CASE OF HOUSING ASSOCIATION OF WAR DISABLED AND VICTIMS OF WAR OF ATTICA AND OTHERS v. GREECE
(Application no. 35859/02)
13 July 2006
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 Housing Association of War Disabled and Victims of War of Attica and Others v. Greece,
The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr L. Loucaides,
Mr C.L. Rozakis,
Mrs F. Tulkens,
Mrs E. Steiner,
Mr K. Hajiyev,
Mr D. Spielmann,
Mr S.E. Jebens, judges,
and Mr S. Nielsen, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 22 June 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
A. The Constitution
“1. Property is protected by the State; rights deriving therefrom, however, may not be exercised contrary to public interest.
2. No one shall be deprived of his property except in the public interest, which must be duly shown, when and as specified by law and always following full compensation corresponding to the value of the expropriated property at the time of the court hearing on the provisional determination of compensation. In cases in which a request for the final determination of compensation is made, the value at the time of the court hearing of the request shall be considered...”
Article 24 § 1
“The protection of the natural and cultural environment is an obligation of the State. The State is bound to take special preventive or repressive measures for the preservation of the environment. Matters pertaining to the protection of forests and woodland in general shall be regulated by law. It is forbidden to alter the status and use of State forests and woodland, except where agricultural development or other use is paramount for the national economy and serves the public interest.”
Article 117 § 4
“The expropriation of forests or woodland that belong to private individuals or corporations is allowed only for the benefit of the State, according to Article 17 of the Constitution [which provides the conditions for the taking of property], for the public interest; their status as forests or woodlands is not thereby changed.”
B. The Protection of Forests and Forest Lands Act (Law no. 998/1979)
Section 50 (3)
“Forests and private woodland belonging to Housing Associations at the time of entry into force of this law and which cannot lawfully become a residential area or be included in such an area according to [§§ 1 and 2 of this Section], shall be expropriated by the State at the expense of the Central Fund of Agriculture and Forests, or shall be exchanged with land of equal value or other vacant land which is under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and has been included in a residential area according to current legislation. The expropriation shall take place by virtue of a joint decision of the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture, on the basis of an opinion by the Forestry Technical Council...”
In 1987 the Supreme Administrative Court held that “in its true meaning [Section 50 of Law no. 998/1979] regulated the status of private forests and woodland purchased by housing associations”; it thus considered that the above provision was not applicable in a case where land was donated to a housing association (judgment no. 4884/1987).
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1
“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.”
A. The parties’ submissions
B. The Court’s assessment
III. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“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.”
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) reserves the said question in whole;
(b) invites the Government and the applicants to submit, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, their written observations on the matter and, in particular, to notify the Court of any agreement that they may reach;
(c) reserves the further procedure and delegates to the President of the Chamber the power to fix the same if need be.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 13 July 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Søren Nielsen Loukis Loucaides