Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very pleased to deliver the opening address at the Fifth Nordic Conference on the EFTA and the EEC, which draws together so many eminent representatives of the judiciary and of the legal profession. The participation of Presidents and Members of the EC Court of Justice and the EFTA Court of Justice and of the highest national Courts attests to the great importance that is attached to the joint EEA venture and European law.
The Agreement on the European Economic Area and the related Agreements between the EFTA countries are expected to enter into force by January 1994 at the latest .Assurances have been given that ratification procedures still outstanding in some EC countries will be completed in due time. A Europe afflicted with serious economic recession can ill afford the negative message that any further delay of the EEA would entail.
The process inaugurated by the EFTA and EC Ministers on 19 December 1989 will -despite lengthy negotiations and the regrettable withdrawal of one EFTA member -launch a single market combining together 18 states and some 370 million people. Free movement of goods, services, capital and persons is to be ensured within that market. A large number of other areas for close EFTA-EC co-operation have been agreed.
Harmonization of an impressive part of European legislation relevant to that market has been achieved, with a view to its continued and effective development. Mechanisms for the independent legal control of the fulfillment of the rights and obligations stemming from the EEA and for the ensurement of their uniform interpretation have been set in place.
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The themes of this Conference deal with both legislative and judicial aspects of the EEA - that is the role of the legislator and of the judiciary, as they are envisaged under the EEA. Time will be devoted also to the steps taken or envisaged in Nordic countries to ensure an open and democratic process of national preparation and decision making that parallels the EEA legislative process.
At national level it must be ensured that no legal obstacles endanger the important task of the judiciary in applying fully the material rules and principles that the EEA entails. In Finland the primary agreements and the referenced EC acts are incorporated into our national legal order in their entirety - that is the texts as such in authenticated language versions. The same practice will be followed as regards future EEA legislation. The Ratification Act of the EEA agreement provides in special provisions for the enactment of the obligation undertaken by the EFTA states in Protocol 35.
As regards legal control, the Agreements set up a two-pillar structure. The EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court of Justice are entrusted the functions of supervision and adjudicatory control vis-à-vis the EFTA countries. The Comission and the Court of Justice of the EC fulfill, following EC modalities, those tasks for the Community. Finally, there are mechanisms for the exchange of information on the development of case law relevant to the EEA in the two pillars.
The Agreements contain a number of mechanisms to ensure uniformity of interpretation and application of EEA rules that are identical to Community rules. The obligations contained in e.g. Articles 6 and 7 together with the undertaking of EFTA countries under Protocol 35 of the EEA agreement reflect the commitment of the Governments and, since ratification, of Parliaments to this end.
In the Community, the preliminary rulings of the EC Court of Justice are instrumental in safeguarding the uniformity of EC law. Throughout the negotiation process EFTA governments strongly advocated for a similar system also within the EEA. Article 34 of the EFTA Agreement on the Surveillance Authority and the Court of Justice provides for a system of advisory opinions, whereby national courts are assured access to authoritative interpretation of EEA rules by the EFTA Court of Justice. In the transition towards European law, that the EEA in fact means, this co-operation between courts should be of considerable help.
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The time span within which EFTA countries have to accomodate themselves to the vast set of new law that the EEA entails is very short in any comparison. Therefore the Fifth Nordic Conference on EFTA and EEC law is most welcome in filling the need for information and exchange of ideas.
Finally, I would like to convey to the distinguished guests, to you, Mr.Chairman, and to all participants and contributors to the Conference, the Government's appreciation and esteem. To those of you here present, who contributed in different roles and capacities to the results soon to be discussed in detail, I wish to extend my Government's sincere gratitude.
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