Increasing Pension Ages in Europe: The Case for Legitimate Expectation

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The European financial crisis, precipitated by the wider global economic crisis, has had a significant influence on the social rights of residents of the EU. Illustrative of this impact is the alterations to the pension age in many EU Member States. While many Member States were considering such changes to the pension age as a consequence of demographic transformation and its financial impact, in some cases, the change occurred much quicker, conditional upon financial aid from the EU and the IMF. Greece and Ireland were the first Member States to seek and receive financial aid from the EU and the IMF. However, these financial aid packages also included conditions, often negotiated very quickly, to increase pension ages in Greece and in Ireland. In Greece, the general pension age of 65 years increased to 67 years from the 1st January 2013 without the introduction of transitional periods and special treatment for some specific groups were abolished. Ireland, on the other hand, saw an increase in the normal pension age with a shift from 65 years to 66 years to occur in 2014 with further shifts to occur in 2021 and 2028 .A question, which is ripe for consideration, is whether prospective pensioners in EU Member States and, in particular, Greece and Ireland, have any legal claim to prevent the often swift imposition of pension age adjustments in their Member State? This paper analyses this research question through case studies of the legal situation in both Greece and Ireland. The paper will begin with a legal analysis of pension ages in the chosen states both prior to, and after, the EU and IMF bailouts. This analysis will reveal the extent of the alterations made to pension ages in both Member States as a result of the bail-out agreements. Secondly, the paper will address one particular legal claim that may be available to prospective pensioners in Greece and Ireland: the doctrine of legitimate expectation. It will be considered whether prospective pensioners have a legitimate expectation to receive a pension at the particular age and whether the State can be prevented from raising the pension age in such circumstances. It will also assess the adequacy of transitional measures in this context. The paper will conclude that the doctrine of legitimate expectation is unlikely to be of assistance to prospective pensioners in Ireland or in Greece due to the current interpretation of the doctrine in both jurisdictions. In both Greece and Ireland, the prospective pensioner will be met by claims that the expectation is either not legitimate, is a fetter on the discretion of the Executive or is not in the public interest considering the severe economic conditions prevailing in the State. Some claim to reasonable notice or transitional measures may be available in certain defined circumstances but these circumstances are limited and would not be of assistance to the general prospective pensioner.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012
EventESPANET - University of Edinburgh
Event duration: 13 Sep 201215 Sep 2012


CityUniversity of Edinburgh