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The Pan-European General Principles on (Local) Public Services and the Rights of their Users

1. Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on local and regional public services

  • Decentralisation of public services
  • Service users’ role in defining, regulating and managing local and regional public services
  • Legal framework governing local and regional public services
  • Performance management of local and regional public services
  • Delegation of public services to the private sector

2. Recommendation No. R (97) 7 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on local public services and the rights of their users

  • Local public services should
    • ensure the principle of equality for users in a complete and practical way and respect the principles of non-discrimination and neutrality
    • guarantee the continuity of essential services for the population within the limits of economic and budgetary constraints
    • contribute to sustainable development and to a balanced and rational distribution of available resources throughout the territory of the local authority.
    • continuously improve the quality of their services to respond to changing social demands
    • organise communication with users ensuring all interested parties appropriate information about their rights and the services which they may obtain, as well as about the applicable rules
    • organise their public services in order to allow users, whenever it is appropriate, to choose between various services or even various suppliers
    • subscribe to the development of users' rights and protection in the framework of the relevant legislation
  • Users of local public services should be recognised and served as such.

3. ECtHR judgement Dzemyuk v. Ukraine (42488/02), September 4, 2014

  • The case concerned a complaint about the construction of a cemetery.
  • In February 2000 Tatariv Village Council decided to construct a new cemetery on a plot of land located near Mr Dzemyuk’s house and garden. The cemetery was opened for use in August 2000. The applicant brought proceedings against the council and, ultimately, in December 2003 the Verkhovyna Court allowed his claims, finding that the plot used to build the cemetery was unsuitable. Notably, the construction was in breach of environmental health laws and regulations in view of its proximity to residential buildings and the risk of contamination of the water supply. The court further ordered Tatariv Council to close the cemetery and pay Mr Dzemyuk compensation. This judgment was upheld by the Supreme Court in October 2006 but remained unenforced.
  • The cemetery was built and used in breach of the domestic regulations. It further appreciates the difficulties and possible costs in tackling environmental concerns associated with water pollution in mountainous regions. At the same time, it notes that the siting and use of the cemetery were illegal in a number of ways: environmental regulations were breached; the conclusions of the environmental authorities were disregarded; final and binding judicial decisions were never enforced and the health and environment dangers inherent in water pollution were not acted upon. The ECtHR finds that the interference with the applicant’s right to respect for his home and private and family life was not “in accordance with the law” within the meaning of Article 8 of the Convention.
  • There has consequently been a violation of that provision in the present case.

4. ECtHR judgment Hatton and Others v. the United Kingdom (36022/97), July 8, 2003

  • The applicants living near Heathrow Airport complained that the government policy on night flights violated their rights under article 8. The ECtHR recognized the importance of ensuring that individuals are involved in the decision-making process leading to decisions which could affect their rights under the Convention
  • Regarding the economic interests which conflicted with the desirability of limiting or halting night flights, the ECtHR considered it reasonable to assume that the night flights contributed at least to a certain extent to the general economy.
  • A further relevant factor in assessing whether a fair balance had been struck was the availability of measures to mitigate the effects of aircraft noise generally. The applicants did not contest that the house prices in the relevant areas had not been adversely affected by the night noise. Since only a limited number of people had been adversely affected by the scheme (2 to 3% according to a 1992 sleep study), the fact that they could move elsewhere without financial loss was significant in assessing its overall reasonableness.
  • With regard to the procedural aspect of the case, the Government had consistently monitored the situation and the 1993 scheme had been preceded by a series of investigations and studies carried out from as early as 1962. The new measures introduced under the scheme had been announced to the public by way of a consultation paper published in January 1995. The applicants could have made any representations they felt appropriate and challenged subsequent decisions if their representations had not been taken into account.
  • ECtHR found that the authorities had not overstepped their margin of appreciation by failing to strike a fair balance. It concluded that there had been no violation of Article 8.

5. ECtHR decision Eckenbrecht and Ruhmer vs. Germany (25330/10), June 10, 2014

  • The applicants lived in residential premises in Rackwitz and in Leipzig/Göbschelwitz in close vicinity of Leipzig/Halle airport.
  • The Leipzig regional council (Regierungspräsidium) opened formal planning proceedings for expansion and reconstruction of the Leipzig/Halle airport. Some residents including the applicants raised objections to the plans and asked for a prohibition of night flights.
  • It was expected and established by expert reports that the general demand for international air freight would increase in the future and that expanding the airport would bring economic advantages for the region as several freight operators had already expressed interest to use the expanded airport. However, this implied a substantial increase of night-time flights.
  • In January 2005 the applicants lodged an action against the approval decision with the Federal Administrative Court. It decided that nights and days should be distinguishable by noise levels and that, in principle, the night levels should allow people to rest. The insufficient balancing of interests, however, was not so severe as to set aside the complete plan approval decision.
  • ECtHR: the residents affected by the planning had the right to participate actively in the proceedings by advancing their views. The expert reports on noise impacts were rendered public as were the planning materials. The planning authority defined areas where owners had to be compensated as the premises were considered to have become unhealthy for habitation, and areas where passive noise protection was provided for. Lastly, there was access to judicial review.
  • The planning authorities carefully layed out which type of flights could be further restricted (passenger and ordinary freight flights) and which could not without endangering the legitimate public purpose pursued by the airport reconstruction. Regarding express freight the authority explained that only rarely a whole flight would consist entirely of express freight, but most freight flights would be mixed. However, it imposed a supervisory duty on the airport for the future to ensure that the overwhelming part of night goods would consist of express goods. The Court is not in a position to substitute the authority’s balancing decision with its own.
  • In view of the fact that the German courts took into account all relevant factors and balanced them in a reasonable manner, the impugned decisions cannot be held to have overstepped the margin of appreciation as regards Article 8.
  • The application was inadmissible.

6. Recommendation No R(93)7 on privatisation of public undertakings and activities