In 2022, the Research Council of Norway issued a call for proposals for research centres that can strengthen legal research into EEA law from a Norwegian perspective. This is the contribution that will be made by the research centre EURNOR at the University of Oslo.
Background to the project
In 2022, UiO received a grant of NOK 21 million from the Research Council of Norway together with the University of Tromsø, and will work in close collaboration with ARENA (Centre for European Studies) and the Centre for European Law at the University of Oslo. The project period that has been set for EURNOR is from 2023 to 2028.
- The NAV case is the backdrop for the project, says Ole-Andreas Rognstad.
The EURNOR project will investigate the reasons why EEA rules have not been correctly applied in Norwegian law. The so-called "NAV (Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration) scandal" revealed that several Norwegian national insurance recipients had been penalised for residing in other EU/EEA countries, despite this not being in contravention of EEA law. Pursuant to the EEA Agreement, nationals of member states have the right to free movement. For that reason, the scandal revealed how Norwegian law may not be in compliance with EEA rules. The call for proposals emphasised that applications involving research into national insurance law would be assigned priority, however the EURNOR project attaches major importance to other areas of law also being investigated.
Will investigate the challenges Norwegian law encounters vis-à-vis EEA law
The project will investigate various challenges. This will firstly pertain to the legal challenges Norway encounters with the EEA rules. Secondly, the project will examine the underlying socio-political challenges associated with the integration of EEA law and Norwegian law. And thirdly, the project will look at the administration of the EEA rules, including the specific follow-up of these rules. How should the EEA rules, which are defined by international stakeholders, be applied in practice in Norway? How should these be interpreted and administered in a Norwegian context?
It is also a goal of the project to identify the tensions that may arise between Norway's national system of rules and EEA law. How can these tensions be best managed and prevented? This challenge indicates how the EEA rules can be successfully integrated into Norwegian law.
An overarching challenge with EEA law
Integrating EEA law into Norwegian law can be a rather complicated process. Rognstad highlights a typical problem:
- The law first has to be adopted in the EU. The EEA countries must then assess whether the law is relevant to their internal market. Finally, it is the EEA Joint Committee that makes the formal decision on whether the law will become part of the EEA Agreement. However, a problem can then arise – the so-called "backlog". It takes time. The EU rule may expire before it is adapted to Norwegian law.
The slow legislative process in the EU and EEA can therefore have a major impact on Norwegian legislation. The researchers will therefore examine in more detail the consequences these legal processes may have for Norway.
In addition, Rognstad says that many of the problems that are being addressed by the project are not specific to the EEA, but also apply to the EU. It will therefore be beneficial to have a comparative perspective as part of the research. Focusing on how the EU countries also deal with these challenges can improve the Norwegian research.
Several areas of law will be studied
To avoid a so-called "silo effect", Rognstad explains that the project will work across institutes and research groups. In isolation, the participants in the project possess a high level of professional competence in fields that are strongly influenced by EU and EEA law, and by having these areas of work cross over, they can more easily establish an overview of the various challenges and develop new knowledge.
He explains that the project will take a broad starting point in which multiple legal angles will be examined. Therefore, it will not only be national insurance law that is placed under the magnifying glass, but also areas of law such as employment and anti-discrimination law, immigration law, environmental and natural resource management, energy law, data and AI law, and general administrative law. This will enable the project to apply an interdisciplinary approach within the field of law, whereby researchers can work with both a "bottom-up" and "top-down" style.
- This list is not exhaustive, however it includes the areas we are looking at, Rognstad adds.
The areas of law that are to be researched will also depend on what applications they receive from research fellows who are employed in the project. EURNOR has thus far set a framework of six research fellowships for the project (with opportunities for employment of postdoctoral fellows in some of these positions): three positions at the Faculty of Law in Oslo, two at the University of Tromsø, and one earmarked for ARENA.
- EURNOR is open to different perspectives, as long as the overarching issues are represented, says Rognstad.
EURNOR has further divided the research into five different work packages:
- EU and EEA law and the relationship between them.
- Methodological challenges associated with interpreting Norwegian law in accordance with EEA law.
- Governance and rights.
- Teaching and dissemination.
The various work packages include a separate package for teaching and dissemination.
- The call for proposals clearly emphasised the importance of integrating research on the impact of EEA law into Norwegian law into the teaching. That is why we have created a separate work package for teaching and dissemination, says Rognstad.
A joint boost
EURNOR also wants to involve external practitioners in its project. Rognstad says that in the future they envisage arranging workshops, courses and discussion groups, and inviting relevant stakeholders from the courts, ministries and law firms.
- We hope to achieve a joint boost for research and the faculty, Rognstad concludes.