European Court of Human Rights
CASE OF ALIŠIĆ AND OTHERS v. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, CROATIA, SERBIA, SLOVENIA AND THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
(Application no. 60642/08)
6 November 2012
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
ALIŠIĆ AND OTHERS v. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA AND OTHERS JUDGMENT 1
In the case of Ališić and Others v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Nicolas Bratza, President, Lech Garlicki, Nina Vajić, Boštjan M. Zupančič, Ljiljana Mijović, Dragoljub Popović, Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar, Having deliberated in private on 11 October 2012, Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 60642/08) against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by three citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms Emina Ališić, Mr Aziz Sadžak and Mr Sakib Šahdanović (“the applicants”), on 30 July 2005. The first applicant is also a German citizen.
2. The applicants were represented by Mr B. Mujčin, a lawyer practising in Germany. The Bosnian-Herzegovinian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovenian and Macedonian Governments (“the Governments”) were represented by their Agents, Ms M. Mijić, Ms Š. Stažnik, Mr S. Carić, Ms N. Pintar Gosenca and Mr K. Bogdanov, respectively.
3. The applicants alleged that they were still not able to withdraw their “old” foreign-currency savings from their accounts at the Sarajevo branch of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and the Tuzla branch of Investbanka.
4. By a decision of 17 October 2011, the Court joined to the merits the issue of the exhaustion of domestic remedies and declared the application admissible.
5. The parties filed further written observations on the merits (Rule 59 § 1 of the Rules of Court). The Chamber having decided, after consulting the parties, that no hearing on the merits was required (Rule 59 § 3), the parties replied in writing to each other’s observations.
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I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
6. The applicants were born in 1976, 1949 and 1952, respectively, and live in Germany.
7. Before the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (“the SFRY”), Ms Ališić and Mr Sadžak deposited foreign currency in the then Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo and Mr Šahdanović in the Tuzla branch of Investbanka. It would appear that the balance in their accounts is 4,715.56 German marks (DEM), DEM 129,874.30 and DEM 63,880.44, respectively. Mr Šahdanović also has 73 US dollars (USD) and 4 Austrian schillings in his accounts.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
A. The SFRY
8. Until the 1989/90 economic reforms, the commercial banking system consisted of basic and associated banks. Basic banks were as a rule founded and controlled by socially owned companies1 based in the same territorial unit (that is, in one of the Republics – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia – or Autonomous Provinces – Kosovo and Vojvodina). The founders of Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo were thus 16 socially owned companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina (such as Energoinvest Sarajevo, Gorenje Bira Bihać, Šipad Sarajevo, Velepromet Visoko, Đuro Salaj Mostar) and Pamučni kombinat Vranje from Serbia. At least two basic banks could form an associated bank, while preserving their separate legal personality. In 1978 Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo, Ljubljanska Banka Zagreb, Ljubljanska Banka Skopje and some other basic banks thus founded an associated bank – Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana. Similarly, in 1978 Investbanka and a number of other basic banks founded Beogradska udružena Banka Beograd. In the SFRY there were approximately 150 basic and 9 associated banks (Jugobanka Beograd, Beogradska Udružena Banka, Privredna Banka Sarajevo, Vojvođanska Banka Novi Sad, Kosovska Banka Priština, Udružena Banka Hrvatske Zagreb, Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana, Stopanska Banka Skopje and Investiciona Banka Titograd).
9. Being hard-pressed for hard currency, the SFRY made it attractive for its expatriates and other citizens to deposit foreign currency with its banks.
1. The concept of “social ownership”, while it does exist in other countries, was particularly highly developed in the SFRY (see Medjad, The fate of the Yugoslav model: A case against legal conformity, American Journal of Comparative Law 52/1 (2004), pp. 287- 319).
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Such deposits earned high interest (the annual interest rate often exceeded 10%). Moreover, they were guaranteed by the State (see section 14(3) of the Foreign-Currency Transactions Act 19851 and section 76(1) of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 19892). The State guarantee was to be activated in case of the bankruptcy or “manifest insolvency” of a bank at the request of the bank (section 18 of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Insolvency Act 19893 and the relevant secondary legislation4). None of the banks under consideration in the present case made such a request. It should be emphasised that savers could not request the activation of the guarantee on their own. They were nevertheless entitled, in accordance with the Civil Obligations Act 19785, to collect their deposits at any time, together with accrued interest, from basic banks (see sections 1035 and 1045 of that Act).
10. Beginning in the mid 1970s, the commercial banks incurred foreign-exchange losses because the dinar exchange rate depreciated. In response, the SFRY set up a system for “redepositing” of foreign currency, allowing commercial banks to transfer citizens’ foreign-currency deposits to the National Bank of Yugoslavia (“the NBY”), which assumed the currency risk (see section 51(2) of the Foreign-Currency Transactions Act 19776). Although the system was optional, commercial banks did not have another option as they were not allowed to maintain foreign-currency accounts with foreign banks, as was necessary to make payments abroad, nor were they allowed to grant foreign-currency loans. Virtually all foreign currency was therefore redeposited with the NBY. It should be emphasised, however, that only a fraction of that money was physically transferred to the NBY (see Kovačić and Others v. Slovenia [GC], nos. 44574/98, 45133/98 and 48316/99, §§ 36 and 39, 3 October 2008; see also decision AP 164/04 of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1 April 2006, § 53).
11. With regard to Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo, the redepositing scheme functioned as follows. Pursuant to a series of agreements between that bank, Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana, the National Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the National Bank of Slovenia, Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo had to ship on a monthly basis any difference between foreign currency deposited and foreign currency withdrawn to the National Bank of Slovenia. The foreign currency so shipped was recorded as a claim of Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo against the NBY. The Slovenian Government maintained in the present case that the National Bank of Slovenia then shipped all those funds to the NBY, but they failed to provide any proof in that regard. They proved only that a part of those funds had been shipped back to Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo at the request of that bank to meet its liquidity needs (in the period when more foreign currency was withdrawn than deposited). The exact figures are: in 1984 DEM 57,389, 894 was shipped to Ljubljana and DEM 150,187 back to Sarajevo; in 1985 DEM 59,465,398 was shipped to Ljubljana and DEM 71,270 back to Sarajevo, in 1986 DEM 19,794,416 was shipped to Ljubljana and DEM 1,564,823 back to Sarajevo, and so on. In total, between 1984 and 1991 DEM 244,665,082 was shipped to Ljubljana and DEM 41,469,528 (that is, less than 17%) back to Sarajevo.
1. Zakon o deviznom poslovanju, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 66/85, 13/86, 71/86, 2/87, 3/88, 59/88, 85/89, 27/90, 82/90 and 22/91. 2. Zakon o bankama i drugim finansijskim organizacijama, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 10/89, 40/89, 87/89, 18/90, 72/90 and 79/90.
3 Zakon o sanaciji, stečaju i likvidaciji banaka i drugih finansijskih organizacija, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 84/89 and 63/90.
4. Odluka o načinu izvršavanja obaveza Federacije po osnovu jemstva za devize na deviznim računima i deviznim štednim ulozima građana, građanskih pravnih lica i stranih fizičkih lica, Official Gazette of the SFRY no. 27/90.
5. Zakon o obligacionim odnosima, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 29/78, 39/85, 45/89 and 57/89.
6. Zakon o deviznom poslovanju i kreditnim odnosima, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 15/77, 61/82, 77/82, 34/83, 70/83 and 71/84.
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12. Another relevant factor is that basic banks were granted dinar loans (initially, interest-free) by the NBY in return for the value of the redeposited foreign currency. The dinars so received were used by basic banks to give credits, at interest rates below the rate of inflation, to companies based, as a rule, in the same territorial unit (for instance, in the case of Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo, such credits were given to Polietilenka Bihać, Gorenje Bira Bihać, Šipad Šator Glamoč, Bilećanka Bileća, UPI Sarajevo, Soko Komerc Mostar, Rudi Čajavec Banja Luka, Velepromet Visoko, and so on).
13. In 1988 the redepositing system was brought to an end (by virtue of section 103 of the Foreign-Currency Transactions Act 1985, as amended on 15 October 1988). Banks were given permission to open foreign-currency accounts with foreign banks. Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo, like other banks, seized that opportunity and deposited in total USD 13.5 million with foreign banks in the period from October 1988 until December 1989.
14. Within the framework of the 1989/90 reforms, the SFRY abolished the system of basic and associated banks described above. This shift in the banking regulations allowed some basic banks to opt for an independent status, while other basic banks became branches (without legal personality) of the former associated banks to which they had formerly belonged. On 1 January 1990 Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo thus became a branch (without legal personality) of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and the latter took over the former’s rights, assets and liabilities. By contrast, Investbanka became an independent bank with its headquarters in Serbia and a number of branches in Bosnia and Herzegovina (including the Tuzla branch at which Mr Šahdanović had accounts). Moreover, the convertibility of the dinar was declared and very favourable exchange rates were fixed by the NBY. It led to a massive withdrawal of foreign currency from commercial banks. The SFRY therefore resorted to emergency measures restricting to a large extent the withdrawals of foreign-currency deposits. For example, as of December 1990, when section 71 of the Foreign-Currency Transactions Act 1985 was amended, savers could use their savings only to pay for imported goods or services for their own or close relatives’ needs, to purchase foreign-currency bonds, to make testamentary gifts for scientific or humanitarian purposes, or to pay for life insurance with a local insurance company (before, they could use their deposits also to pay for goods and services abroad). In addition, section 3 of a decision of the SFRY Government of April 19911, which was in force until 8 February 1992, and section 17c of a decision of the NBY of January 19912, which the Constitutional Court of the SFRY declared unconstitutional on 22 April 1992, limited the amount which savers could withdraw or use for the above purposes to DEM 500 at a time, but not more than DEM 1,000 per month.
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15. The SFRY disintegrated in 1991/92. In the successor States, foreign currency deposited beforehand is customarily referred to as “old” or “frozen” foreign-currency savings.
B. Bosnia and Herzegovina
1. Law and practice concerning “old” foreign-currency savings
16. In 1992 Bosnia and Herzegovina took over the statutory guarantee for “old” foreign-currency savings from the SFRY (see section 6 of the SFRY Legislation Application Act 19923). Although the relevant statutory provisions were not clear in that regard, the National Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina held that the guarantee covered “old” foreign-currency savings in domestic banks only (see its report 63/94 of 8 August 19944).
17. While during the war all “old” foreign-currency savings remained frozen, withdrawals were exceptionally allowed on humanitarian grounds and in some other special cases (see the relevant secondary legislation5).
1. Odluka o načinu na koji ovlašćene banke izvršavaju naloge za plaćanje domaćih fizičkih lica devizama sa njihovih deviznih računa i deviznih štednih uloga, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 28/91, 34/91, 64/91 and 9/92.
2. Odluka o načinu vođenja deviznog računa i deviznog štednog uloga domaćeg i stranog fizičkog lica, Official Gazette of the SFRY nos. 6/91, 30/91, 36/91 and 25/92.
3. Uredba sa zakonskom snagom o preuzimanju i primjenjivanju saveznih zakona koji se u Bosni i Hercegovini primjenjuju kao republički zakoni, Official Gazette of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina no. 2/92.
4. A copy thereof was provided by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian authorities.
5. Odluka o uslovima i načinu isplata dinara po osnovu definitivne prodaje devizne štednje domaćih fizičkih lica i korišćenju deviza sa deviznih računa i deviznih štednih uloga domaćih fizičkih lica za potrebe liječenja i plaćanja školarine u inostranstvu, Official Gazette of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina no. 4/93; Odluka o uslovima i načinu davanja kratkoročnih kredita bankama na osnovu definitivne prodaje deponovane devizne štednje građana i efektivno prodatih deviza od strane građana, Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska nos. 10/93 and 2/94; and Odluka o ciljevima i zadacima monetarno- kreditne politike u 1995, Official Gazette of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina nos. 11/95 and 19/95.
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18. After the 1992-95 war, each of the Entities (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – “the FBH” – and the Republika Srpska) enacted its own legislation on “old” foreign-currency savings. Only the FBH legislation is relevant in the present case, given that the branches in issue are situated in that Entity. In 1997 the FBH assumed liability for “old” foreign-currency savings in banks and branches placed in its territory (see section 3(1) of the Claims Settlement Act 19971 and the Non-Residents’ Claims Settlement Decree 19992). Such savings remained frozen, but they could be used to purchase State-owned flats and companies under certain conditions (section 18 of the Claims Settlement Act 1997, as amended in August 2004).
19. In 2004 the FBH enacted new legislation. It undertook to repay “old” foreign-currency savings in domestic banks in that Entity, regardless of the citizenship of the depositor concerned. Its liability for such savings in the branches of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and Investbanka were expressly excluded (see section 9(2) of the Settlement of Domestic Debt Act 20043).
20. In 2006 the liability for “old” foreign-currency savings in domestic banks passed from the Entities to the State. Liability for such savings at the local branches of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and Investbanka are again expressly excluded, but the State must help the clients of those branches to obtain the payment of their savings from Slovenia and Serbia, respectively (see section 2 of the Old Foreign-Currency Savings Act 20064). In addition, all proceedings concerning “old” foreign-currency savings ceased by virtue of law (see section 28 of that Act; that provision was declared constitutional by decision U 13/06 of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina of 28 March 2008, § 35). The Constitutional Court has examined numerous individual complaints about the failure of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Entities to pay back “old” foreign-currency savings at the domestic branches of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and Investbanka: it held that neither Bosnia and Herzegovina nor its Entities were liable and ordered instead the State to help the clients of those branches to recover their savings from Slovenia and Serbia, respectively (see, for example, decisions AP 164/04 of 1 April 2006, AP 423/07 of 14 October 2008 and AP 14/08 of 21 December 2010).
1. Zakon o utvrđivanju i realizaciji potraživanja građana u postupku privatizacije, Official Gazette of the FBH nos. 27/97, 8/99, 45/00, 54/00, 32/01, 27/02, 57/03, 44/04, 79/07 and 65/09.
2. Uredba o ostvarivanju potraživanja lica koja su imala deviznu štednju u bankama na teritoriju Federacije, a nisu imala prebivalište na teritoriju Federacije, Official Gazette of the FBH no. 44/99.
3. Zakon o utvrđivanju i načinu izmirenja unutrašnjih obaveza Federacije, Official Gazette of the FBH nos. 66/04, 49/05, 35/06, 31/08, 32/09 and 65/09.
4. Zakon o izmirenju obaveza po osnovu računa stare devizne štednje, Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina nos. 28/06, 76/06 and 72/07.
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2. Status of the Sarajevo branch of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana
21. In 1990 Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo became a branch, without legal personality, of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and the latter took over the former’s rights, assets and liabilities. Pursuant to the companies register, the Sarajevo branch acted on behalf and for the account of the parent bank. On 31 December 1991 the amount of foreign-currency savings at the Sarajevo branch was approximately DEM 250,000,000, but it would appear that less than DEM 350,000 was in the vault of the Sarajevo branch on that date. While it is unclear what happened with the remaining sum, it is likely that most of it ended up in Slovenia (see paragraph 11 above).
22. A domestic bank, Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo, was set up in 1993. It assumed Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s liability for “old” foreign-currency savings at the Sarajevo branch. In 1994 the National Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina carried out an inspection and noted many shortcomings. First of all, its management had not been properly appointed and it was not clear who its shareholders were. The National Bank therefore appointed a director of Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo. Secondly, as a domestic bank, Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo could not have assumed a foreign bank’s liability for “old” foreign-currency savings, as this would impose new financial obligations on the State (as the State was the statutory guarantor for “old” foreign-currency savings in all domestic banks). The National Bank ordered that a closing balance sheet for the Sarajevo branch of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana as at 31 March 1992 be drawn up urgently and that its relations with the parent bank be defined. However, according to the companies register, Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo had remained liable for “old” foreign-currency savings at Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s Sarajevo branch until November 2004 (see paragraph 24 below). Accordingly, it continued to administer the savings of clients of the Sarajevo branch; those savings were used in the privatisation process in the FBH (see paragraph 18 above); and a domestic court ordered Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo to pay those savings in one case (see Višnjevac v. Bosnia and Herzegovina (dec.), no. 2333/04, 24 October 2006).
23. In 2003 the FBH Banking Agency placed that domestic bank under its provisional administration for the reason that it had undefined relations with the foreign Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana.
24. By virtue of an amendment to the Companies Register Act 20001, in 2003 the FBH Parliament extended the statutory time-limit for the deletion of war-time entries in the companies register until 10 April 2004. Shortly thereafter, in November 2004 the Sarajevo Municipal Court decided that the domestic Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo was not the successor of the Sarajevo branch of the foreign Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana; that it was not liable for “old” foreign-currency savings in that branch; and that, as a result, the 1993 entry in the companies register stating otherwise must be deleted.
1. Zakon o postupku upisa pravnih lica u sudski registar, Official Gazette of the FBH nos. 4/00, 49/00, 32/01, 19/03 and 50/03.
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25. In 2006 the domestic Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo sold its assets and let out premises and equipment belonging to Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s Sarajevo branch to a Croatian company which, in return, undertook to pay debts of Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo. While endorsing that agreement, the FBH Government emphasised that all premises and archives of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s Sarajevo branch remained under the care of the FBH Government pending the final determination of the status of that branch.
26. In 2010 the competent court started bankruptcy proceedings against the domestic Ljubljanska Banka Sarajevo. They are still pending.
3. Status of the Tuzla branch of Investbanka
27. The Tuzla branch of Investbanka has at all times had the status of a branch without legal personality. The size of “old” foreign-currency savings at that branch was approximately USD 67 million (approximately DEM 100 million) on 31 December 1991. The branch closed on 1 June 1992 and it has never resumed its activities. It is unclear what happened with its funds, but given the manner in which the redepositing scheme was administered (see paragraph 11 above), it is likely that most of them ended up in Serbia.
28. In 2002 the competent court in Serbia made a bankruptcy order against Investbanka. The Serbian authorities then sold the premises of the FBH branches of Investbanka (those in the Republika Srpska had been sold in 1999). The bankruptcy proceedings are still pending.
29. In 2010 the FBH Government placed the premises and archives of the FBH branches of Investbanka under its care, but it would appear that Investbanka no longer has any premises or archives in the FBH.
30. In 2011, at the request of the FBH authorities, the Serbian authorities started a criminal investigation into the manner in which the archives of the Tuzla branch had been transferred to the Serbian territory in 2008.
31. The Croatian Government argued that they had repaid “old” foreign- currency savings in domestic banks and their foreign branches, regardless of the citizenship of the depositor concerned. Indeed, it is clear that they repaid such savings of Bosnian-Herzegovinian citizens in Bosnian-Herzegovinian branches of Croatian banks. However, the Slovenian Government provided decisions of the Supreme Court of Croatia (Rev 3015/1993-2 of 1994, Rev 3172/1995-2 of 1996 and Rev 1747 /1995-2 of 1996) holding that the term used in that legislation (građanin) meant a Croatian citizen and argued that it was not excluded that the Bosnian-Herzegovinian citizens in issue were also Croatian citizens or that an ad hoc agreement had been concluded.
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32. Croatia also repaid its citizens’ “old” foreign-currency savings which had been transferred from Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s Zagreb branch to domestic banks at the request of the depositors concerned (see section 14 of the Old Foreign-Currency Savings Act 19931 and the relevant secondary legislation2). Apparently, about two thirds of all clients of that branch used that possibility. As to its remaining clients, whose “old” foreign-currency savings allegedly amount to approximately DEM 300 million, some of them have pursued civil proceedings in the Croatian courts and 63 of them have obtained their “old” foreign-currency savings from a forced sale of assets of that branch located in Croatia (decisions of the Osijek Municipal Court of 8April 2005 and 15 June 2010)3. Some others are pursuing civil proceedings in the Slovenian courts (see paragraph 38 below).
33. In the direct aftermath of the dissolution of the SFRY, “old” foreign-currency savings in domestic banks remained frozen, but withdrawals were exceptionally allowed on humanitarian grounds regardless of the citizenship of the depositor concerned (see the relevant secondary legislation4).
34. In 1998 and then again in 2002 Serbia agreed to repay “old” foreign- currency savings in domestic branches of domestic banks of its citizens and of citizens of all States other than the successor States of the SFRY. All savings of citizens of the SFRY successor States and all savings in domestic banks’ branches located in those States remained frozen pending succession negotiations. Moreover, all proceedings concerning “old” foreign-currency savings ceased by virtue of law in accordance with sections 21 and 22 of the Old Foreign-Currency Savings Act 19981 and sections 21 and 36 of the Old Foreign-Currency Savings Act 20022.
1. Zakon o pretvaranju deviznih depozita građana u javni dug Republike Hrvatske, Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia no. 106/93.
2. Pravilnik o utvrđivanju uvjeta i načina pod kojima građani mogu prenijeti svoju deviznu štednju s organizacijske jedinice banke čije je sjedište izvan Republike Hrvatske na banke u Republici Hrvatskoj, Official Gazette of the Republic of Croatia no. 19/94.
3. A copy thereof was provided by the Slovenian Government (annexes nos. 273-74).
4. Odluka o uslovima i načinu davanja kratkoročnih kredita bankama na osnovu definitivne prodaje deponovane devizne štednje građana, Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia nos. 42/93, 49/93, 71/93 and 77/93; Odluka o uslovima i načinu isplate dela devizne štednje građana koja je deponovana kod NBJ, Official Gazette nos. 42/94, 44/94 and 50/94; Odluka o uslovima i načinu isplate dela devizne štednje građana koja je deponovana kod NBJ, Official Gazette nos. 10/95, 52/95, 58/95, 20/96, 24/96 and 30/96; and Odluka o privremenom obezbeđivanju i načinu i uslovima isplate sredstava ovlašćenim bankama na ime dinarske protivvrednosti dela devizne štednje deponovane kod NBJ isplaćene građanima za određene namene, Official Gazette nos. 41/96, 21/98 and 4/99.
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35. In January 2002 the competent court in Serbia made a bankruptcy order against Investbanka. As a result, the State guarantee on “old” foreign-currency savings was activated (section 18 of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Insolvency Act 1989 and section 135 of the Foreign-Currency Transactions Act 19953). 322 clients of Bosnian-Herzegovinian branches of Investbanka unsuccessfully applied to be paid back within the context of the bankruptcy proceedings; 20 of them then pursued civil proceedings against Investbanka, but to no avail. The bankruptcy proceedings are still pending.
36. In 1991 Slovenia assumed the statutory guarantee from the SFRY for “old” foreign-currency savings in domestic branches of all banks, regardless of the citizenship of the depositor concerned (see Article 19 § 3 of the Basic Constitutional Charter Constitutional Act 19914 and section 1 of the Old Foreign-Currency Savings Act 19935). While, as a rule, anyone who shows legal interest may petition that abstract constitutionality review proceedings be initiated (section 24 of the Constitutional Court Act 20076), the Slovenian Constitutional Court held that the Basic Constitutional Charter Constitutional Act 1991 was not subject to such a review (see its decisions nos. U-I-332/94 of 11 April 1996 and U-I-184/96 of 20 June 1996).
37. After futile attempts to register the Sarajevo branch of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana as a separate bank (see the correspondence between the NBY and the National Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina of October 1991 stressing the unlawfulness of such proposals as Slovenia had meanwhile become an independent State and Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana a foreign bank7), Slovenia nationalised and then, in 1994, restructured Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana itself1. A new bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka, took over Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s domestic assets and liabilities. The old bank retained the liability for “old” foreign-currency savings in its branches in the other successor States and the related claims against the NBY.
1. Zakon o izmirenju obaveza po osnovu devizne štednje građana, Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia nos. 59/98, 44/99 and 53/01.
2. Zakon o regulisanju javnog duga Savezne Republike Jugoslavije po osnovu devizne štednje građana, Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia no. 36/02.
3. Zakon o deviznom poslovanju, Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia nos. 12/95, 29/97, 44/99, 74/99 and 73/00.
4. Ustavni zakon za izvedbo Temeljne ustavne listine o samostojnosti in neodvisnosti RS, Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 1/91.
5. Zakon o poravnavanju obveznosti iz neizplačanih deviznih vlog, Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 7/93.
6. Zakon o ustavnem sodišču (uradno prečiščeno besedilo), Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 64/07.
7. A copy thereof was provided by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian authorities.
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38. In 1997 all proceedings concerning “old” foreign-currency savings in the old Ljubljanska Banka’s branches in the other successor States were stayed pending the outcome of the succession negotiations2. In December 2009 the Constitutional Court of Slovenia, upon a constitutional petition of two Croatian savers, declared that measure unconstitutional3. The Ljubljana District Court has thereafter rendered numerous judgments ordering the old Ljubljanska Banka to pay “old” foreign-currency savings in its Sarajevo and Zagreb branches together with interest. It held that the relationship between the old Ljubljanska Banka and its clients at those branches was of a private-law nature. The fact that some foreign currency had allegedly been shipped to the NBY and that succession negotiations were pending was considered irrelevant. Similarly, it considered irrelevant the decisions regarding the status of the Sarajevo branch set out in paragraphs 22-24 above. At least one such judgment, concerning the Sarajevo branch, has become final (judgment P 119/1995-I of 16 November 2010). A number of clients of the Sarajevo and Zagreb branches have pursued civil proceedings also against the Republic of Slovenia, but in vain. The Ljubljana District Court has rejected such claims in three cases (as no appeals have been lodged, those decisions have become final). Around 10 similar cases are apparently still pending.
F. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
39. It paid back “old” foreign-currency savings in domestic banks and local branches of foreign banks, such as the Skopje branch of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana, regardless of the citizenship of the depositor concerned4.
1. Ustavni zakon o dopolnitvah ustavnega zakona za izvedbo Temeljne ustavne listine o samostojnosti in neodvisnosti Republike Slovenije, Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 45/94.
2. Zakon o dopolnitvah zakona o Skladu Republike Slovenije za sukcesijo, Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 40/97.
3. The decision published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 105/09.
4. Закон за преземање на депонираните девизни влогови на граѓаните од страна на Република Македонија, “Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia” no. 26/92; Закон за гаранција на Република Македонија за депонираните девизни влогови на граѓаните и за обезбедување на средства и начин за исплата на депонираните девизни влогови на граѓаните во 1993 и 1994, Official Gazette nos. 31/93, 70/94, 65/95 and 71/96; and Закон за начинот и постапката на исплатување на депонираните девизни влогови на граѓаните по кои гарант е Република Македонија, Official Gazette nos. 32/00, 108/00, 4/02 and 42/03.
12 ALIŠIĆ AND OTHERS v. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA AND OTHERS JUDGMENT
III. RELEVANT INTERNATIONAL LAW AND PRACTICE
A. Relevant international law concerning State succession
40. The matter of State succession is regulated by customary rules, partly codified in the 1978 Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties and the 1983 Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of State Property, Archives and Debts1. Although the latter treaty is not yet in force and only three respondent States are parties to it as of today (Croatia, Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), it is a well-established principle of international law that, even if a State has not ratified a treaty, it may be bound by one of its provisions in so far as that provision reflects customary international law, either codifying it or forming a new customary rule (see Cudak v. Lithuania [GC], no. 15869/02, § 66, ECHR 2010, and judgment of the International Court of Justice in the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases of 20 February 1969, § 71).
41. The fundamental rule is that States must together settle all aspects of succession by agreement (see Opinion No. 9 of the Arbitration Commission of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia2, and Article 6 of the 2001 Guiding Principles on State Succession in Matters of Property and Debts of the Institute of International Law). If one of the States refused to cooperate, it would be in breach of that obligation and would be liable internationally (Opinion No. 12 of the Arbitration Commission). While it is not required that each category of property and debts of a predecessor State be divided in equitable proportions, an overall outcome must be an equitable division (Article 41 of the 1983 Vienna Convention; Opinion No. 13 of the Arbitration Commission; Articles 8, 9 and 23 of the Guiding Principles).
B. Agreement on Succession Issues
42. This Agreement was the result of nearly ten years of negotiations under the auspices of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia and the High Representative (an international administrator appointed under Annex 10 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina). It was signed on 29 June 2001 and entered into force between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro (later succeeded by Serbia), Slovenia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 2 June 2004.
1. In 1983 the SFRY signed that treaty. In 2001 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia lodged an instrument advising its intent to maintain the signature made by the SFRY.
2. The Commission was set up by the European Community and its Member States in 1991. It handed down fifteen opinions pertaining to legal issues arising from the dissolution of the SFRY (see International Law Reports 92 (1993), pp. 162-208, and 96 (1994), pp. 719-37).
ALIŠIĆ AND OTHERS v. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA AND OTHERS JUDGMENT 13
43. The issue of “old” foreign-currency savings was a contentious one. The successor States had different views as to whether that issue should be dealt with as a liability of the SFRY under Annex C (Financial Assets and Liabilities) or as a private-law issue under Annex G (Private Property and Acquired Rights)1. Neither could those States agree whether the guarantees of the SFRY of “old” foreign-currency savings should be taken over by the State in which the parent bank in issue had its head office or by the State in which the deposit had actually been made. The following provisions were eventually included in Annex C to the Agreement:
Article 2 § 3 (a)
“Other financial liabilities [of the SFRY] include:
(a) guarantees by the SFRY or its National Bank of Yugoslavia of hard currency savings deposited in a commercial bank and any of its branches in any successor State before the date on which it proclaimed independence; ...”
“Guarantees by the SFRY or its NBY of hard currency savings deposited in a commercial bank and any of its branches in any successor State before the date on which it proclaimed its independence shall be negotiated without delay taking into account in particular the necessity of protecting the hard currency savings of individuals. This negotiation shall take place under the auspices of the Bank for International Settlements.”
44. In 2001/2 four rounds of negotiations regarding the distribution of the SFRY’s guarantees of “old” foreign-currency savings were held. As the successor States could not reach an agreement, in September 2002 the Bank for International Settlements (“the BIS”) informed them that the expert, Mr Meyer, had decided to terminate his involvement in the matter and that the BIS had no further role to play in this regard. It concluded as follows:
“If, however, all five successor States were to decide at a later stage to enter into new negotiations about guarantees of hard currency savings deposits and were to seek the BIS’ assistance in this regard, the BIS would be prepared to give consideration to providing such assistance, under conditions to be agreed.”2
It appears that four successor States (all but Croatia) notified the BIS of their willingness to continue the negotiations shortly thereafter. Croatia did so in October 2010 and received a response in November 2010 which, in so far as relevant, reads as follows:
“...the BIS did recently reconsider this issue and believes that its contribution to any new round of negotiations, as part of a good offices role, could not bring added value, also bearing in mind the amount of time which lapsed since the last round of negotiations, as well as its current priorities in the field of monetary and financial stability. However, we would like to emphasise that the organisation of the bi-monthly meetings in Basel offers the practical opportunity for the governors of the successor States to discuss this matter between them on an informal basis at the BIS.” 1
1. See the travaux préparatoires of the Agreement provided by the Slovenian Government (annexes nos. 265-70).
2. A copy of that letter was provided by the Croatian Government.
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45. It should be noted that a comparable issue of the SFRY’s guarantees of savings deposited with the Post Office Savings Bank and its branches had been settled outside the negotiations of the Agreement on Succession Issues, in that each of the States had taken over the guarantees as to the branches in its territory.
46. In accordance with Article 4 of the Agreement on Succession Issues, a Standing Joint Committee of senior representatives of the successor States was established to monitor the effective implementation of the Agreement and to serve as a forum in which issues arising in the course of its implementation could be discussed. It has so far met three times: in 2005, in 2007 and in 2009.
47. The following provisions of this Agreement are also relevant in this case:
“(1) Differences which may arise over the interpretation and application of this Agreement shall, in the first place, be resolved in discussion among the States concerned.
