Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights (MFHR) v. Greece

Complaint No.30/2005
Download Judgment: English

The plaintiff alleges that Greece failed to comply with its obligation to protect public health against air pollution of the  European Social Charter by allowing the operate of lignite mines and power stations without taking all necessary steps to reduce this impact.

The MFHR bases its claim on studies of particulate matter that show that the total suspended particulates exceeded the exposure limit values set by the EU. Also, the affected areas have abnormally high prevalence of respiratory diseases. In the areas are mines and power plants that lack certain safety equipment that would reduce the amount of suspended particulate matter produced.

The plaintiff says Greece is in violation of Article 11§1 (“to remove as far as possible the causes of ill-health”) by allowing the operations without the safety equipment and §2 (“to provide advisory and educational facilities for the promotion of health”) by not including the affected population in environmental impact assessment or providing them access to information and §3 (“to prevent as far as possible epidemic, endemic and other diseases, as well as accidents.”) by not conducting regular health assessments.

The plaintiff also claimed that the activities amounted to a violation of Article 3, the right to safe and healthy working conditions.

Committee finds that Greece violated all three clauses of Article 11.

Committee says that the right to health in Article 11 includes causes of ill-health resulting from environmental pollution. The Court sees a connection between the right to health under the European Social Charter and the right to life of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Committee finds that implementers were “slow to act and the measures it did introduce were only partially successful or are simply programmed for the future.” The Committee also noted that Greek authorities failed to provide information even when asked to do so. The Committee considers Greece’s action to not strike a reasonable balance of interests, even when considering the margin of discretion.

Greece also violated Article 3’s right to a healthy work environment by not effectively monitoring the enforcement of regulations on health and safety, especially as the government recognizes the lack of inspectors and precise data on accidents in the mining sector.

Greece also violated Article 2§4 by not guaranteeing proper non-monetary compensation for miners. While the miners do receive benefits, such as early retirement, through collective agreements. The State must guarantee those rights, such as through legislation.

“204. Admittedly, overcoming pollution is an objective that can only be achieved gradually. Nevertheless, states party must strive to attain this objective within a reasonable time, by showing measurable progress and making best possible use of the resources at their disposal(see, mutatis mutandis, Autism Europe v. France, Complaint No.13/2002, decision on the merits of 4 November 2003, §53). The Committee assesses the efforts made by states with reference to their national legislation and regulations and undertakings entered into with regard to the European Union and the United Nations (Conclusions XV-2, Italy, Article 11§3, pp.307-312), and in terms of how the relevant law is applied in practice.”

“203. In order to fulfil their obligations, national authorities must therefore:

  • Develop and regularly update sufficiently comprehensive environmental legislation and regulations (Conclusions XV-2, Addendum, Slovakia, pp. 201-205);
  • take specific steps, such as modifying equipment, introducing threshold values for emissions and measuring air quality, to prevent air pollution at local level and to help to reduce it on a global scale (Conclusions 2005, Moldova, Article 11§3, pp.452-457);
  • ensure that environmental standards and rules are properly applied, through appropriate supervisory machinery (see, mutatis mutandis, International Commission of Jurists v. Portugal, aforementioned decision, § 33);
  • inform and educate the public, including pupils and students at school, about both general and local environmental problems (Conclusions 2005, Moldova, Article 11§2,pp.450-452);
  • assess health risks through epidemiological monitoring of the groups concerned.”

 

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