of forestry land which was equivalent in quality to those previously owned by Ms F. and was even bigger in size. It thus quashed the Montana Agriculture and Forestry Department’s decision of 17 October 2003, acknowledged that the heirs of Ms F. had the right to part of the bigger plot as compensation, and held that it was for the local Agriculture and Forestry Department to apportion the allotted land.
23. That judgment was not appealed against and entered into force on an unspecified date.
24. During the applicants’ ensuing contacts with the authorities it became clear that the afforested area indicated in the judgment of 6 July 2007 was within the territory of the “Vrachanski Balkan” natural park and as such was public property; thus it could not be provided as compensation to the heirs of Ms F. That was pointed out in two letters sent to the applicants, dated respectively 26 August and 10 September 2008, by the Ministry of Agriculture and the administration of the Council of Ministers.
25. It appears that for several years after that, the authorities made no effort to enforce the judgment of 6 July 2007 or to identify other land to be provided to the heirs of Ms F. Not until 23 January 2013 did a commission consisting of members of different State bodies, appointed by the head of the Regional Directorate of Agriculture in Montana, identify thirty-four plots of land in the adjacent districts, measuring 452,024 square metres, which could be provided as compensation to the heirs of Ms F.
26. In their submissions dated 21 February 2013 the Government pointed out that the process would continue, and that the identification of the remaining plots to be transferred to the heirs was imminent.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
27. The Restitution of Title to Forests and Forestry Land Act 1997 (Закон за възстановяване на собствеността върху горите и земите от горския фонд, “the Forests Restitution Act”), provided that persons, or their heirs, whose forestry land had been nationalised after 1944 could request restoration of their ownership rights under certain conditions. Section 6 of the Forests Restitution Act provides that where actual restitution is impossible because, inter alia, the forests and the forestry land have become “exclusive State property” (“изключителна държавна собственост”, see paragraph 28 below) or no longer exist, the former owners are to receive compensation through the transfer of State-owned land and forests equivalent in size and kind. The regulations for the implementation of the Forests Restitution Act initially provided for the possibility to award compensation bonds; that provision was repealed in 2001 and it was decided that former owners whose right to compensation through bonds had already been recognised would be automatically entitled to compensation in the form of State-owned land.
28. Under the Forests Restitution Act, forests that are “exclusive State property” include, inter alia, the territory of islands situated in frontier rivers. Until 2003 territories situated within 200 metres of the State borders were also included in that category.
29. Initially, the bodies competent to take decisions under the Forests Restitution Act were the local agricultural land commissions. In 2002 they were replaced by Agriculture and Forestry Departments, referred to as Agriculture Departments since 2008.
I. PRELIMINARY ISSUE
30. The Court notes at the outset that the present application was lodged by the two applicants, Mr Popov and Mr Chonin. However, after its communication to the respondent Government, the Court received powers of attorney signed by eighteen other heirs of Mr M. and Ms F., authorising Ms Videnova and Mr Stoyanov, the lawyers appointed by the applicants. The heirs claimed that the applicants had lodged the application as their “representatives”. They referred to a letter sent to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights on 5 June 2008, in which the applicants had indeed stated that they represented all of the heirs, without however presenting any authorisation forms.
31. In the comments submitted in response to the Government’s observations on the present application, Ms Videnova and Mr Stoyanov discussed once again the rights of all the heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. The claims for just satisfaction accompanying the comments also concerned all of the heirs.
32. However, the Court notes that at no stage of the procedure prior to the communication did it receive any statement on the part of the remaining heirs indicating their wish to complain to it. After the communication they sent authority forms, but again failed to state expressly that they wished to raise complaints. Accordingly, the Court sees no reason to consider the remaining heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. applicants in the present case and will treat as applicants only Mr Popov and Mr Chonin.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL NO. 1
33. Relying on Articles 6 § 1 and 13 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, the applicants complained that the State authorities had delayed excessively the provision of compensation for their predecessors’ forests and forestry land. They complained in addition that they could not obtain the restitution in kind of Tsibar island, that any forestry land they might receive on the mainland would be of a lesser value than an island, and that they could not seek compensation for the loss thus incurred, or for the whole surface of Tsibar island, as it currently exists (see paragraph 8 above).
34. The Court is of the view that it is appropriate to examine the complaints under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 alone, which reads as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”
35. The Government contested the complaints. They argued, in particular, that the delays in providing compensation to the applicants had been caused by the complexity of the procedure.
36. The applicants disagreed and argued that the delays had been caused by the authorities’ confused and contradictory actions, by the lack of willingness on their part to solve the problems, and by their lengthy periods of inactivity.
