CASE OF LUCZAK v. POLAND
(Application no. 77782/01)
27 November 2007
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 Luczak v. Poland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Sir Nicolas Bratza, President,
Mr J. Casadevall,
Mr G. Bonello,
Mr K. Traja,
Mr S. Pavlovschi,
Mr L. Garlicki,
Ms L. Mijović, judges,
and Mr T.L. Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 6 November 2007,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL LAW
A. The European Social Charter 1961
24. The European Social Charter 1961 (“the Social Charter”), which entered into force in respect of Poland on 25 July 1997, provides, as relevant:
“The governments signatory hereto, being members of the Council of Europe, ...
Considering that the enjoyment of social rights should be secured without discrimination on grounds of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin; ...
Have agreed as follows: ...”
“The Contracting Parties undertake, as provided for in Part III, to consider themselves bound by the obligations laid down in the following articles and paragraphs. ...”
Article 12 - The right to social security
“With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to social security, the Contracting Parties undertake:
1. to establish or maintain a system of social security;
2. to maintain the social security system at a satisfactory level at least equal to that required for ratification of International Labour Convention (No. 102) Concerning Minimum Standards of Social Security;
3. to endeavour to raise progressively the system of social security to a higher level;
4. to take steps, by the conclusion of appropriate bilateral and multilateral agreements, or by other means, and subject to the conditions laid down in such agreements, in order to ensure:
a. equal treatment with their own nationals of the nationals of other Contracting Parties in respect of social security rights, including the retention of benefits arising out of social security legislation, whatever movements the persons protected may undertake between the territories of the Contracting Parties;
b. the granting, maintenance and resumption of social security rights by such means as the accumulation of insurance or employment periods completed under the legislation of each of the Contracting Parties.”
B. Constitutional provisions
“1. Any person within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Poland shall enjoy the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
2. Exemptions from this principle with respect to aliens shall be specified by statute.”
Article 67 § 1 of the Constitution provides:
“A citizen shall have the right to social security whenever incapacitated for work by reason of sickness or invalidity as well as having attained retirement age. The scope and forms of social security shall be specified by statute.”
C. Social security scheme for farmers
“The social security [scheme] for farmers shall cover farmers of Polish nationality and Polish members of their household working with them.”
D. The general social security scheme for employees
E. The bilateral agreement between Poland and France
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 14 TAKEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1 TO THE CONVENTION
“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.”
Article 14 provides:
“The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in [the] Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.”
A. The arguments of the parties
1. The applicant
2. The Government
B. The Court's assessment
1. General principles
46. The applicant complained of a difference in treatment on the basis of nationality, which falls within the non-exhaustive list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in Article 14.
48. The scope of this margin will vary according to the circumstances, the subject matter and the background (see Petrovic v. Austria, judgment of 27 March 1998, Reports 1998-II, § 38). As a general rule, very weighty reasons would have to be put forward before the Court could regard a difference of treatment based exclusively on the ground of nationality as compatible with the Convention (see Gaygusuz v. Austria, judgment of 16 September 1996, Reports 1996-IV, p. 1142, § 42, and Koua Poirrez v. France, no. 40892/98, § 46, ECHR 2003-X). On the other hand, a wide margin is usually allowed to the State under the Convention when it comes to general measures of economic or social strategy (see, for example, James and Others v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 21 February 1986, Series A no. 98, § 46, and National and Provincial Building Society and Others v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 23 October 1997, Reports 1997-VII, § 80). Because of their direct knowledge of their society and its needs, the national authorities are in principle better placed than the international judge to appreciate what is in the public interest on social or economic grounds, and the Court will generally respect the legislature's policy choice unless it is “manifestly without reasonable foundation” (ibid.).
2. Application of these principles to the present case
II. 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.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
1. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, 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 the national currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros) in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 5,000 (five thousand euros) in respect of costs and expenses;
(iii) any tax that may be chargeable on the above amounts;
(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;
3. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant's claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 27 November 2007, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
T.L. Early Nicolas
 Bill on amendments to the 1990 Act and certain other laws, submitted to the Sejm on 26 March 2003 (no. 1489).