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PR(03)15: EFTA Surveillance Authority initiates infringement proceedings against Norway due to discriminatory legislation concerning crew on fishing vessels


Today the EFTA Surveillance Authority sent a letter of formal notice to Norway concerning a breach of Article 28 of the EEA Agreement and of Articles 1 and 4 of Regulation 1612/68 on freedom of movement for workers within the Community.

Free movement of workers is one of the fundamental principles of EEA law. Article 28 (2) of the EEA Agreement states that the free movement of workers shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of EC Member States and EFTA States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment. This principle is further substantiated by Regulation 1612/68. It follows from Article 1 (1) of Regulation 1612/68 that any national of an EEA State, shall, irrespective of his place of residence, have the right to take up an activity as an employed person, and to pursue such activity, within the territory of another EEA State. Further, Article 4 (1) of Regulation 1612/68 provides that rules restricting by number or percentage the employment of foreign nationals in any undertaking, branch, activity or region, or at a national level, shall not apply to nationals of other EEA States.

In January 2002, the Authority received a complaint concerning Section 3 (2) of the Norwegian Act No 19 of 17 June 1966 relating to Norway’s fishing boundaries and prohibition of fishing etc. by foreign nationals within the Norwegian fishing boundaries. This provision requires at least 50 % of the crewmembers or sharesmen on a Norwegian fishing vessel operating in the Norwegian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to be Norwegian nationals or resident in Norway.

EEA law prohibits direct as well as indirect discrimination (as e.g. a residence requirement) of workers from other EEA States. Hence, the Norwegian rule requiring at least 50% of the crewmembers or sharesmen on a Norwegian fishing vessel to be Norwegian nationals or resident in Norway, is incompatible with EEA law.

In the light of these circumstances, the Authority has concluded that Norway is in breach of Article 28 of the EEA Agreement and Articles 1 and 4 of Regulation 1612/68.

A letter of formal notice is the first step in the Authority’s infringement proceedings. Norway is invited to submit its comments to the letter of formal notice within three months and, thus, to initiate a dialogue with the Authority.

For further information, please contact Mr. Niels Fenger, Director of Legal and Executive Affairs, on telephone +32 (2) 286 1830.

17 July 2003

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