Marine Harvest loses ‘state aid’ claim

MARINE Harvest has lost its case against the Norwegian government in which it claimed an export tax on the fish it sold into the European Union could be seen as a form of state aid.

The salmon giant took its case to the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) court this year, fearing it was open to being penalised by the EU. But the court yesterday dismissed the application as unfounded and ordered the company to pay its own costs and those of the EFTA Surveillance Authority, known as the ESA.

The court concluded that since ESA is not authorised to perform surveillance of state aid in the fisheries sector, it had not infringed its obligations under Article 62(1) of the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. Marine Harvest claimed the opposite.

It said the ESA decision contested by Marine Harvest was based on a correct interpretation of the relevant law.

‘The application submitted by Marine Harvest must therefore be dismissed as unfounded,’ the court added.

The company believed that the current export tax on fish constituted a breach of the EEA agreement so last year it lodged a formal complaint with the ESA.

It claimed that subsidies in the form of funding for marketing was granted to the Norwegian fisheries sector even though it is largely paid for by exporters in the form of a compulsory levy. This, it maintained, was unlawful.

The full text of the judgment can be found at www.eftacourt.int.

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