The following press release was issued by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Friday:
The Government of Iceland submitted [on Friday] its observations on the application for leave to intervene in the Icesave case, lodged with the EFTA Court by the European Commission. The observations are based on the advice of Lead Counsel, Tim Ward QC, and the case team assisting him.
Ever since the EEA Agreement entered into force in 1994 the European Commission has categorically supported the EFTA Surveillance Authority in infringement proceedings by submitting written observations on the cases it has brought before the EFTA Court. However, it has not sought to support the Authority by intervention before.
According to the EFTA Court’s Rules of Procedure, the main difference between a third party’s intervention and written observations is that the Government will have an opportunity to respond in writing to a statement of intervention, whereas that is not the case when it comes to written observations.
Taking into consideration that the procedure before the EFTA Court is overwhelmingly written, and the normal time allocated for a party’s oral pleadings is 30 minutes, it is a drawback for a party not to be able to reply in writing to all written observations that may have been submitted in a case.
Iceland’s Lead Counsel and the case team have considered the Commission’s request thoroughly. Considering that the Government would otherwise not have a possibility to comment in writing on the Commission’s position, it is Counsel’s firm opinion that Iceland’s interest in this case would be better served by not opposing the Commission’s intervention.
Therefore, in the Government’s observations it is left to the EFTA Court to decide on the Commission’s application. Furthermore, the Government invites the Court to re-consider the manner in which it applies the rules on written observations.
The same considerations which allow a party to respond in writing to an intervention, should allow it to comment in writing on written observations in infringement proceedings.
The Government welcomes the opportunity the Commission’s request has provided to bring the attention to the manner in which the Court applies the rules on observations, and remains confident that they will be taken into consideration.
According to Morgunblaðið, there is added pressure on Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament, to discontinue membership talks with the European Union because of EC’s move, or at least to review the negotiation procedure.
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