AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

                      Application No. 14249/88
                      by L.P. and T.P.
                      against Austria


      The European Commission of Human Rights (First Chamber) sitting
in private on 1 September 1993, the following members being present:

           MM.   A. WEITZEL, President
                 C.L. ROZAKIS
                 F. ERMACORA
                 E. BUSUTTIL
                 A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
           Mrs.  J. LIDDY
           MM.   M.P. PELLONPÄÄ
                 G.B. REFFI
                 N. BRATZA

           Mrs.  M.F. BUQUICCHIO, Secretary to the Chamber


      Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

      Having regard to the application introduced on 4 June 1987 by
L.P. and T.P. against Austria and registered on 27 September 1988 under
file No. 14249/88;

      Having regard to the report provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules
of Procedure of the Commission;

      Having deliberated;

      Decides as follows:

THE FACTS

      The facts of the case as submitted by the applicants may be
summarised as follows:

      The applicants, Austrian citizens born in 1902 and 1906
respectively who live on their farm at Dietersdorf, Lower Austria, are
represented by Rechtsanwalt Dr. Richard Wandl of St. Pölten. They
complain of agricultural land consolidation proceedings
(Zusammenlegungsverfahren) under the Lower Austrian Agricultural Land
Planning Act (Flurverfassungsgesetz) to which their land has been
subjected.

      The facts submitted may be summarised as follows.

      The consolidation plan (Zusammenlegungsplan) was issued by the
Agricultural District Authority (Agrarbezirksbehörde) on 13 December
1973.  Upon appeal by another party this plan was amended by a decision
of the Provincial Agricultural Land Reform Board (Landesagrarsenat) on
25 January 1977. A compensation parcel earlier assigned to the other
party was now attributed to the applicants while part of a compensation
parcel earlier assigned to the applicants was attributed to the other
party. The applicants appealed against this decision to the Supreme
Land Reform Board (Oberster Agrarsenat). They submitted that they had
accepted to give up lands near the village for land of inferior quality
situated farther away since this had led to the creation of a new large
complex.  By the Provincial Board's decision this complex had been
broken up. However, on 5 April 1978 the Supreme Board rejected the
applicants' appeal as unfounded.  It stated, inter alia, that
possession of a cellar could be held by another person than the owner
of the land above the cellar.  Therefore the attribution of the land
under which the applicants had their cellar to another party was
unobjectionable.

      The applicants then lodged a complaint with the Constitutional
Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof) alleging unconstitutionality of the
applicable provision of the Provincial Act.  The Constitutional Court
instituted proceedings for the review of the constitutionality of this
provision (Normenkontrollverfahren) and found on 3 October 1984 that
it was unconstitutional (Collection of Constitutional Court Decisions
No. 10.176).  As a consequence, the Supreme Board's above decision was
quashed by the Constitutional Court on 27 February 1985 (Collection of
Constitutional Court Decisions No. 10.360).

      On 5 March 1986 the Supreme Board took a new decision on the
basis of amended legislation introduced subsequently to the
Constitutional Court's above decision of 3 October 1984.  However, it
again confirmed the Provincial Board's decision of 25 January 1977,
finding that the applicants had thereby received lawful compensation
parcels.  It noted in particular that they had contributed 11 complexes
of land and in exchange had received 3 complexes. They had no right to
receive only two complexes as had been the situation before the
Provincial Board's above decision; even with 3 complexes there was
still a considerable improvement of the economic structure brought
about by the consolidation measures.  The Supreme Board also confirmed
the lawfulness of the assignment to another party of land situated just
above a cellar of the applicants, denying that this land had to be
qualified as land of special value which the authority was required to
reassign to the original owner.  Concerning a former parcel of the
applicants adjoining the cellar which the applicants claimed should
have been qualified as a building plot and therefore also as land of
special value to be reassigned to them, the Supreme Board likewise
confirmed the allotment to another party, noting that this parcel was
in fact outside the area designated for constructions purposes and
therefore no land of special value; moreover, the applicants originally
had not claimed the reassignment of this land. The Supreme Board
further did not find it objectionable that the surface of certain land
of special value reassigned to the applicants had been reduced as a
result of the regulation of an adjoining rivulet and the creation of
common installations.  It finally rejected complaints of the applicants
that they had received less valuable agricultural land than that which
they had contributed and that the economic unity of their farm with
that of another party had been disregarded.  Insofar as the applicants
had requested to be informed of an expert opinion prepared by a member
of the Board, it was stated that such an expert opinion did not exist
as the Board could rely on the special knowledge of its expert members
for agronomy and agriculture.

      The applicants again complained to the Constitutional Court,
invoking their constitutional rights to equality before the law,
inviolability of property, and decision of the case by the lawful
judge.  They also alleged unconstitutionality of a provision of the
Provincial Act. However, on 27 November 1986 the Constitutional Court
refused to deal with the complaint, finding that in the light of the
case-law it was unlikely that an unconstitutionality of the legislative
provision in question could be established, and that the case did not
raise specific questions of constitutional law.  As regards a possible
violation of non-constitutional rights, the case was referred to the
Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgerichtshof).

      The latter Court rejected the applicants' complaints on 3
December 1987.  It observed that the applicants' appeal against the
Provincial Board's decision of 25 January 1977 had been limited to the
new measures ordered by this decision and that it was therefore
inadmissible to challenge other measures including those relating to
the refusal of reassignment of parcels in the area of the applicants'
cellar, reduction of the surface of reassigned land of special value,
and assignment of allegedly less valuable agricultural land. Regarding
the new measures the Supreme Board had rightly confirmed the lawfulness
of the applicants' compensation. Furthermore, there had been no
violation of the applicants' procedural rights in that they had been
sufficiently informed of the results of the investigation. The
participation of the expert members in the Board's decision was not
objectionable as it served the purpose of providing the authority with
the necessary technical expertise.  In this respect the Administrative
Court referred inter alia to the Ettl judgment of 23 April 1987 (Eur.
Court H.R., Series A no. 117, p. 3 et seq.).