37. In so far as the applicants complained that they could obtain neither the restitution of Tsibar island, nor compensation for its greater value (see paragraph 33 above), the Court reiterates that an applicant can allege a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 only to the extent that the impugned decisions related to his “possessions” within the meaning of this provision. “Possessions” can be either “existing possessions” or assets, including claims, in respect of which the applicant can argue that he or she has at least a “legitimate expectation” of obtaining effective enjoyment of a property right (see, as a leading authority, Kopecký v. Slovakia [GC], no. 44912/98, § 35, ECHR 2004-IX). In addition, Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 cannot be interpreted as imposing any general obligation on the Contracting States to restore property which was transferred to them before they ratified the Convention; nor does Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 impose any restrictions on the Contracting States’ freedom to determine the scope of property restitution and to choose the conditions under which they agree to restore property rights of former owners. Once the State has excluded certain properties from the scope of restitution, the former owners’ claims for restitution cannot provide the basis for a “legitimate expectation” attracting the protection of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see ibid., also Von Maltzan and Others v. Germany (dec.) [GC], nos. 71916/01, 71917/01 and 10260/02, § 74, ECHR 2005-V).
38. In the case at hand, the applicable domestic law, namely the Forests Restitution Act, did not provide for the restitution in kind of Tsibar island, which was considered to have become “exclusive State property”. Nor did it provide for compensation for the fact that the island’s value was greater than that of any land on the mainland (see paragraphs 28-29 above). Accordingly, as that property was excluded from the scope of the restitution, in view of the general principles set out in the preceding paragraph the applicants had not acquired a “legitimate expectation” in that regard, capable of triggering the protection of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
39. It follows that this part of the application is incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention within the meaning of Article 35 § 3(a) and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 § 4.
40. On the other hand, the Court is of the view that the remaining complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, concerning the delays in providing compensation to the applicants, in accordance with the modalities provided for by the Forests Restitution Act, is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention, nor inadmissible on any other ground. It must therefore be declared admissible.
41. The Court has found violations of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 in numerous cases against Bulgaria concerning the application of legislation on the restitution of agricultural land, on the ground of lengthy delays in the procedures, which affected the applicants’ right to restitution or compensation (see, for example, Lyubomir Popov v. Bulgaria, no. 69855/01, 7 January 2010; Naydenov v. Bulgaria, no. 17353/03, 26 November 2009; Vasilev and Doycheva v. Bulgaria, no. 14966/04, 31 May 2012; and Nedelcheva and Others v. Bulgaria, no. 5516/05, 28 May 2013). In the case of Vasilev and Doycheva (see § 69 of the judgment) the Court concluded that the problem was recurrent and expressed the view that the Bulgarian authorities had to provide for clear time-limits for the adoption and enforcement of administrative decisions necessary for the completion of the process of restitution, namely for the determination of the assets due to the claimants and for their delivery.
42. The present case raises issues similar to those examined in the cases above.
43. The applicants’ right to receive compensation in lieu of restitution arose on 12 December 2000 when the Valchedram land commission adopted its decisions acknowledging the right of the heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. to receive compensation bonds (see paragraph 10 above). Shortly afterwards, with the adoption of amendments to the regulations for the implementation of the Forests Restitution Act, the applicants’ right to receive bonds was transformed into a right to receive compensation through comparable State-owned land (see paragraphs 11 and 27 above).
44. At the time of the latest communication from the parties in 2013, that compensation had not yet been provided to the applicants in full. The procedure in respect of Mr Popov was close to completion, as the Berkovitsa and Roman Agriculture Departments had already adopted the necessary decisions transferring to the heirs of Mr M. part of the land due to them, and the adoption of the remaining decisions appeared to have been imminent (see paragraphs 20-21 above). On the other hand, as regards Mr Chonin, in 2013 the authorities were yet to identify all of the plots to be provided as compensation to the heirs of Ms F., and to adopt formal decisions transferring property to them (see paragraphs 25-26 above).
45. The Government justified the delays in the restitution procedure on account of its complexity (see paragraph 35 above). The Court agrees that the restitution process must have been difficult and obviously took time to accomplish. In the case at hand it was particularly complicated by the fact that the forests previously owned by Mr M. and Ms F. were large and apparently of high quality, which rendered the identification of appropriate land to be provided as compensation difficult.
46. However, the Court observes that the difficulties encountered by the authorities were to a great extent caused by the inflexible legislation enacted by the State, which, even in cases such as the present one, where the identification of land suitable to be provided as compensation appears to have been difficult, did not provide for any other possible means of compensation.
47. In addition, the Court is not convinced that the complexity of the restitution process and the difficulties indicated above were the sole reasons for the lengthy delays in the present case.
