Applications regarding the reduction of old-age pensions in Serbia are inadmissible

In the case of Žegarac and Others v. Serbia (application no. 54805/15 and 10 other applications, (09.02.2023) European Court of Human Rights unanimously, decided to declare eight of the applications inadmissible.

The case primarily concerned the 11 applicants’ complaints that the payment of their old-age pensions had been reduced from November 2014 to September 2018. The reduction followed legislative amendments introduced by the Government as part of a wider set of austerity measures. The legislation was repealed once it was considered that public debt had been sufficiently reduced.

The Court reiterated that Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) did not guarantee, as such, any right to a pension of a particular amount. The applicants were, however, officially recognised beneficiaries of the State’s statutory pension scheme and it was not in dispute that the reduction in their pensions had amounted to an interference with their right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.

That interference had had a legal basis, namely the Pension Reduction Act, which had been comprehensively interpreted by the Constitutional Court in reasoning which this Court found acceptable. Furthermore, the legislation had been published in the Official Gazette, allowing the applicants to foresee its ramifications for their pensions.

The Court ruled in particular that the reduction in pension payments had been limited to recipients of higher pensions, had been temporary – lasting just under four years – and the method used to calculate it had not been unreasonable, entailing a gradually increasing reduction for pensions exceeding 25,000 RSD. Nor had any of the applicants proved that they had been at risk of not having enough means to live or that their living conditions had deteriorated below the subsistence threshold. 

The authorities had therefore struck a fair balance between ensuring the financial stability of the pension system – which was in the general interest of the public – and protecting the applicants’ property rights in order to prevent them from bearing an individual and excessive burden.

It also decided, unanimously, to strike the other three applications out of its list of cases. 

Reference from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights