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Internal Market

ESA: Norwegian ownership restrictions violate the EEA Agreement.




Shareholders cannot own more than 20 to 25 percent of financial companies in Norway. This limit constitutes an unjustified restriction on establishment and on the free movement of capital, and must be changed.

ESA delivered a reasoned opinion today, concluding that the Norwegian rules breach the EEA Agreement. Norway has now two months to take the measures necessary to comply with this decision. A reasoned opinion is the second formal step of an infringement procedure. The third and last stage would be to bring the case to the EFTA Court, which will have the final say.

Unlawful restriction

The EFTA Court ruled in 2016, that the Norwegian rules constitute a restriction on the freedom of establishment and on the free movement of capital.

Following the judgement, ESA opened an own initiative case against Norway in 2017. ESA also received a complaint from two Norwegian independent cooperative building associations, whose application to establish a bank with a 25 percent ownership interest each was rejected.

ESA concludes

ESA concludes today that Norway has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EEA Agreement by not allowing shareholders in financial undertakings to own more than 20 to 25 percent of the shares, unless they themselves are financial undertakings.

The arguments provided by Norway do not allow ESA to conclude that small shareholdings contribute to the financial stability of the market. Norwegian rules are inconsistent and could be bypassed. Finally, the EFTA Court noted that there appear to be less restrictive, but equally effective measures to attain the legitimate aims sought by the Government.

Read the reasoned opinion here.

The EEA Agreement

The EEA Agreement provides a wide range of rights to people across the European Economic Area. In Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, ESA works to make sure you can reap the benefits of the EEA Agreement in full. It guarantees that people and businesses in the three EFTA States, together with those in the EU Member States, can enjoy the four freedoms. In a successful and fair Internal Market, everyone plays by the same rules.

For further information, please contact:

Øystein Solvang
Head of Communications
mob. +32 490 57 63 53

Other EEA Institutions

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