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PR(01)10: The EFTA Surveillance Authority finds discriminatory treatment of plaintiffs before Liechtenstein courts incompatible with EEA law


On 4 July 2001 the EFTA Surveillance Authority sent a Reasoned Opinion to Liechtenstein concerning discriminatory rules applying to non-resident natural plaintiffs initiating civil proceedings before Liechtenstein courts as compared to similar plaintiffs residing in Liechtenstein.

According to Article 57 of Liechtenstein Law on Civil Proceedings, a defendant may ask a natural plaintiff to provide security for costs in civil proceedings before Liechtenstein courts if the latter does not reside in Liechtenstein and has no chargeable assets in that country. However, this rule does not apply against plaintiffs having no chargeable assets in Liechtenstein but residing there.

Article 4 of the EEA Agreement forbids discrimination on the basis of nationality (direct discrimination). EEA law also forbids indirect discrimination, namely the application of other criteria of differentiation which lead in fact to the same result as direct discrimination. This encompasses, in particular, differentiation on the basis of residence. In addition, Article 3 of the EEA Agreement obliges EFTA States to take all appropriate measures to ensure fulfillment of their obligations arising from the Agreement or to abstain from any measure which could jeopardize the attainment of its objectives.

In March 2000, the Authority sent a letter of formal notice to Liechtenstein. After having given Liechtenstein the opportunity to submit its observations, the Authority maintains the position that Article 57 of the Liechtenstein Law on Civil Proceedings is incompatible with Articles 3 and 4 of the EEA Agreement. In the Authority’s view, Liechtenstein did not demonstrate that the concerned discrimination was justified by objective circumstances.

The Reasoned Opinion is issued pursuant to the first paragraph of Article 31 of the Agreement between the EFTA States on the Establishment of a Surveillance Authority and a Court of Justice and after having given Liechtenstein the opportunity of submitting its observations in the matter. The purpose of a Reasoned Opinion is to give the State in question a last chance to take corrective measures before the Authority decides whether to bring the matter before the EFTA Court.

Liechtenstein is requested to take the necessary measures to comply with the Reasoned Opinion within three months of its receipt.

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

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