Reykjavík District Court just handed down a precedent-setting verdict in the case of an import company, Ferskar kjötvörur, against the Icelandic government.
RÚV reports that the case centres on a dispute which arose when the company attempted to import 83 kilos of fresh meat from Holland in 2014. The government gave the company permission for the imports, but under a number of conditions, amongst them that the meat be stored at -18°C for a whole month before it could be allowed through customs. This condition was objected to, but to no avail, and the meat was ultimately disposed of.
In the court’s ruling, they refer to the fact that the European Free Trade Agreement Surveillance Authority (ESA) has found Iceland’s ban on imported fresh meat to be in violation of the country’s free trade agreement with Europe. As such, the Icelandic government was ordered to pay damages to the company.
The ruling could set a new precedent. Even though the Icelandic government could appeal the matter to the Supreme Court, it is unlikely they would rule in the government’s favour, given the ESA ruling.
As reported, the European Free Trade Agreement Surveillance Authority (ESA) announced that they have come to a “reasoned opinion” on the matter, in particular with how Iceland applies agricultural law to the importing of raw eggs and raw egg products, unpasteurised milk and dairy products processed from unpasteurised milk.
“Importers must apply for a permit and submit documentation to the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority,” the announcement reads in part. “ESA considers this authorisation procedure to be in breach of Directive 89/662/EEC concerning veterinary checks in EEA trade. The main objective of the directive is to reinforce health checks at the product’s point of origin while limiting controls at the place of destination to non-discriminatory veterinary spot-checks. By requiring importers to apply for import permits and imposing additional requirements, the Icelandic legislation imposes additional checks that go beyond the types of checks permitted under this directive.”
The case is similar to another set of laws the ESA believes are in breach of EEA laws: the importing of raw meat. In that case, EFTA Court ruled that Iceland does not have the right “to enact rules demanding that an importer of raw meat products applies for a special permit before the products are imported.”
As such, should this decision also reach EFTA court, it is likely that the court will rule similarly. However, when Iceland will change its agricultural laws accordingly is still unknown.
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