COMPLAINTS

      The applicants allege violations of Article 6 para. 1 of the
Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

      Under Article 6 para. 1 of the Convention they complain that they
were not heard within a "reasonable time" as the proceedings lasted 15
years.  They further claim that their right to a "fair hearing" was
disregarded in particular concerning the allotment of the land situated
above their cellar to another party. In this respect they contest the
view that only the specific measures appealed against, but not the
global result of the consolidation was at issue in the relevant
administrative proceedings.

      Under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention the
applicants complain primarily of the deprivation of their land situated
above the cellar. They further complain that by the provisional
transfer of lands, which took place before the adoption of the
consolidation plan in 1973, and which was upheld until the final
decision, they were wrongly deprived of their original land which then
was exploited by other parties, the applicants for this reason being
unable to assert their rights appropriately in the subsequent main
proceedings.  They claim to have suffered considerable damage as a
result.

PROCEEDINGS

      The application was introduced on 4 June 1987 and registered on
27 September 1988.

      On 12 July 1989 the Commission decided to give notice of the
application to the Respondent Government who were invited to submit
observations in writing on the admissibility and the merits of the
application.

      The Government submitted their observations on 7 December 1989
and the applicants replied thereto on 25 January 1990.  An English
translation of the Government's observations was submitted on 11 March
1991.

THE LAW

1.    The applicants mainly complain that, in agricultural land
consolidation proceedings concerning their property, their civil rights
and obligations were not determined "within a reasonable time" required
by Article 6 para. 1 (Art. 6-1), first sentence of the Convention which
reads as follows:

      "    In the determination of his civil rights and
      obligations...., everyone is entitled to a fair and public
      hearing within a reasonable time......"

      The applicants argue that the proceedings in question have
started on 13 December 1973 when the consolidation plan was issued.

      The respondent Government argue that this plan had been accepted
by the applicants who only objected to its amendment which had been
effected by the Provincial Agricultural Land Reform Board in its
decision of 25 January 1977 on appeal by a third party.

      The Commission considers that in the appeal proceedings
instituted by another party the applicant's "civil rights and
obligations" were not in dispute.  The applicants admit that in fact
their rights were only affected by the Provincial Agricultural Land
Reform Board's decision of 25 January 1977 by which the original
consolidation plan was amended and other compensation parcels were
assigned to them.  Thus, 11 February 1977, when the applicants appealed
against the decision in question, is the starting point of the
proceedings in which a dispute over the applicants' alleged civil
rights was determined.

      These proceedings lasted until 3 December 1987 when the
Administrative Court's decision was delivered.  This period included
proceedings before the Constitutional Court.

      The Commission considers, that in the light of the criteria
established by the case law of the Convention organs on the question
of "reasonable time" (the complexity of the case, the applicant's
conduct and that of the competent authorities) and having regard to all
the information in its possession, a thorough examination of this
complaint is required as to the merits.

2.    The applicants have further alleged a violation of their right
to a fair hearing in that the Administrative Court did not in its
decision of 3 December 1987 deal with their particular complaint that
the assignment to another party of land situated just above their
cellar interfered with their right to the peaceful enjoyment of
possessions.  However, it has to be noted that the Supreme Land Reform
Board stated in this respect in its decision of 5 April 1978 that the
right of property relating to the cellar could be separated from the
right to property to the parcel under which the cellar was situated.
Therefore the attribution of the parcel above the applicant's cellar
to other parties was unobjectionable.

      This finding apparently meant that the applicants remained the
owner of the cellar and it has not been shown by them that this
ownership has been put in question.

      In any event, the Commission notes that according to the findings
of the Administrative Court in its decision 3 December 1987 the
applicants appeal had been limited to the new measures ordered by the
Provincial Board's decision of 25 January 1977 and that it was
therefore inadmissible to challenge other measures including those
relating to the original assignment of 13 December 1973 to another
party of the parcel above the applicant's cellar.

      It can in the circumstances of the present case not be found that
this interpretation of the applicant's appeal was arbitrary and
violated the applicant's right to a fair hearing within the meaning of
Article 6 (Art. 6) of the Convention.

      This complaint therefore has to be rejected as being manifestly
ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the
Convention.

3.    The applicants have finally alleged a violation of their right
to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions.

      The Commission first observes that the applicants have failed to
appeal against the allotment of compensation parcels effected in
application of the consolidation plan issued on 13 December 1973.  The
question therefore arises whether they have exhausted domestic remedies
in this respect.  In any event, it has to be noted that according to
the finding of the Supreme Land Reform Board in its decision of 5 April
1978 the applicants had received adequate compensation parcels in the
consolidation proceedings and their property right in regard to the
cellar in question has not been affected by the attribution of the land
above the cellar to another party.  The applicants have neither shown
that contrary to this finding the right to the peaceful enjoyment of
possession of the cellar has been contested by public authorities or
private parties nor that globally the land attributed to them was
considerably less valuable than their prior parcels.

      There is consequently no appearance of a violation of Article 1
of Protocol No. 1 (P1-1).

      It follows that this part of the application has likewise to be
rejected as being manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article
27 para. 2 (art. 27-2) of the Convention.

      For these reasons, the Commission unanimously

      DECLARES ADMISSIBLE, without prejudging the merits, the complaint
      relating to the length of the proceedings.

      DECLARES INADMISSIBLE the remainder of the application.

Secretary to the First Chamber        President of the First Chamber

     (M.F. BUQUICCHIO)                       (A. WEITZEL)