In part 1 of this series of posts, EUtopia law examined the problems created by the existence of two distinct means of reference to fundamental rights, either under direct reference to the ECHR or under reference to the general principles of EU law. This post evaluates possible solutions to this problem.
An opportunity for a possible resolution of the divergence problem arose following the 1996 decision of the Court in Bosphorus (C-84/95) where the CJEU held that the impounding of an aircraft by the Irish authorities acting under an EC regulation introduced to enforce UN sanctions against the former Yugoslavia did not contravene the respect for property rights recognised under EU law. The aircraft owners then took their case to the ECtHR. After a hearing, in which the European Commission was permitted to intervene as an interested party, the Strasbourg Grand Chamber pronounced judgment in June 2005. In its judgment in Bosphorus v Ireland (App no.45036/98) the ECtHR came to the same substantive result as the CJEU on the fundamental rights argument in holding that the detention and retention of the aircraft was indeed compatible with the State’s obligations under ECHR, art 1 Protocol 1. In reaching this decision the Strasbourg Court addressed and attempted to resolve the issue of the possibility of divergence between human rights interpretation and protection as between the two courts by applying a presumption that the CJEU offered equivalent fundamental rights protection to that afforded by the ECtHR and so that Member States could not be found to be in breach of the ECHR if and insofar as they were (properly implementing) EU law in accordance with the fundamental rights guarantees protected by the CJEU.