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Austerity-hit citizens allowed to sue troika, ECJ rules

Austerity-hit citizens allowed to sue troika, ECJ rules

"Politicians are thieves. Give us back our hope." Tensions run high at an anti-troika demo in Portugal in 2012.

[Pedro Ribeiro Simoes/Flickr]

The European Court of Justice has ruled that EU citizens can now sue the troika if they believe their fundamental rights have been violated by austerity. EurActiv Germany reports.

Has the troika infringed EU citizens’ fundamental rights through its insistence on austerity measures in crisis-hit countries? It’s a question that seems set to be analysed in ever greater detail and may lead to claims being made against the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, after the ECJ ruled that citizens are entitled to sue the troika.

The Luxembourg-based court’s decision was based on the banking crisis that hit Cyprus in 2013. At the time, the troika and the Cypriot government agreed to a restructuring, which involved uninsured deposits of over €100,000 being used to recapitalise the Bank of Cyprus. In return, the embattled country received a bailout from the European Stability Mechanism.

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As a result, some investors lost a large amount of money and then decided to sue the Commission and the ECB for damages. Although the ECJ’s judges dismissed the case as they ruled that stabilising the banking system served the common good of the EU, they added that bringing damages against the troika is possible in principle, if someone’s fundamental rights have been breached.

Green MEP Sven Giegold said it was a “breakthrough for the protection of fundamental rights” and announced that he would endeavour to support any citizens looking to seek compensation from the troika. Giegold added that people who have been affected in countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus finally have legal means by which to have their cases heard.

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German jurist Andreas Fischer-Lescano told Spiegel Online that possible action could be brought by Greek citizens on account of the so-called Memorandum of Understanding which has affected the way in which prescription drugs are co-financed. He suggested that anyone who has struggled to access necessary medicines as a result would be eligible to make a claim.

However, Fischer-Lescano warned that the ECJ’s decision is not a blank cheque for everyone and anyone to bring a case against the troika. Although it is now possible to intervene in extreme cases, the plaintiff will still have to clearly show that their fundamental rights have been sufficiently violated. Even then, the Court would have to judge on a case by case basis whether the public interest outweighed their individual needs.