Cyprus / Supreme Court of Cyprus / Αppeals against Administrative Court decisions n. 177/18, 75/19, 76/19, 77/19, 79/19, 80/19, 84/19 και 85/19

Republic of Cyprus v. Avgousti et al
Deciding body type
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding body
Supreme Court of Cyprus
Decision date
ECLI (European case law identifier)
  • Cyprus / Supreme Court of Cyprus / Αppeals against Administrative Court decisions n. 177/18, 75/19, 76/19, 77/19, 79/19, 80/19, 84/19 και 85/19
    Key facts of the case:

    The Supreme Court examined an appeal submitted by the government seeking to reverse a trial court ruling of the Administrative Court, which had found that the deduction of salaries, pay rises and cost of living adjustments in the salaries of public sector employees, as part of the austerity agenda to address the financial crisis, was unlawful. The trial court had ruled that that since pensions were found by judicial precedent to amount to ‘property’ and therefore deserving protection in the same way as property,  then salaries, increment and other pay increases also met the definition of ‘property’, as such, deserving the same level of protection as property.   

    The Supreme Court reversed the trial court decision and established that the reduction of salaries does not infringe the right to property, since the Constitution permits specific limitations to this right aimed at safeguarding public benefit or the protection of the rights of others.1   The Supreme Court did not dispute the trial court finding that a salary is property and as such it is protected. However it moved on to analyse the right along the lines of the different wording between the Cypriot Constitution (article 23) and article 1 of the ECHR Protocol 1: whilst Protocol 1 permits restrictions to property rights for reasons of public benefit, the Cypriot Constitution does not include public benefit or public interest in the reasons for restricting the right to property. Instead the Constitution provides for an incidental regulation of the right, leading to a closed number of permitted exceptions: restrictions must be absolutely necessary for public safety, public health, public morals or townplanning or development or utilisation of any property to the promotion of the public benefit or for the protection of the rights of others. By contrast, Protocol 1 to the ECHR  permits deprivation if it is lawful, in the public interest, in accordance with the general principles of international law and reasonably proportionate ("fair balance" test), which is a less stringent test than the ‘absolutely necessary’ test provided in the Cypriot Constitution.

    On the basis of that, the Constitution provides a higher degree of protection than ECHR Protocol 1.  The Supreme Court accepted that article 53 of the ECHR and article 53 of the Charter do not permit a limitation of rights protected at national level by invoking the ECHR.

    Key legal question raised by the Court:
    Whether the salary of public sector employees can be reduced where the circumstances are such that necessitate reduction. The Supreme Court found that the point where the trial court had erred was the meaning of ‘salary’ protected by the Constitution. Relying on judicial precedent 2 which established that the right to property under article 23 does not refer to a salary of a specific amount, the Supreme Court concluded that a change in the salary under conditions which are critical for the economy does not infringe article 23 of the Constitution, provided that the employee’s dignified living is not prejudiced. In light of this, what remains to be determined is whether the surrounding circumstances justify the salary reduction and the restriction is not arbitrary. The Court proceeded to examine the reasonableness of the salary reductions, taking into consideration the fact that the salary decreases were gradual and proportionate depending on the level of the income. The Court noted that no salary deductions were made for low-income employees and generally found the measure proportionate, since the reductions commenced in 2019 and are scheduled to terminate in 2023 and the aim was to reinforce the viability of the state pension scheme or another similar scheme.
    Outcome of the case:
    The Court concluded that the salary deductions did not affect the nucleus of the right to a salary and to a pension nor did they jeopardise the dignified subsistence of the respondents, who did not themselves raise such an issue. The appeals succeeded and the trial court decisions were nullified, thus legitimising the salary deductions of the public sector employees, which had commenced in 2019.
  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    It is common ground that, under Article 53 of the ECHR and Article 53 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, it is not legitimate to invoke a right or a freedom of the ECHR to restrict or revoke a fundamental right already recognized by national law. …. A similar provision as Article 1 of the Protocol is contained in Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union as formally proclaimed in Nice in December 2000 and became a legally binding instrument under the Treaty of Lisbon on December 20, 2009 (EEC 202 of 7.6.2016). The following may also be mentioned here: first, under Article 53 of the Charter of the European Union, no provision of the Charter can be interpreted as restricting or adversely affecting human rights and fundamental freedoms recognised by Union law and international law and by international agreements to which the Union or all the Member States are party, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and by the Member States' constitutions , (emphasis added). Secondly, the Charter is ancillary and applies only when Union legislation is involved (Wachauf, case no. 5/88, 13.7.1989, KjellKarlsson & Others C-292/97, 13.4. 2000 and ӒkebergFransson C-617/10). Third, Article 17 contains the "public interest" element, as the only substantial reason for deprivation of property and "in exchange for fair and timely compensation for its loss." Clearly, therefore, Article 17 of the Charter is not even included in the picture to be examined, nor, of course, was it mentioned in the Laws in question, nor is there any question of an interpretation of EU law in this case. … The answer is that there are no such terms. Therefore, even Article 1 of the Protocol could not save the disputed laws, even if that Article were applicable. It is recalled that the Charter of Fundamental Freedoms of the European Union does not apply in the event that EU legislation is not interpreted. … The right to property is protected, in addition to by Article 23 of the Constitution and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as well as by Article 17 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language)

