The story of Maria Alfredina da Silva Carvalho Rico is the story of many Portuguese that saw their retirement pensions cut due to the so-called austerity measures.

She was born in 1942 and lives in Porto. She worked for the public-sector and in 2009 she was granted a retirement pension of €1,980.72 gross a month.

In 2011, due to the “financial assistance” from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, the Portuguese government decided, among other measures, to reducing pensions through an already existing extraordinary solidarity contribution (CES – Contribuição Extraordinária de Solidariedade) that included pensioners receiving €1,350 per month and later included pensioners receiving €1,000.

Maria Alfredina lost 4.6% of her total annual pension in 2013 and 2014. For that same period the Portuguese Constitutional Court authorised the CES as long as the measure was exceptional and only temporary.

Seven judges of The European Court of Human Rights decided that reduction of pensions following austerity measures is “appropriate” (photo: Council of Europe)

The Portuguese pensioner complained to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) claiming the reduction in her pension in 2014 was no longer a temporary measure and that her right to protection of property had been violated by the state.

The court decided today that her case is inadmissible. “The decision is final”, according to a description of the case in an ECHR press release on which this text is based.

“That decrease in her pension could have affected her standard of living and therefore the court concluded that there had been an interference with her right to peaceful enjoyment of her possessions”, judges stated. But “that interference” is acceptable because it was “provided for by law” and also because it was “considered lawful in the Constitutional Court rulings of 2013 and 2014”.

The court dismissed the case as “manifestly ill-founded”. “The measures implemented with regard to pensions had struck the appropriate balance between the general interest of the community and the protection of Ms da Silva Carvalho Rico’s fundamental rights.”

The decision was given by seven judges, including the Portuguese Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque.

Bruno Horta