Постановление Европейского суда по правам человека от 18.03.2010 «Дело Тронин (tronin) против России» [англ.]

Город принятия

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FIRST SECTION
CASE OF TRONIN v. RUSSIA
(Application No. 24461/02)
JUDGMENT*
(Strasbourg, 18.III.2010)
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*This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Tronin v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Christos Rozakis, President,

Nina {Vajic)*,

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*Здесь и далее по тексту слова на национальном языке набраны латинским шрифтом и выделены фигурными скобками.

Anatoly Kovler,

Elisabeth Steiner,

Khanlar Hajiyev,

Giorgio Malinverni,

George Nicolaou, judges,

and {Andre} Wampach, Deputy Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 25 February 2010,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE
1. The case originated in an application (No. 24461/02) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by a Russian national, Mr Sergey Yuryevich Tronin ("the applicant"), on 3 June 2002.

2. The applicant was represented by Mr K. Volokitin, a lawyer practising in Novoaltaysk. The Russian Government ("the Government") were initially represented by Mr P. Laptev, Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights, and subsequently by their new Representative, Mr G. Matyushkin.

3. The applicant alleged, in particular, that the failure on the part of the Russian Government to implement the procedure for redemption of Urozhay-90 bonds had been in breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

4. By a decision of 11 September 2008 the Court declared the application partly admissible.

5. The applicant and the Government each filed observations on the merits (Rule 59 § 1).

THE FACTS
I. The circumstances of the case
6. The applicant was born in 1969 and lives in Novoaltaysk, in the Altay region.

A. Background information on Urozhay-90 bonds
7. In 1987 the General Secretary of the USSR Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev presented his "basic theses", which laid the political foundation for economic reform heralding the transition to a market economy. Several laws were enacted which opened up the State-dominated planned economy to private enterprise. However, the Government preferred to keep control over consumer prices rather than leaving them to be determined by the free market.

8. By 1990 Government spending increased sharply as a growing number of unprofitable enterprises required State support, whereas more resources were diverted to subsidise consumer prices. At the same time, the elimination of central control over production decisions, especially in the consumer-goods sector, led to a breakdown in traditional supply-demand relationships. This resulted in pervasive shortages of food and basic consumer goods. The Government reacted by introducing ration stamps for food and certain hygiene articles.

9. In addition to ration stamps, the Government of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (RSFSR)*put into circulation several types of so-called "commodity bonds" (товарные чеки) which gave their bearers the right to purchase consumer goods, such as refrigerators, washing machines, tape recorders and passenger cars. The Urozhay-90 ("Harvest-90") bonds were one of many types of bonds; they were distributed among agricultural workers and companies which had sold grain and other agricultural produce to the State in 1990 and 1991. Those bonds were designed to encourage agricultural workers to sell produce to the State in exchange for the right to priority purchasing of goods in high demand (see paragraph 21 below). The State paid workers for the produce at fixed prices and also gave them bonds in amounts proportionate to the value of the produce sold.

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*The RSFSR adopted the Declaration on State Sovereignty on 12 June 1990.

10. The Urozhay-90 bonds were not legal tender, but they had a certain nominal value indicated on their face. That value determined the maximum purchase price of consumer goods which could be sold on production of the bonds. The bonds were not intended for payment but merely for certification of the right to purchase specific goods; the sale of goods was conditional on payment of the full purchase price by the bond-holder and production of the bonds for the same amount. The bonds were not registered in the person's name or otherwise personalised and the Government Resolution did not prevent them from being transferred among individuals and legal entities.

11. On 2 January 1992 the Russian Government decided to put an end to the regulation of retail prices. Shops began to fill up with merchandise but prices increased at a staggering speed (the inflation rate in 1992 was 2,600%). In March 1992, the Government established that goods available under the bonds would be sold at the prices fixed before 2 January 1992 (see paragraph 22 below).

