GoJIL Vol. 11, No. 1 (2021)
The Challenges of Redressing Violations of Economic and Social Rights in the Aftermath of the Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis
The Eurozone sovereign debt crisis represented an occasion to assess whether the international, European Union, and national systems provide adequate remedies for violation of socio-economic rights caused by austerity measures. Victims of these violations tried to obtain a remedy by lodging complaints before national judicial organs, the Court of Justice of the European Union, international human rights bodies (such the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association and the European Committee on Social Rights), and the European Court of Human Rights. This article addresses whether one (or more) of these venues indicted adequate remedies of violations of socio-economic rights and whether these mechanisms could have adopted a different (and more human rightsoriented) adjudicative approach with the view of enhancing the effectiveness of socio-economic rights enshrined in international treaties. The paper assumes that the adequacy of the relief depends on two elements. The first is the collective nature of socio-economic rights, which requires structural or systemic remedies rather than individual ones. The second is the need to preserve States’ economic soundness in order to allow Countries to satisfy their international obligations, namely securing a minimum essential level of socioeconomic rights and their progressive realization. Against these assumptions, remedies should benefit the victimized class as a whole, alongside avoiding major distributional or unintended consequences to the detriment of public finances. The investigation focuses on the case law and pronouncements concerning Greece, Portugal, and Spain. The paper reaches the conclusion that constitutional review of austerity measures is the most adequate and effective venue to address such sensitive matters. This is especially true where constitutional courts rely on international conventions protecting socio-economic rights as per se parameters of constitutionality or through consistent interpretation – viz. by construing the national bill of rights in line with treaty-based socio-economic rights.
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