By: Maria Madalena das Neves
Decision commented on: EFTA Surveillance Authority Decision of 4 October 2017 closing a complaint case against the Norwegian Government concerning restrictions on commercial fishing or catching of snow crab (Decision No. 173/17/COL).
On 30 September 2016, a group of enterprises of EU Member States engaged in snow crab fisheries in the Barents Sea, submitted a complaint against Norway to the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) (see complaint here). The complainants, whose identification has been not been made public (but likely including at least one Lithuanian enterprise), argued that Norway’s Regulation on Prohibition of Snow Crab Catching of 19 December 2014 and Act on the Right to Participate in Fishing and Catching of 26 March 1999 conferred an unjustified privileged access to vessels owned by Norwegian citizens and to Russian vessels to catch snow crab in the maritime zones of Norway (particularly in the Svalbard Fisheries Protection Zone and on the Norwegian Continental Shelf), and that said legislation was, consequently, inconsistent with Articles 4, 31(1), 34, 36(1), 124 of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement and with Article 5 of Protocol 9 of the EEA Agreement. More specifically, the complainants argued that Norway’s secondary legislation regulating the catch of snow crab, which prevents nationals from other EEA Member States from establishing a company in Norway in order to be able to engage in fisheries or catching of crab, was inconsistent with the right of establishment, the freedom to provide services, the principle of non-discrimination, and the principle of proportionality prescribed by the EEA Agreement.