(2) If the differences cannot be resolved in such discussions within one month of the first communication in the discussion the States concerned shall either
(a) refer the matter to an independent person of their choice, with a view to obtaining a speedy and authoritative determination of the matter which shall be respected and which may, as appropriate, indicate specific time-limits for actions to be taken; or
(b) refer the matter to the Standing Joint Committee established by Article 4 of this Agreement for resolution
(3) Differences which may arise in practice over the interpretation of the terms used in this Agreement or in any subsequent agreement called for in implementation of the Annexes to this Agreement may, additionally, be referred at the initiative of any State concerned to binding expert solution, conducted by a single expert (who shall not be a national of any party to this Agreement) to be appointed by agreement between the parties in dispute or, in the absence of agreement, by the President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration within the OSCE. The expert shall determine all questions of procedure, after consulting the parties seeking such expert solution if the expert considers it appropriate to do so, with the firm intention of securing a speedy and effective resolution of the difference.
(4) The procedure provided for in paragraph (3) of this Article shall be strictly limited to the interpretation of terms used in the agreements in question and shall in no circumstances permit the expert to determine the practical application of any of those agreements. In particular the procedure referred to shall not apply to
(a) The Appendix to this Agreement;
1. A copy of that letter was provided by the Croatian Government.
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(b) Articles 1, 3 and 4 of Annex B;
(c) Articles 4 and 5(1) of Annex C;
(d) Article 6 of Annex D.
(5) Nothing in the preceding paragraphs of this Article shall affect the rights or obligations of the Parties to the present Agreement under any provision in force binding them with regard to the settlement of disputes.”
“This Agreement shall be implemented by the successor States in good faith in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with international law.”
C. International practice concerning a pactum de negotiando in inter-State cases
48. The obligation flowing from a pactum de negotiando, to negotiate with a view to concluding an agreement, must be fulfilled in good faith according to the fundamental principle pacta sunt servanda.
49. The International Court of Justice stated in its judgment of 20 February 1969 in the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases (§ 85):
“...the parties are under an obligation to enter into negotiations with a view to arriving at an agreement, and not merely to go through a formal process of negotiation as a sort of prior condition for the automatic application of a certain method of delimitation in the absence of agreement; they are under an obligation so to conduct themselves that the negotiations are meaningful, which will not be the case when either of them insists upon its own position without contemplating any modifications of it...”
50. The decision of the Arbitral Tribunal for the Agreement on German External Debts in the case of Greece v. the Federal Republic of Germany of 26 January 1972 reads, in so far as relevant, as follows (§§ 62-65):
“However, a pactum de negotiando is also not without legal consequences. It means that both sides would make an effort, in good faith, to bring about a mutually satisfactory solution by way of a compromise, even if that meant the relinquishment of strongly held positions earlier taken. It implies a willingness for the purpose of negotiation to abandon earlier positions and to meet the other side part way. The language of the Agreement cannot be construed to mean that either side intends to adhere to its previous stand and to insist upon the complete capitulation of the other side. Such a concept would be inconsistent with the term ‘negotiation’. It would be the very opposite of what was intended. An undertaking to negotiate involves an understanding to deal with the other side with a view to coming to terms. Though the Tribunal does not conclude that Article 19 in connection with paragraph II of Annex I absolutely obligates either side to reach an agreement, it is of the opinion that the terms of these provisions require the parties to negotiate, bargain, and in good faith attempt to reach a result acceptable to both parties and thus bring an end to this long drawn out controversy...
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The agreement to negotiate the disputed monetary claims, in this case, necessarily involves a willingness to consider a settlement. This is true, even though the dispute extends not only to the amount of the claims but to their existence as well. The principle of settlement is not thereby affected. Article 19 does not necessarily require that the parties resolve the various legal questions on which they have disagreed. For example, it does not contemplate that both sides are expected to see eye to eye on certain points separating them, such as whether the disputed claims legally exist or not, or whether they are government or private claims. As to these points, the parties, in effect, have agreed to disagree but, notwithstanding their contentions with regard to them, they did commit themselves to pursue negotiations as far as possible with a view to concluding an agreement on a settlement..
The Tribunal considers that the underlying principle of the North Sea Continental Shelf Cases is pertinent to the present dispute. As enunciated by the International Court of Justice, it confirms and gives substance to the ordinary meaning of ‘negotiation’. To be meaningful, negotiations have to be entered into with a view to arriving at an agreement. Though, as we have pointed out, an agreement to negotiate does not necessarily imply an obligation to reach an agreement, it does imply that serious efforts towards that end will be made.”
I. THE GOVERNMENTS’ PRELIMINARY OBJECTIONS
51. The Serbian, Slovenian and Macedonian Governments maintained at the admissibility stage that the applicants had failed to exhaust all domestic remedies. The Court noted that this question went to the heart of the Article 13 complaint and that it would be more appropriately examined at the merits stage (see paragraph 4 above). Accordingly, the parties’ submissions and the Court’s assessment in that regard are set out in paragraphs 76-90 below.
52. The Court notes that the Governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have advanced further submissions in support of their objection raised at the admissibility stage to the compatibility ratione personae of the application. However, the Court, having studied these submissions, finds that they do not give rise to any grounds for re-opening the conclusion it reached in the admissibility decision in this case, namely that the respondent States have accepted that “old” foreign-currency savings were part of the SFRY’s financial liabilities which they should share (see paragraphs 38 and 58 of that decision). The Court will only have regard to these submissions insofar as they have any bearing on the merits of the issues raised under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.