48. As early as 2003 the Montana Agricultural and Forestry Department adopted decisions allotting two plots of land to the heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. (see paragraph 13 above), but those decisions were subsequently quashed as they were found to be in breach of the law (see paragraphs 15 and 22 above). The judicial proceedings instituted by the applicants continued until 2007. In the case of the heirs of Mr M., the Montana Agriculture Department (formerly the Agriculture and Forestry Department) adopted once again a decision which was quashed as unlawful, thus causing additional delay from 2009 to 2012 (see paragraphs 17-18 above).
49. Some delay and confusion were apparently also caused by the Montana District Court’s judgments of 6 July and 27 December 2007 (see paragraphs 15 and 22 above), which acknowledged that the heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. had the right to receive specific plots of land in compensation, but it was apparently impossible to deliver the plots at issue and they had to be replaced by other properties. That was especially evident in respect of the heirs of Ms F. The Montana District Court allotted to them a plot of land situated within the territory of a natural park, which was public property and could not be used for compensation in lieu of restitution (see paragraph 24 above).
50. In addition, the Court is not convinced that the authorities acted with the necessary diligence and determination to resolve the situation. In the case of the heirs of Ms F., after claiming that the Montana District Court’s judgment of 6 July 2007 was unenforceable, they did not propose any solution or way out of the deadlock until 2013, that is only after the present application had been communicated to the Government by the Court in 2012 (see paragraphs 4 and 25 above). The Government have not provided any explanation for that lengthy period of inactivity.
51. On the other hand, no substantial delays in the procedure appear to have been caused by the behaviour of the applicants, whose actions sought to defend their interests in a legitimate manner.
52. Accordingly, the Court considers that the national authorities were responsible for lengthy unjustified delays in the restitution process. It is also of the view that these delays must have placed the applicants in a situation of prolonged uncertainty (see Lyubomir Popov, § 123, and Nedelcheva and Others, § 82, both cited above).
53. The foregoing considerations are sufficient to enable the Court to conclude that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, on account of the lengthy delays in providing compensation in lieu of restitution to the applicants.
III. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
54. The applicants also complained under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the authorities had failed to enforce the Montana District Court’s judgments of 6 July and 27 December 2007.
55. Article 6 § 1, in so far as relevant, reads:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ... everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal ...”.
56. The Government stated that the judgment of 27 December 2007 (concerning the heirs of Mr M.) had been enforced, and that the judgment of 6 July 2007 (concerning the heirs of Ms F.) could not be enforced as it had allotted to the claimants land situated within the territory of a national park.
57. The applicants did not comment specifically on that complaint.
58. The Court notes that this complaint is linked to the one examined above and must therefore likewise be declared admissible.
59. However, the Court observes that even though the authorities did not provide to the applicants and the remaining heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. the exact plots of land indicated in the judgments of 6 July and 27 December 2007, they eventually expressed their readiness to replace them with other equivalent land, to which the applicants do not appear to object. Accordingly, the only issue that remains to be examined concerns the delays in the enforcement of those judgments. However, those delays have already been taken into account under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 above. Accordingly, the Court considers that it is not necessary to examine the same issue separately under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
IV. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
60. Article 41 of the Convention provides:
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
A. Pecuniary damage
61. Under this head, Mr Chonin and the remaining heirs of Ms F. claimed, in the first place, 2,897,587.60 euros (EUR) for “the value of the unrealised right to property amounting to 933,800 square metres of land and forests”. The heirs, including Mr Chonin, stated that in view of the accumulated delays in the restitution procedure, they had lost all hope of effectively obtaining compensation in lieu of restitution, and thus requested the Court to award them an amount corresponding to a fair valuation of Tsibar island and the remaining land taken from Ms F. in 1948.
62. Together with the remaining heirs of Ms F., Mr Chonin claimed a further EUR 477,265.40 for lost profit. Mr Popov, together with the remaining heirs of Mr M., claimed EUR 276,708 on that account. The applicants claimed that those amounts corresponded to the lost profit from the production of timber for the period from 2003 to 2013, and from services related to “the ecosystem of Tsibar island”.
63. In support of their claims for pecuniary damages, the applicants submitted a report prepared by an expert appointed by them. The expert’s calculations were entirely based on the value and the possible economic exploitation of Tsibar island.
64. The Government considered the applicants’ claims for pecuniary damage exaggerated and “arbitrary”.
65. The Court reiterates that it has only found a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 in relation to the excessive delays in the restitution procedure. It does not discern any causal link between that violation and the sum claimed by Mr Chonin for the value of his “unrealised right to property”. The process of awarding compensation to the heirs of Ms F. is under way (see paragraphs 25-26 above) and there appears to be no valid reason why it would not be completed. Moreover, Mr Chonin’s claim is based on the value of Tsibar island (see paragraphs 61 and 63 above), whereas under the applicable domestic law he and the remaining heirs of Ms F. had no legitimate expectation to receive that land (see paragraph 38 above).