    Δεν αμφισβητείται ότι σύμφωνα με το άρθρο 53 της ΕΣΔΑ και το άρθρο 53 του Χάρτη Θεμελιακών Δικαιωμάτων της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης δεν είναι θεμιτή η επίκληση δικαιώματος ή ελευθερίας της ΕΣΔΑ για να περιοριστεί ή να αναιρεθεί θεμελιώδες δικαίωμα που ήδη αναγνωρίζεται από την εθνική έννομη τάξη.

    …. Παρόμοια πρόνοια, όπως του Άρθρου 1 του Πρωτοκόλλου, περιλαμβάνεται και στο Άρθρο 17 του Χάρτη Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης όπως ανακηρύχθηκε επίσημα στη Νίκαια το Δεκέμβριο του 2000 και κατέστη νομικά δεσμευτικό έγγραφο δυνάμει της Συνθήκης της Λισαβώνας, το Δεκέμβριο του 2009, (EEC 202 της 7.6.2016). Μπορούν εδώ να αναφερθούν και τα εξής: πρώτον, δυνάμει του Άρθρου 53 του Χάρτη της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης, καμία διάταξη αυτού «δεν πρέπει να ερμηνεύεται ως περιορίζουσα ή θίγουσα τα δικαιώματα του ανθρώπου και τις θεμελιώδεις ελευθερίες που αναγνωρίζονται στα αντίστοιχα πεδία εφαρμογής από το δίκαιο της Ένωσης, το διεθνές δίκαιο καθώς και από τις διεθνείς συμβάσεις στις οποίες είναι μέρη η Ένωση ή όλα τα κράτη μέλη, και ιδίως από την Ευρωπαϊκή Σύμβαση για την Προστασία των Δικαιωμάτων του Ανθρώπου και των Θεμελιωδών Ελευθεριών, καθώς και από τα Συντάγματα των κρατών μελών.», (η έμφαση προστέθηκε). Δεύτερο, ο Χάρτης έχει επικουρικό χαρακτήρα και τυγχάνει εφαρμογής μόνο όταν εμπλέκεται στο ζητούμενο η νομοθεσία της Ένωσης, (Wachauf, υπόθ. αρ. 5/88, ημερ. 13.7.1989, KjellKarlsson & Others C-292/97, ημερ. 13.4.2000 και ӒkebergFranssonC-617/10). Τρίτο, το Άρθρο 17, περιέχει την «δημόσια ωφέλεια», ως το μόνο ουσιαστικό λόγο στέρησης ιδιοκτησίας και «έναντι δίκαιης και έγκαιρης αποζημίωσης για την απώλεια της.» Σαφώς, επομένως, το Άρθρο 17 του Χάρτη δεν εισάγεται καν στην εικόνα προς εξέταση, ούτε και βεβαίως μνημονεύθηκε στους επίδικους Νόμους, ούτε και τίθεται εν προκειμένω ζήτημα ερμηνείας ενωσιακού δικαίου. … Η απάντηση είναι ότι δεν υπάρχουν τέτοιοι όροι. Επομένως, ούτε με το Άρθρο 1 του Πρωτοκόλλου θα μπορούσαν οι επίδικες νομοθεσίες να διασωθούν, ακόμη και αν το Άρθρο αυτό τύγχανε εφαρμογής. Υπενθυμίζεται ότι ούτε ο Χάρτης Θεμελιωδών Ελευθεριών της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης ισχύει στην περίπτωση εφόσον δεν τίθενται υπό ερμηνεία Ευρωπαϊκές νομοθεσίες. … Το δικαίωμα ιδιοκτησίας προστατεύεται εκτός από το Άρθρο 23 του Συντάγματος και από το Άρθρο 1 του Πρωτοκόλλου ΑΡ.1 της Ευρωπαϊκής Σύμβασης Ανθρωπίνων Δικαιωμάτων (ΕΣΔΑ) όπως και από το Άρθρο 17 του Χάρτη Θεμελιωδών Δικαιωμάτων της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης