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AX(97)02: Annex to Press Release (97)02

11.10.2002

The EFTA Surveillance Authority monitors the fulfilment of the EFTA States' obligations under the EEA Agreement. The Agreement contains basic provisions and secondary legislation derived from the European Community. New EEA acts are included in the Agreement through decisions of the EEA Joint Committee. At the end of 1996 the number of binding EEA acts was 1575, of which 1218 were directives and 357 regulations or decisions.

By the end of 1996, the rate of transposition of directives which had been notified as fully implemented was as follows: Iceland 96.7 %, Liechtenstein 95.1 % and Norway 97.1 %. In some instances implementation is however only partial. The conformity of notified national measures has so far been assessed with respect to 35 % of the directives.

In the areas related to the four freedoms and public procurement, the Authority registered during the years 1994 - 1996 altogether 473 cases, of which 364 were own-initiatives cases and 109 complaints. As 125 cases had been closed by the end of 1996, the Authority began the current year with a workload of 338 open cases, to which must be added the caseload in the fields of state aid and competition described below.

In the area of free movement of goods, individuals and economic operators continue to encounter more problems related to the correct application of the primary EEA rules than with the implementation of secondary legislation. In spite of a considerable number of EEA acts in this field, the transposition of the legislation into the legal order of the EFTA states can, save some delays, generally be considered satisfactory. Certain important sectors such as foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals are being subjected to particular scrutiny. Special monitoring of the application of secondary EEA legislation is called for in the veterinary and phytosanitary sectors where also 34 establishments in the EFTA States were inspected during the year. Continuous and intensive control of the correct application of EEA rules is carried out by the Authority by means of a number of information procedures. With regard to public procurement, the application of the EEA rules by national authorities continues to call for the Authority's particular attention, due to a high number of complaints. At the same time, contract award notices are increasing rapidly.

As regards free movement of persons, the number of cases of non-implementation or partial implementation is still relatively high in the sector of mutual recognition of professional qualifications. The financial services sector also contains many directives which are only partially implemented. Within that sector, systematic assessment of national measures in the insurance field is being carried out. In the horizontal areas much transposition work must still be carried out by the EFTA States in the sectors of health and safety at work, environment and company law.

Concerning State aid, the Authority decided to propose appropriate measures to Iceland with regard to State aid in the form of sectorally differentiated social security tax. The Icelandic Government agreed to the measures. The Authority is also in the process of investigating the regionally differentiated social security tax in Norway.

An investigation procedure was opened with regard to the Norwegian Government's financing of the Arcus Group, a state owned company, established after the demerger of the former Norwegian alcohol monopoly and active in inter alia importation and wholesale of alcoholic beverages. At the same time, the Authority found that the Norwegian Government's legislative amendments and organizational changes related to imports, exports and wholesale of alcoholic beverages met the requirements the Authority had previously laid down. The Authority was, at the end of 1996, examining whether the amendments of the alcohol legislation in Iceland met the requirements laid down in an earlier reasoned opinion. The Authority dealt with several individual State aid cases in 1996, where it decided not to raise any objections. This was the case inter alia for Rena Karton, a Norwegian producer of folding box board. An approval was given of areas in Iceland eligible for regional aid.

By the end of 1996, fifty-two competition cases were pending with the Authority, with particular attention being given to cases relating to the pharmaceutical, telecommunications, energy and forestry sectors, as well as the sector for distribution of wine and spirits. In the pharmaceutical sector, the Authority has been examining a complaint regarding a refusal to supply, and another complaint on the establishment and functioning of a joint purchasing organization set up by Norwegian hospitals to procure medicines. With regard to the telecommunications sector, the Authority has been closely looking at a leasing and cooperation agreement whereby Telenor AS, the public telecommunication operator in Norway, has the exclusive right to use the excess capacity of the telecommunication network owned by the Norwegian Railways.

In June 1996, the Authority responded to a request from the European Commission to undertake an investigation into the premises of the three member companies of the Norwegian Gas Negotiation Committee (Gassforhandlingsutvalget - GFU). Following the investigation, further information was requested from the Norwegian authorities with regard to their possible involvement in the functions of that Committee. The Authority has also examined the markets for round wood in Norway. Three Statements of Objections were issued as a result, a subsequent hearing was held and final decisions are foreseen in the first part of 1997. Also received were three complaints concerning the wholesale and distribution activities of the Arcus Group, and in the insurance field, the Authority examined notified norms and standards for testing and acceptance of security devices and the evaluation and approval of undertakings installing them. With regard to the latter, a notice was adopted in which the Authority indicated its intention to take a favourable view on the arrangements.

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