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PR(00)16: The EFTA Surveillance Authority questions restrictions of establishment in the aquaculture sector in Norway

23.9.2002

The EFTA Surveillance Authority sent a letter of formal notice to Norway, on 23 October 2000, questioning its compliance with EEA rules concerning the freedom of establishment.

Article 31 of the EEA Agreement stipulates that within the framework of the provisions of the EEA Agreement, there shall be no restrictions on the freedom of establishment of nationals of an EC Member State or an EFTA State in the territory of any other of these States.  This shall also apply to the setting up of agencies, branches or subsidiaries by nationals of any EC Member State or EFTA State established in the territory of any of these States.

The granting of licences in the aquaculture sector in Norway is governed by Act No. 68 of 14 June 1985 relating to the breeding of fish, shellfish etc.  In accordance with this law, Regulation No. 633 of 11 June 1998 relating to reallocation of licences for the breeding of salmon and trout in seawater was adopted in 1998 in connection with the reallocation of licences in the region of Finnmark and Troms.  In addition, the Ministry of Fisheries has laid down guidelines for Regulation No. 633.

When allocating a licence, both the legislation and the existing guidelines on the practice imply that local applicants, or applicants with local shareholders, are given priority when the licences for breeding fish are allocated.

Although local ownership is not an absolute condition for the granting of licence for breeding fish, companies not having local ownership might be placed at a disadvantage compared to companies with local shareholders.  In the Authority’s view, such provisions on preferences for local ownership could therefore hamper or render less attractive the establishment of fish farming activities by companies owned by non-locals.  The information given by the Norwegian Government does not provide any justifications for the restrictions in question.

The Norwegian Government has been invited to submit its observations to the content of the letter of formal notice within two months upon its receipt.  In light of these observations the Authority will consider whether to proceed with the case.

For further information please contact Mr. Peter Dyrberg (Director of Legal & Executive Affairs), telephone (32)-02-286-1830. 

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