12. In August 1992 the Government introduced the possibility of buying out the bonds with a coefficient of 10. In 1994, the coefficient was raised to 70 (see paragraphs 23 and 24 below). It appears that a significant number of bonds were bought out by the State before the buyout operations were stopped in 1996 (see paragraph 26 below).

13. In 1995 the status of the commodity bonds was codified in the Commodity Bonds Act passed by Parliament (see paragraph 25 below). Its text was very laconic, shorter than one page, but it purported to cover every type of commodities bonds issued in previous years. Section 1 recognised the commodity bonds as part of the internal debt of the Russian Federation; section 2 fixed at ten years the limitation period for the obligations arising out of commodity bonds (the starting date was not specified); section 3 required the Government to adopt a programme for settlement of the internal debt.

14. In 2000 the Government presented the programme for settlement of the internal debt (see paragraph 28 below). It covered every type of commodity bond, save for the Urozhay-90 bonds. A few months before the Commodity Bonds Act was amended so as to provide that the settlement of the debt under the Urozhay-90 bonds would be regulated by a special federal law (see paragraph 27 below).

15. Between 2003 and 2009 the application of section 1 of the Commodity Bonds Act was suspended in the part concerning the Urozhay-90 bonds, in accordance with the laws on the federal budget for each successive year (see paragraph 29 below).

16. In 2009 Parliament passed a law on the buyout of the Urozhay-90 bonds and the Government issued implementing regulations which set out a detailed procedure for buyout of the bonds (see paragraphs 30 and 31 below).

B. The applicant's attempts to obtain
redemption of the bonds
17. The applicant holds Urozhay-90 bonds with a total nominal value of 152,200 non-denominated Russian roubles (RUR).

18. In 2001 the applicant brought an action against the Russian Government and Ministry of Finance seeking to recover the current value of his bonds. He argued that in 1991 a holder of bonds worth RUR 16,000 could exchange them for a Russian-made passenger car.

19. On 26 December 2001 the Novyy Altay Town Court of the Altay Region granted the applicant's claim. It awarded him 1,246,919 Russian roubles (RUB) which represented the nominal value of the bonds divided by 16,000 and multiplied by the current price of a passenger car (RUB 113,770).

20. On 27 February 2002 the Altay Regional Court quashed the judgment of 26 December 2001. It held that the Commodity Bonds Act had not yet been implemented in the part concerning the Urozhay-90 bonds and the first-instance court had erroneously found that the bonds had been mature for redemption. It noted that "the determination of the claim... without regard to particular features of the underlying relationships, would negatively affect the channelling of budgetary resources..."
II. Relevant domestic law and practice
21. On 26 July 1990 the RSFSR Council of Ministers adopted Resolution No. 259 on urgent measures for increasing the purchase of agricultural products harvested in 1990 and for ensuring their safe keeping. Its relevant parts resolved as follows:

I. Measures to increase the independence of decision-making by collective and Soviet farms concerning the sale of the harvest
"1. To authorise all manufacturers of agricultural produce to sell the surplus of such produce that remains after delivery under existing agreements... to procurers or other consumers at negotiated prices...

2. To declare inadmissible any restrictions on the sale or shipment of agricultural produce to consumers in autonomous districts or regions of the RSFSR under paragraph 1 of the present resolution... Should local councils introduce such restrictions in their territories, the RSFSR Council of Ministers may stop issuing Urozhay-90 bonds or delivering goods on the basis of them in those territories..."
II. Measures to encourage the sale of agricultural produce to the State through the reciprocal sale of goods in high demand
"7. To begin issuing, in 1990, Urozhay-90 bonds to employees of collective and Soviet farms, other agro-industrial enterprises and organisations, peasants' farms and owners of personal subsidiary land plots in respect of agricultural produce sold to the State.

To determine that the bonds certify the right to purchase goods in high demand at retail prices in trade outlets. The said bonds are not legal tender.