53. The Court would confine itself to stressing that the qualification of this issue as a succession issue requires only, having regard to the applicable international law, that an overall outcome of a division of property and debts of a predecessor State be fair. Provided that is the case, States can decide freely the actual terms of a settlement agreement, using the mechanisms they themselves consider appropriate, concerning among other issues, the repayment of “old” foreign-currency savings. This task cannot be done by the Strasbourg Court
ALIŠIĆ AND OTHERS v. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA AND OTHERS JUDGMENT 17.
II. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1
54. Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention reads as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”
A. The parties’ submissions
1. The applicants
55. The applicants submitted that the respondent States, as the successor States of the SFRY, should pay back their “old” foreign-currency savings in view of the fact that they had failed to settle this remaining succession issue.
2. The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Government
56. The Government disagreed with the Court’s finding that the issue of “old” foreign-currency savings in the Sarajevo branch of Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and the Tuzla branch of Investbanka was a succession issue (see the admissibility decision in this case, § 58). In this connection, they argued that the question of the SFRY guarantees of “old” foreign-currency savings, dealt with under Annex C to the Agreement on Succession Issues, should be distinguished from the question of “old” foreign-currency savings as such. Furthermore, while acknowledging that “old” foreign-currency savings had not been expressly mentioned in Annex G to the Agreement on Succession Issues dealing with private property and acquired rights, the Government argued that it was more important that they had not been expressly excluded either. They asserted that the relationship between savers and banks was of a private-law nature, despite the SFRY guarantees of “old” foreign-currency savings, and that the savers of the above-mentioned branches were in such a private-law relationship not with the branches themselves but rather with the parent banks (that is, Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana and Investbanka). Given that Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana was based in Slovenia and Investbanka in Serbia and, more importantly, that most of the funds of their branches in all probability ended up in Slovenia and Serbia respectively (see paragraphs 21 and 27 above), this Government maintained that Slovenia and Serbia should hence be held liable in the present case. In this regard, they referred to the decisions of the Slovenian courts mentioned in paragraph 38 above and the decision of the Serbian courts mentioned in Šekerović v. Serbia (dec.), no. 32472/03, 4 January 2007. They further referred to decision AP 164/04 of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1 April 2006, § 68, holding that Bosnia and Herzegovina was not responsible for “old” foreign-currency savings in the branches under consideration in the present case.
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57. As to the obligation set out in Article 7 of Annex C to the Agreement on Succession Issues to negotiate the issue of the SFRY guarantees of “old” foreign-currency savings, the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Government claimed that they had made serious efforts towards reaching an agreement, whereas Serbia and Slovenia had all the time insisted upon their respective positions without contemplating any modifications thereof. It is true that Bosnia and Herzegovina had been expected to convene the next meeting of the Standing Joint Committee in Sarajevo since 2010. However, the Government argued that this was due to the fact that the successor States had not yet agreed on an agenda of the meeting (pursuant to Rule 5 of the Rules of Procedure of that Committee a meeting cannot be held unless an agenda has been agreed upon). The Bosnian-Herzegovinian Government added that their delegations had raised the issue of “old” foreign-currency savings in Ljubljanska Banka Ljubljana’s Sarajevo branch on various occasions at bilateral meetings with their Slovenian counterparts. The Slovenian side had allegedly refused any talks simply because succession negotiations in that regard had not yet been concluded.
MVEP: Presuda nedvojbeno utvrđuje odgovornost Slovenije za staru štednju
Presudom Europskog suda za ljudska prava, koji je presudio da je Republika Slovenija odgovorna za povrat stare devizne štednje štedišama podružnica Ljubljanske banke izvan Republike Slovenije, nedvojbeno se utvrđuje odgovornost Slovenije, a Hrvatska i dalje radi na traženju kompromisnog rješenja za prenesenu štednju hrvatskih građana, kazala je za Hinu glasnogovornica Ministarstva vanjskih i europskih poslova Danijela Barišić.
Kada je riječ o neprenesenoj štednji, o njoj nema spora jer je obuhvaćena ovom presudom, kazala je.
Europski sud za ljudska prava u Strasbourgu presudio je u predmetu troje državljana BiH (Ališić, Sadžak i Šahdanović protiv BiH, Hrvatske, Srbije, Slovenije i Makedonije) koji su pokrenuli postupak tražeći da Europski sud utvrdi odgovornost tuženih država za neisplatu tzv. stare devizne štednje u podružnici Ljubljanske banke Sarajevo i Invest banke Tuzla dugi niz godina.
Europski sud je utvrdio odgovornom Republiku Sloveniju za povredu prava na mirno uživanje vlasništva (čl.1.Protokola 1. uz Konvenciju) i prava na učinkovito pravno sredstvo (čl.13. Konvencije) štedišama koje su svoju deviznu štednju položile u podružnice Ljubljanske banke izvan teritorija Republike Slovenije, te Republiku Srbiju za neisplatu devizne štednje položene u Invest banci izvan teritorija Republike Srbije.
Sud je također presudio da propusti Slovenije i Srbije da podnositelje zahtjeva (tužitelje) u ovom predmetu, ali i sve druge osobe u istom pravnom položaju uključe u određene sheme povrata te štednje, predstavlja sustavni problem.
Stoga obje države trebaju u roku od 6 mjeseci od konačnosti ove presude omogućiti podnositeljima i svima drugim štedišama u istom položaju isplatu stare devizne štednje pod istim uvjetima kao što je omogućeno onima koji su imali staru deviznu štednju u podružnicama slovenskih banaka u Sloveniji, odnosno srpskim državljanima koji su imali štednju u poslovnicama srpskih banaka na području Srbije.
U dokumentu donosimo tekst cijele presude na engleskom jeziku