Entities to which International Guarantees Apply

Weiss v Austria (decision), 10 July 1991 [ECtHR]


Case no 14596/89

The applicant complains that his compulsory membership in a section of the Carinthian Chamber of Trade is contrary to his right to freedom of association as guaranteed by Article 11 (Art. 11) of the Convention. (...) 

The Commission recalls the case-law of the Convention organs according to which Article 11 (Art. 11) concerns the right to form and join private organisations; institutions of public law do not constitute associations within the meaning of this provision (cf.  No. 8734/79, Dec. 12.3.81, D.R. 26 p. 145 at p. 154).

The Commission notes that the Chambers of Trade in Austria have not been founded as professional organisations by private individuals. They have been created by the Chamber of Commerce Act. According to that Act, they are public law institutions (Körperschaften öffentlichen Rechts). Their functions, conferred upon them by the Act, include the elimination and prevention of unfair trade practices and the furtherance of professional education and training. They thus exercise, by virtue of the relevant legislation, in areas of public interest a form of public control over the members of the trades to which the Chamber of Commerce Act applies.

In these circumstances the Commission concludes that the Chambers of Trade, by virtue of their legal nature and their public functions, cannot be considered as associations within the meaning of Article 11 (Art. 11) of the Convention (cf.  Eur.  Court H.R., Le Compte, Van Leuven and De Meyere judgment of 23 June 1981, Series A no. 43, p. 26 et seq., paras. 63 - 65).

It is therefore not necessary to determine the question whether the right to freedom of association under Article 11 (Art. 11) includes, by implication, a "negative right" not to be compelled to join an association (cf.  Eur.  Court H.R., Young, James and Webster judgment of 13 August 1981, Series A no. 44, p. 21, para. 51).

The applicant does not allege that he is prevented from joining any association falling within the scope of application of Article 11 (Art. 11). His complaint is based solely on the compulsory membership in the Carinthian Chamber of Trade. Having regard to the foregoing considerations, it follows that this complaint is incompatible ratione materiae with the provisions of the Convention and must be rejected in accordance with Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2).

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