8. The RSFSR Ministry of Finance and the RSFSR Ministry of Agriculture and Food will, until 1 September 1990, print and put into circulation through the branches of the RSFSR State Bank Urozhay-90 bonds for a total amount of 10 billion roubles. The bonds are to be used before 1 October 1991.

9. To establish that Urozhay-90 bonds are issued by the branches of the RSFSR State Bank:

- to all producers who sold standard products to the State between 1 July 1990 and 30 June 1991... in an amount equivalent to 10% of the value of the products sold...

...

13. The Russian Consumers' Association is to submit to the RSFSR Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations requests for those goods in high demand which are to be sold on production of the Urozhay-90 bonds, and organise their sale, on advance orders by citizens and organisations, at regional fairs and exhibitions and in specialised trade outlets. The Consumers' Associations is to deliver goods to the consumers on the basis of the Urozhay-90 bonds no later than 1 January 1990 [sic]. In 1991 orders under the said bonds will be executed within two months."
22. On 15 March 1992 the Russian Government issued Resolution No. 161, intended to compensate the owners of Urozhay-90 bonds for an increase in retail prices. It resolved, in particular:

"1. To establish that passenger cars and other consumer goods which are made available to citizens as a reward for the grain and other agricultural produce that was sold to the State in 1990 and 1991 are to be sold at the retail prices that prevailed before 2 January 1992...

2. To extend the period of validity of the Urozhay-90 bonds until the end of 1992..."
23. On 10 August 1992 the Government adopted Resolution No. 1442-r. It required the Russian ministries to allocate substantial amounts for the purchase of goods that were to be sold on production of the Urozhay-90 bonds. It further provided:

"4. The Ministry for Trade and Material Resources, in cooperation with the Central Consumers' Union, shall define, within two weeks, the list of goods intended for the implementation of the Urozhay-90 bonds...

5. The Prices Committee of the Ministry of the Economy shall determine the increase in prices of domestic and imported goods since 1990... The price difference shall be reimbursed from the republican budget.

6. The Ministry of Agriculture shall carry out an inventory of bonds held by agricultural enterprises and organisations and private individuals as on 1 September.

7. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture shall, within two weeks, lay down the procedure for the buyout of the Urozhay-90 bonds through the branches of the Savings Bank. It is to be taken into account that these bonds may be either used for purchasing goods or bought out by the State with a coefficient of 10."
24. On 16 April 1994 the Government approved Regulation No. 344 on State commodity bonds, which provided as follows:

"With a view to redeeming the State commodity bonds and preventing accrual of the State's liability to compensate for price differences, the Government of the Russian Federation resolves:

1. The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation -
- will buy out... the Urozhay-90 bonds at a price equivalent to their nominal value multiplied by 70 and credit that amount into a bank account..."
25. On 1 June 1995 the Commodity Bonds Act (No. 86-FZ, ФЗ "О государственных долговых товарных обязательствах") was enacted. It provided that State commodity bonds, including Urozhay-90 bonds, would be recognised as part of the internal State debt of the Russian Federation (section 1). The obligations arising out of the commodity bonds would be settled in accordance with the general principles of the Russian Civil Code, the limitation period being set at ten years (section 2). The original wording of section 3 provided:

"The Government of the Russian Federation shall draft, in 1995 - 1997, the State Programme for settlement of the internal debt of the Russian Federation described in section 1, based on the principle of full compensation. The Programme shall provide for redemption terms... convenient for citizens, including, according to their choice: provision of goods designated in... the State bonds issued to agricultural suppliers...; redemption of State commodity bonds at consumer prices prevailing at the time of the redemption...; conversion of the debt into State securities..."
26. On 16 January 1996 the Government adopted Resolution No. 33, by which it annulled Regulation No. 344 and instructed the Ministry of Finance to redeem the State commodity bonds within the amounts allocated for that purpose in the federal budget.

27. On 2 June 2000, section 3 of the Commodity Bonds Act was amended to provide that the procedure for implementation of the State's obligations to holders of the Urozhay-90 bonds would be determined