Case no 44319/98
The applicant complains, under Article 11 of the Convention, that the compulsory membership of the regional Notary Chamber, on pain of losing her right to practise as a private notary, was in breach of her right to freedom of association. (...)
Invoking Article 11 in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention, the applicant also complains that she, as a private notary, is subject to the compulsory membership of the Notary Chamber which was not the case when she was a State notary with the same qualifications and licence. Moreover, the various regional notary chambers (of which there are sometimes more than one per region) require different membership fees depending on the decision of the general assembly of members. (...)
The first question to be determined in the present case is whether the notary chambers are associations within the meaning of Article 11 of the Convention and whether the establishment of such chambers prevents private practice notaries like the applicant from forming together or joining professional associations (the Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v. Belgium judgment of 23 June 1981, Series A no. 43 pp. 26-27, §§62-66).
The Court notes that the Convention organs have consistently held that the regulatory bodies of the liberal professions are not associations within the meaning of Article 11 of the Convention (see, for example, the aforementioned Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere v. Belgium judgment, §§ 64-65 as regards the Ordre des médecins; nos 14331/88 and 14332/88, Revert and Legallais v. France, D.R. 62 p. 309 as regards the Ordre des architectes; no. 13750/88 A. and Others v. Spain, D.R. 66 p.188 as regards bar associations). The object of these bodies, established by legislation, is to regulate and promote the professions, whilst exercising important public law functions for the protection of the public. They cannot, therefore, be likened to trade unions but remain integrated within the structures of the State.
Having regard to the Notary Act No. 4460-1 of 11 February 1993 and the statutory functions of notary chambers, the Court is of the view that such chambers are not associations within the meaning of Article 11 of the Convention.
As to the second question whether the applicant has been prevented from forming or joining an association which would otherwise promote her professional interests, nothing has been submitted which might indicate that the applicant was so prevented.
In these circumstance, the Court concludes that the applicant’s complaint falls outside the scope of Article 11 of the Convention and that this part of the application must be rejected as being incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4.
Insofar as the applicant also invokes Article 14 of the Convention, the Court notes that this provision does not have an independent existence but complements other substantive Convention provisions (see the Gaygusuz v. Austria judgment of 16 September 1996, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-IV, p. 1141, § 36). As the Court has held above that the applicant’s complaint is incompatible with Article 11 of the Convention, the Court cannot examine any purported link with Article 14. It follows that this part of the application must also be rejected as being incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 and 4.