66. The remaining claims for pecuniary damage (see paragraph 62 above) were also based on the possible economic exploitation of Tsibar island (see paragraph 63 above). However, as already noted, the applicants were not entitled to receive or exploit that island, which was always considered “exclusive State property”. Accordingly, the Court sees no ground to award the applicants the amounts claimed by them for lost profit from the island’s use.
B. Non-pecuniary damage
67. Mr Popov claimed EUR 6,340 and Mr Chonin claimed EUR 3,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. Both of them argued that they had suffered distress and frustration as a result of the violations of their rights.
68. The Government contended that those claims were unjustified and exaggerated. They urged the Court, in the event that it found a violation of the applicants’ rights, to conclude that the finding in itself represented sufficient just satisfaction.
69. The Court is of the view that the applicants must have suffered non-pecuniary damage as a result of the delays and the uncertainty in the restitution process. Taking into account the circumstances of the case, and judging on the basis of equity, it awards Mr Popov EUR 1,500 and Mr Chonin EUR 2,500 under this head.
C. Costs and expenses
70. For costs and expenses, the applicants and the remaining heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. claimed, in the first place, 2,656.50 Bulgarian levs (BGN), the equivalent of EUR 1,360, for court fees and other expenses incurred in relation to the judicial proceedings initiated by the applicants, described in paragraphs 15, 18 and 22 above. In support of that claim the applicants presented the relevant receipts.
71. For the proceedings before the Court, the applicants and the remaining heirs of Mr M. and Ms F. claimed the following amounts: (1) BGN 6,500 (the equivalent of EUR 3,316) for Mr Popov and the other heirs of Mr M., and BGN 132,012 (the equivalent of EUR 67,350) for Mr Chonin and the other heirs of Ms F. for remuneration of their lawyers, Ms Videnova and Mr Stoyanov; (2) BGN 456.63 (the equivalent of EUR 234) for postage and translation; and (3) BGN 7,250 (the equivalent of EUR 3,700) for the expert report relied on in support of their claims for pecuniary damage (see paragraph 63 above). In support of the claim under (1), the applicants presented contracts for legal representation, indicating that they had actually paid their lawyers part of the sums claimed. In support of the claims under (2) and (3), the applicants presented the relevant receipts.
72. The Government considered the claims for the lawyers’ fees exaggerated and “absurd”. They argued in addition that the expenses incurred for an expert report had been unnecessary.
73. According to the Court’s case-law, an applicant is entitled to the reimbursement of costs and expenses only in so far as it has been shown that these have been actually and necessarily incurred and are reasonable as to quantum.
74. In the present case, the applicants claimed, first, reimbursement of the expenses incurred by them in the domestic proceedings. However, the Court notes that these proceedings were not aimed at discontinuing or remedying the violation found in the case, which concerned the delays and the uncertainty in the restitution process. Moreover, the applicants were successful in those proceedings and could have sought the reimbursement of the expenses at the domestic level (see Nedelcheva and Others, cited above, § 98). Accordingly, the Court dismisses this part of the claim.
75. The applicants also claimed EUR 70,666 for the remuneration of their lawyers and EUR 234 for postage and translation for the proceedings before the Court. The Court agrees with the Government that these claims are highly exaggerated. It notes, in particular, that the present case concerns a repetitive complaint, as seen from the case-law referred to in paragraph 41 above. Accordingly, the Court considers it appropriate to award EUR 1,000, to cover all expenses under the present head.
76. Lastly, the Court sees no reason to reimburse the expenses incurred for an expert report, because they are not related to the nature of the violation found in the case (see Karaivanova and Mileva v. Bulgaria, no. 37857/05, § 95, 17 June 2014). Moreover, as already mentioned, that report concerned the value and the profits from the use of a property to which the applicants were not entitled at any stage of the proceedings.
D. Default interest
77. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 regarding the delays and the uncertainty in the restitution process, and the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention concerning the authorities’ failure to enforce the Montana District Court’s judgments of 6 July and 27 December 2007 admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
3. Holds that there is no need to examine the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicants, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into Bulgarian levs at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) to Mr Popov EUR 1,500 (one thousand five hundred euros), and to Mr Chonin EUR 2,500 (two thousand five hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) jointly to the two applicants, EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
5. Dismisses the remainder of the applicants’ claims for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 17 February 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Françoise Elens-Passos Guido