The European Convention on Human Rights does not contain norms that explicitly guarantee economic and social rights, yet the European Court of Human Rights nevertheless regularly deals with issues concerning housing, health care, social security, etc. It is the task of the ECtHR to provide effective individual rights protection, but it also needs to set clear fundamental rights standards while showing deference to (democratic) decisions made at the national level. Especially when socio-economic issues are concerned, meeting these different demands is an extremely challenging task.
In her thesis, Ingrid Leijten explores the possible use and added value of the notion of ‘core rights’ for the reasoning of the ECtHR in socio-economic cases. By means of a comparative study of the German Wesensgehaltsgarantie, the minimum core obligations that have been recognised in the context of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the debate on the use of core rights for the protection of socio-economic rights under the South African Constitution, she has gained insights on the possibilities and pitfalls inherent in the idea of core rights protection. On the basis thereof, Ingrid Leijten has developed a ‘core rights perspective’ that is tailored to the protection of socio-economic interests by the ECtHR. She argues that this perspective allows the ECtHR to develop a principled approach to the adjudication of (positive) socio-economic claims that is characterised by a clear demarcation of the scope of the Convention and a focus on minimum guarantees. In this way the core rights perspective may help the ECtHR in leaving the necessary room for national laws and policies while ensuring robust socio-economic protection.