Immigration, education and integration. A cloudy combination. (Anatoliy Ponomaryov and Vitaliy Ponomaryov v. Bulgaria)

Immigration was a challenge in the past, is still a challenge now and will probably remain a challenge in the future for policy makers as well as for judges. Especially when it comes to public services for individuals staying irregularly in a country, this issue becomes more difficult. Can the regular or irregular stay of an individual in a country justify a differential treatment in access to basic services such as health care and education? In Bulgaria, individuals who do not have a permanent residence permit have to pay a school fee while Bulgarian citizens and individuals having such a permit enjoy education free of charge. This was the issue the European Court of Human Rights was confronted with in the recent case of Anatoliy Ponomaryov and Vitaliy Ponomaryov v. Bulgaria. Continue reading

Lautsi v. Italy: the Argument from Neutrality

Lautsi v. Italy was destined to achieve legendary status in the ECtHR’s case law. In fact, it became the stuff of legends long before the Grand Chamber’s judgment came out. Rarely has a judgment of a supranational court put such a spell on people. Rarely has it inspired such passionate comments and speculation even before it was released. Rarely have so many people looked forward to a judgment with such anxious anticipation. But why? What is it about the issues involved in this case that causes it to speak so strongly to the hearts and minds of so many? It is a question I have been asking myself for a while now, while reflecting on the tension between freedom of and freedom from religion in the Court’s case law. And the question is haunting me now more than ever, having read the Lautsi judgment and the comments in the blogosphere thereon and preparing a post of my own. I have not been able to come up with a satisfactory answer to the question. At least not satisfactory to a legal mind. My personal preoccupation with Lautsi seems to stem from a strong conviction that neutrality requires that the state should not hang crucifixes on the walls in public schools. I will attempt to explain my opinion in this post. But I will also explain why this is perhaps not an issue to be decided by a human rights court.

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