Sven Giegold and Ernest Urtasun, Green members of the European Parliament’s Financial Assistance Working Group declare:
“The Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and the European institutions has violated international and European human rights law. The new judgements of the European Court of Justice has opened the door for individual victims to demand compensation from the European Commission. Greens in the European Parliament want to support concerned Greek citizens that they are being done justice through European law. Therefore, we call on individual citizens to present their cases to us who believe that they suffered individual damage through cuts in the health system. We will then offer to support the legally most promissing cases to go to court.“
A ground-breaking decision (“Ledra Advertising and others”) for the protection of human rights in times of bailouts and austerity have been issued by the Court of the European Union on the 20th of September 2016. For the first time, the Court has in effect placed financial assistance conditionality under judicial scrutiny. It explicitly stated that the European institutions are bound by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and are obliged to protect the rights of EU citizens in the design and application of MoU programmes.
The CJEU had already been called upon to rule on judicial protection questions raised by the ESM framework. Created in order to provide, where needed, financial assistance to the Euro Member States, the ESM was instituted through an international agreement between Eurozone Member States. Thus, the ESM Treaty was not considered part of the EU legal order, as confirmed by the CJEU in the famous Pringle judgment and human rights violations inflicted in the ESM framework could escape its scrutiny.
Nonetheless, what the above mentioned judgment, emphasize is the link existing between the ESM framework and the EU legal order. In the specific legal case, several Cypriot citizens and one company based in Cyprus claimed compensation for the private deposits haircut in Cyprus in the year 2013. The Court dismissed both their claims for annulment of the relevant MoU provisions and compensation, however, it ruled that the EU is obliged to protect the rights of its citizens.
In contrast to its previous case law, the Court emphasized that the Commission retains, within the framework of the ESM Treaty, its role of guardian of the Treaties Article 17(1) TEU. It is, thus, bound by EU law to the extent that it should refrain from signing a memorandum of understanding whose consistency with EU law, and in particular EU human rights law, it doubts. A failure to do so can give rise to an action for compensation under Articles 268 and 340 TFEU.
Thus, the judges opened the door to damage claims against austerity measures in countries such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus, where individual and social rights are affected. This is particularly pertinent for health care cases, where the expressed MoU goals for the reduction of health expenditure have caused unprecedented obstacles on the access to health services, depriving thousands of EU citizens of adequate medical treatment contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The Greens/Efa group will support people who want to file legal cases.