Eckenbrecht and Ruhmer v. Germany

Submitted by John Knox on Tue, 06/10/2014 - 00:00
Regional Decisions
European Court

The applicants live near the Leipzig/Halle airport, and complain that the expansion of the airport would substantially affect their private and family life.  On the substantive merits, the Court reiterated that "in cases raising environmental issues the State must be allowed a wide margin of appreciation."  The national authorities are "in principle better placed than an international court to assess the requirements relating to the operation of an airport in a particular local context and to determine the most appropriate environmental policies and individual measures."  It noted the desire to turn the airport into an international hub for air freight, with positive economic effects for the region, and stated that under Article 8(2), "restrictions are permitted, inter alia, in the interests of the economic well-being of the country and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

The Court recalled the "settled case-law that, whilst Article 8 contains no explicit procedural requirements, the decision-making process leading to measures of interference must be fair and such as to afford due respect to the interests safeguarded to the individual by Article 8. . . . A governmental decision-making process concerning complex issues of environmental and economic policy must in the first place involve appropriate investigations and studies so that the effects of activities that might damage the environment and infringe individuals' rights may be predicted and evaluated in advance and a fair balance may accordingly be struck between the various conflicting interests at stake."  In this case, the Court observed that the planning materials and expert reports were made public, the residents affected by the planning had the right to participate actively, and there was access to judicial review.   The Court concluded that because 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."