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PR(02)04: Failure by Norway to comply with rules on equal treatment for men and women referred to the EFTA Court


The EFTA Surveillance Authority has decided that a failure by Norway to take the necessary measures to comply with Council Directive 76/207EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions, shall be brought before the EFTA Court.

The case was initiated on the basis of a complaint raised against Norway in August 2000, alleging that by reserving a number of scholarly positions at the University of Oslo for women only, Norway was in breach of the EEA Agreement.

The University of Oslo had officially reserved 20 postdoctoral positions for women only, in order to favour the recruitment of women to permanent scholarly positions. According to the University’s Plan for Equal Treatment 2000-2004 another 10 postdoctoral positions and 12 permanent scholarly positions are to be reserved for women.

Article 30(3) of the Act No. 22 of 12 May 1995 relating to Universities and Colleges is the legal basis for the University’s decision to reserve the positions for women only. The Norwegian Government has claimed that the decision was made in order to achieve better gender balance in academic positions at the University in fields where women are underrepresented, and that it considers the situation to be in conformity with EEA law.

Having examined the relevant EEA law and Norway’s observations, the Authority is of the opinion that Article 30(3) is contrary to EEA law. A measure which is intended to give priority in promotion to women in sectors of the public service where they are underrepresented must be regarded as compatible with EEA law if

  • it does not automatically and unconditionally give priority to women when women and men are equally qualified, and
  • the candidatures are the subject of an objective assessment which takes account of the specific personal situations of all candidates.

A rule such as the Norwegian one whereby applications from men are not even taken into consideration goes beyond these conditions.  Consequently, the Authority has decided to refer the matter to the EFTA Court.

For further information please contact Mr. Peter Dyrberg, Director of the Legal and Executive Affairs Department, telephone (+32) 2 286 18 30.

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