From 2 to 4 May 2017, the First Judicial Summit of the EFTA Pillar was held. The Supreme Courts of Iceland and Norway, in corpore, Judges from the three highest courts of Liechtenstein – State Court, Supreme Court and Administrative Court –, together with their respective legal secretaries, joined the Judges of the EFTA Court in Luxembourg on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the EEA Agreement in Oporto. The three groups were headed by President Thorgeir Örlygsson of the Supreme Court of Iceland, President Hubertus Schumacher of the Supreme Court of Liechtenstein and Chief Justice Toril Marie Øie of the Supreme Court of Norway.
On 2 May, the delegates from the three EEA/EFTA States first attended a hearing of the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and met with a party from the European Union courts led by ECJ President Koen Lenaerts. The summit was opened by a speech of EFTA Court President Carl Baudenbacher on the EFTA Court in its 24th year. Baudenbacher explained that homogeneity is not a one way street and that due to its size, the lack of an advocate general and the absence of a French rucksack, the EFTA Court has developed its own, fact-based, judicial style. Presidents Örlygsson, and Schumacher and Chief Justice Øie presented the Supreme Courts of their countries. Presidents Örlygsson and Schumacher emphasised that the courts in Iceland and in Liechtenstein are positive towards the preliminary reference procedure. Chief Justice Øie pointed to the fact that the Supreme Court of Norway has made three references in the years 2015 and 2016. The presentations were followed by an informal exchange of views on the relations between the EFTA Court and the national Supreme Courts. On 3 May 2017, participants attended the EFTA Court’s oral hearing in Case E-16/16 Fosen-Linjen AS v AtB AS, a request for an Advisory Opinion by the Frostating Court of Appeal following a briefing on the Court’s procedures. Since Judge Páll Hreinsson was unable to participate, he was replaced by ad hoc Judge Benedikt Bogason who, as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Iceland, was a member of the Icelandic delegation. On 4 May 2017, the group was joined by the Judges from the three EEA/EFTA States of the European Court of Human Rights, Erik Møse (Norway), Robert R. Spano (Iceland), and Carlo Ranzoni (Liechtenstein), for a discussion of possible consequences of Brexit. Judge Møse gave a talk on the British criticism levied at the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Per Christiansen spoke about “Brexit and a Multispeed EU” and President Baudenbacher addressed the subjects “Dispute resolution under a new free trade agreement EU-UK” and “Homogeneity after Brexit.”
The First Judicial Summit of the EFTA Pillar provided an excellent opportunity for the exchange of views and experiences between Justices of all three EEA/EFTA States and their colleagues from the courts in Luxembourg and in Strasbourg. It has furthered the judicial dialogue, in both formal and convivial surroundings. The Summit’s success will be repeated in the future.
Carl Baudenbacher, President of the EFTA Court: