NEWS

‘Just satisfaction’ for ex-king

In its ruling granting pecuniary damages totaling 13.7 million euros to three members of the former royal family following the confiscation of their property by the Greek State, the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged the applicants’ argument that they had owned their properties as private individuals rather than in their capacity as members of the monarchy (which was abolished by referendum in 1974). It found, though, that the expropriation would have been legitimate if the 1994 decision on the matter had allowed them compensation. Below is the Court Registrar’s press release on the court’s judgment: The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered judgment at a public hearing in the case of the Former King of Greece & Others v Greece (application no. 25701/94) concerning just satisfaction under Article 41 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court decided, unanimously, to award, for pecuniary damage: 12,000,000 euros (EUR) to former King Constantine of Greece; EUR 900,000 to Princess Irene; and, EUR 300,000 to Princess Ekaterini. The Court also awarded EUR 500,000 jointly to the three applicants for costs and expenses. In its principal judgment (delivered on 23 November 2000) the Court found that the applicants owned the properties in question – the Tatoi, the Polydendri and the Mon Repos estates – as private individuals rather than in their capacity as members of the royal family. The expropriation of these properties would have been legitimate, however, had the Greek State paid the applicants compensation. The Court held, by 15 votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights and, unanimously, that it was not necessary to examine the applicants’ complaint under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. 1. Principal facts The applicants are: the former King of Greece, his sister, the Princess Irene, and his aunt, the Princess Ekaterini. The first applicant lives in London, the second in Madrid and the third in Buckinghamshire. The case concerns the ownership status of the Greek Royal property. The applicants’ complaints arise out of Law No. 2215/1994, which was passed by the Greek State on 16 April 1994 and came into force on 11 May 1994. By virtue of Article 2 of this Law, the Greek State became the owner of the applicants’ movable and immovable property. There is no provision for compensation in this Law. On 25 June 1997 the Supreme Special Court held that Law No. 2215/1994 is constitutional, which renders ineffective any further attempt by the applicants to seek judicial protection of their property rights. Before the European Court of Human Rights, the applicants complained that their right to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions and their right not to be subjected to discrimination, guaranteed under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and Article 14, had been violated. 2. Procedure, composition The application was lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights on 21 October 1994. Having declared the application partly admissible, the Commission adopted a report on 21 October 1999 in which it expressed the unanimous opinion that there had been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 and that it was not necessary to examine whether there had been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken together with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. It referred the case to the Court on 30 October 1999 and on 6 December 1999 the panel of the Grand Chamber determined that the case should be decided by the Grand Chamber of 17 judges and also Paul Mahoney, Registrar. (Georgios Koumantos represented Greece as an ad hoc judge and, along with Slovenian judge Bostjan Zupancic, provided the dissenting vote in November 2000.) 3. Decision of the Court The Court observed that the compensation to be fixed did not need to reflect the idea of wiping out all the consequences of the interference in question. As the lack of any compensation, rather than the inherent illegality of the taking, was the basis of the violation found, the compensation did not need necessarily to reflect the full value of the properties. The Court also considered that less than full compensation might be called for where the taking of property was resorted to with a view to completing fundamental changes to a country’s constitutional system such as the transition from a monarchy to a republic. In conclusion, the Court deemed it appropriate to fix a lump sum based, as far as possible, on an amount «reasonably related» to the value of the property taken, i.e. an amount which the Court would have found acceptable under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, had the Greek State compensated the applicants. In determining the amount the Court took into account the claims of each applicant, the question of the movable property, the valuations submitted by the parties and the possible options for calculating the pecuniary damage, as well as the lapse of time between the dispossession and the present judgment. New use for royal estates «This decision puts a decisive and irrevocable end to the demands of the former king against Greece and the Greek State for Tatoi, Mon Repos and Polydendri,» Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday after the European Court of Human Rights ruling, referring to the three estates. «Three historic and culturally and environmentally significant estates have come into the ownership of the Greek people. After today’s decision they can now be utilized without any hindrance.» He said that the Mon Repos estate and summer palace had already been given to the people of Corfu and that its owner, the Municipality of Corfu, had ceded it to the Culture Ministry for 50 years. «Entry to the estate is free. The monuments and gardens have been cleaned and maintained. There is a conference center and outdoor theater. The palace was refurbished and turned into a museum,» Simitis said. The 4,200 hectare site at Tatoi north of Athens will be used a locale for walks and recreation. «The existing buildings, which have historical value, will be refurbished and used for cultural events,» Simitis said. The Polydendri estate in central Greece has been included in the EU’s Natura 2000 network. It will be a protected area and parts of it will be used for «low-impact economic activity,» Simitis added.