"We have seen in the NAV Case how important expertise in EU and EEA law is for functioning of the welfare system," says Minister of Labour and Inclusion, Marte Mjøs Persen, referring to the case where more or less the entire legal community failed to grasp the free movement rights of recipients of sickness benefits.
"It is important that EU law becomes more integrated into the entire legal field. We must remember that EU and EEA law is a central part of Norwegian law, something we deal with daily," Mjøs Persen said.
The Minister spoke at the opening conference of the University of Bergen's (UiB) new Centre for EU and EEA Law, The Centre on the Europeanization of Norwegian Law (CENTENOL), on Wednesday, October 4th.
The goal of the conference was to present the centre's plans and ambitions to its Norwegian and international partners and stakeholders. In attendance were top bureaucrats, judges, diplomats, attorneys and academics from both law and social science.
Need for better understanding of European law as national law
Keynote speaker Professor Catharine Bernard, Cambridge University. Photo: Eivind Senneset
The research at the centre will develop new knowledge about EEA law and its impact on Norwegian law, especially through the use of social science and internationally comparative perspectives.
"To bring a case, one must first know whether it falls within the scope of EU law or not. Therefore, this knowledge is also important for users of the courts," says Hreinsson.
Hreinsson’s view was supported by Supreme Court Justice Henrik Bull, who has seen a certain increase in EU-related cases before his court.
"As court users become more adept at identifying EU legal issues in their cases, we get more cases. The courts do not initiate cases on their own; we depend on someone bringing the cases to court," Bull points out.
A call for more research
The President of the EFTA Court, Pall Hreinsson. Photo: Eivind Senneset
He too referred to the so-called Nav scandal, as an illustration of how difficult EU regulations can be to handle even for experienced lawyers.
"We are, of course, proud of the fact that CENTENOL is located in Bergen, as a recognition of our strong academic community, but the research will be beneficial for the entire country and beyond," Søvig added.
Centenol will conduct research on EU and EEA law in collaboration with international researchers from the University of Agder and the University of Stavanger, and internationally, with Reykjavik University and the Liechtenstein Institute.
"We are looking forward to starting the collaboration with our partners, both at home and abroad," says CENTENOL’s Director, Professor Christian Franklin.