EFTA Court: Questions and Answers

Jurisdiction - Organisation

When was the EEA Agreement signed? When did it come into effect?

The EEA Agreement was signed on 2 May 1992 and it entered into force on 1 January 1994.

 

How many Contracting Parties are there to the EEA Agreement?

There are currently 32 Contracting Parties to the EEA Agreement; the 3 EFTA States Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the European Union and its 28 Member States.

 

Why was the EFTA Court established under the EEA Agreement?

The Court was established to ensure the judicial control of the EEA Agreement in the EEA/EFTA States, and its tasks are broadly divided into dispute resolution and interpretation of the EEA Agreement.

 

When was the Court established?

The Court came into operation following the entry into force of the EEA Agreement on 1 January 1994; the seat of the Court was initially in Geneva, and from September 1996 in Luxembourg.

 

Why is Luxembourg the seat of the Court?

Luxembourg was chosen as the seat of the Court, as it is also the seat of the EU Courts. to facilitate cooperation.

 

Where are the Court’s premises?

The Court’s premises are in the Hemicycle Building, on Kirchberg. Luxembourg-City.

 

Which languages does the Court use?

The official language of the Court is English. In advisory opinion cases, the language of the referring court may be used by private parties, i.e. Icelandic, German and Norwegian.

 

Is the Court part of EFTA?

The Court is an independent judicial body established under the so-called Surveillance and Court Agreement entered into by the 3 EEA/EFTA States. The Court’s staff is remunerated in accordance with the Coordinated Organizations’ common system of salaries.

 

Who sets the budget and how are the contributions fixed?

The budget of the Court is adopted annually by the ESA/Court Committee, which consists of the representatives of the EFTA States who are among the Contracting Parties to the EEA Agreement, on the basis of a proposal submitted by the Court. The scale of contributions as established by the ESA/Court Committee is currently: Norway 89%, Iceland 9% and Liechtenstein 2%.

 

 

JUDGES

 

How are the judges of the Court appointed and who appoints them?

Each EEA/EFTA State nominates one judge, and he/she is appointed by common accord of all the EEA/EFTA States.

 

What are the prerequisites for becoming a judge?

Article 30 of the Surveillance and Court Agreement states that “the judges shall be chosen from persons who possess the qualifications required for appointment to the highest judicial offices in their respective countries or who are jurisconsults of recognized competence”.

 

How many judges are there?

There are 3 judges.

 

What is the judges’ term of office?

The judges are appointed for a term of six years. They may be reappointed.

 

How is the President chosen and for how long?

In cases where a judge is prevented from acting, an ad-hoc judge is chosen from a list established by the EEA/EFTA States.

 

What is an ad hoc judge?

In cases where a judge is prevented from acting, an ad-hoc judge is chosen from a list established by the EEA/EFTA States

 

 

REGISTRY

 

What is the function of the Registry?

The Registry is the administrative organ of the Court. Headed by the Registrar, it consists of a number of staff dealing with procedure, budget, human resources, logistics, etc.

 

What are the responsibilities of the Registrar?

The Registrar is responsible for all procedural and administrative work, for the assessment and collection of contributions, and for the administration of the accounts and finances of the Court. The Registrar is the regular channel of communications to and from the Court, and is responsible for keeping up to date the register of cases brought before the Court.

 

How many members of staff are there?

There are currently 16 members of staff, plus temporary staff and trainees.

 

 

CASES

 

What type of cases are submitted to the Court?

The two main types of cases before the Court are: direct actions and advisory opinions.
Direct Actions are initiated with an application lodged directly at the Court by an EFTA State, the EFTA Surveillance Authority or an individual or an economic operator.
Requests for an advisory opinion are submitted to the Court by national courts for the interpretation of EEA Law, and form part of their cases.

 

How are cases brought before the Court?

Proceedings before the Court are instituted by written application in direct action cases or by a request from a national court of an EEA/EFTA State in advisory opinion cases. The procedure to be followed for the instigation of proceedings before the Court is laid down in the Court’s Statute and Rules of Procedure. Further details can be found in the Court’s Notice for the guidance of counsel and Note for guidance on requests by national courts for advisory opinions.

 

Are the hearings open to the public?

The hearings are public unless the Court, of its own motion or on application by the parties, decides otherwise for serious reasons. Anyone wishing to attend the hearings should register in advance to ensure entry.

 

Who bears the expenses of the Court for cases submitted to it?

Expenses of the Court are borne by the EEA/EFTA States through the budget of the Court. Proceedings before the Court are free of charge inasmuch as no charges or fees of any kind are, as a rule, payable to the Court.

 

What law is applied by the Court?

The Court applies EEA law. As the EEA Agreement extends the EU Single Market to the EEA/EFTA States, EEA law is in most circumstances identical in substance to EU law.

 

Is the Court the only court which deals with the EEA Agreement?

No. The EU Courts (Court of Justice of the European Union and the General Court) deal with issues related to the EEA in the EU and the 28 EU States, while the EFTA Court deals with such issues in the 3 EEA/EFTA States. The national courts in the EU and the EFTA States deal with EEA law and refer questions regarding its application and interpretation to this Court and the Court of Justice, as appropriate.

 

Who can bring cases before to the Court?

In direct action cases, the Court is open to entities other than Contracting Parties to the EEA Agreement, if they have legal standing. In other words, individuals and businesses can bring cases before the Court if they fulfill the admissibility criteria. In preliminary reference cases, the case is a ‘dialogue’ with the national court: the national court refers questions concerning EEA law, which are then subject to proceedings before the Court.

 

Is there any recourse to appeal?

No. The decisions of the Court are final.

 

 

INFORMATION

 

Can I visit the Court?

Yes. The Court welcomes visitors groups, who would like to know more about the EFTA Court and the EEA Agreement. Individuals/groups are welcome to attend oral hearings.

 

How can I get general information about the Court?

The website is the best place to start in order to obtain general information.

 

How do I find out about jobs or traineeships at the Court?

All vacancies are posted on the Court’s website. Questions regarding vacancies posted there may be sent to the Registry. Information about the traineeship programme is also available on the Court’s website.