Iceland meat import rules illegal?

Iceland’s Supreme Court has ruled that national legislation on importing fresh meat from other European countries violates European Economic Area (EEA) legislation.

State sued for damages

Meat-processing company Ferskar kjötvörur is suing the Icelandic State for damages incurred when their request for authorisation to import fresh beef from the Netherlands was rejected.

The Icelandic Federation of Trade and Services has previously reported Iceland’s import ban to the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) on the grounds that it constitutes an infringement of the EEA Treaty. An ESA investigation into the matter led to the same conclusion.

EFTA Court opinion sought

Ferskar kjötvörur secured a district-court ruling asking for a full official advisory opinion from the EFTA Court on the compatibility of Icelandic legislation with the EEA Treaty.

The Icelandic State appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court, but to no avail. The Supreme Court ruling comes down on the side of Ferskar kjötvörur and the district court, i.e. that Icelandic legislation is not in line with EEA rules.

Extra checks at Icelandic border

In Iceland, fresh meat imports from other EEA countries require a special permit from the Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture on the basis of a recommendation from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority.

EEA legislation, however, lays down that checks on animal health are the responsibility of the country dispatching the products and that no further checks should be conducted at the border of the receiving country.

The Supreme Court therefore considers that there is a real question mark over the issue and that an advisory opinion from the EFTA Court would help considerably with resolving the matter in the Icelandic courts.

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