The principle of proportionality bridges legal thinking all around the world. From its German origins, it has expanded to national and international jurisdictions alike. At present, the principle forms an indispensable part of the judicial review conducted by the Court, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights. Despite its apparent omnipresence, a closer look at the principle’s usage reveals many different forms of application and varying degrees of intensity of judicial review.
This chapter sets out the specifics of this “uberprinciple” of law in the EEA legal order and its application beyond. It takes into account not only the Court’s case law, but also developments in other jurisdictions. In particular, the chapter discusses the application of proportionality by the courts of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, both in dealing with domestic law and the application of EEA law. Particular emphasis is placed on the operation of the preliminary reference procedure in this regard.
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Similarly Stone Sweet and Mathews (2008). In this article, the authors contend that “specific identifiable agents (judges and law professors-turned judges) were instrumental in bringing [proportionality analysis] to treaty based regimes… In principle one could map the network of individuals and the connections between institutions that facilitated the spread of [proportionality analysis]”.
See Reich (2011), p. 266, referring to Cassis de Dijon (Case 120/78 Rewe v Bundesmonopolverwaltung für Branntwein, EU:C:1979:42). Compare also the cases mentioned by Von Danwitz (2012) (Case 11/70, EU:C:1970:114) and Buitoni (Case 122/78, EU:C:1979:43). President Kutscher participated in all three cases.
Koch (2003), pp. 48–157, discusses proportionality in Germany, France, the UK, Ireland, Austria, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and in the case law of the ECtHR. For Norway compare Harbo (2015), p. 136 ff.
Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/36/EEC (OJ 2004 L 158, 77, as corrected by OJ 2004 L 229, 35, OJ 2005 L 30, 27, and OJ 2005 L 197, 34). Incorporated into the EEA Agreement at point 1 of Annex V and point 3 of Annex VIII to the Agreement by EEA Joint Committee Decision.
Laudo No 1/2005 del Tribunal Permanente de Revisión contra el Laudo arbitral del Tribunal Arbitral ad hoc en la controversia ‘prohibición de importación de neumaticos remoldeados procedentes del Uruguay’, 20 December 2005.
See Case 331/88, The Queen v Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and Secretary of State for Health, ex parte Fedesa and Others, EU:C:1990:391, where the ECJ held that “… the legality of a measure adopted in that sphere can be affected only if the measure is manifestly inappropriate having regard to the objective which the competent institution is seeking to pursue.” (Emphasis added).
Case C-387/97 Commission of the European Communities v Hellenic Republic, EU:C:2000:356, paragraph 90: A penalty payment must be “appropriate to the circumstances and proportionate both to the breach which has been found and to the ability to pay of the Member State concerned.”
See, for example, the Opinion of Advocate General Tizzano in Case C-189/02 P, Dansk Rørindustri and Others v Commission, EU:C:2004:415, point 102; this means that it is “necessary [inter alia] to examine ‘the relative gravity of the participation of each undertaking’” (point 108).
Compare Case E-3/06, Ladbrokes Ltd v The Government of Norway, Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture and Food  EFTA Ct. Rep. 86; see also the cases cited by Hreinsson (2016), pp. 363 ff.
See, for example, Joined Cases E-3/13 and E-20/13, Fred. Olsen and Others v The Norwegian State  EFTA Ct. Rep. 400, paragraph 225, where the Court held that “fundamental rights guaranteed in the legal order of the EEA Agreement are applicable in all situations governed by EEA law”.
See, for example, Case E-5/98, Fagtún ehf. v Byggingarnefnd Borgarholtsskóla, the Government of Iceland, the City of Reykjavík and the Municipality of Mosfellsbær  EFTA Ct. Rep. 51, paragraph 37: “If a Contracting Party claims to need protection …, it will have to satisfy the Court that its actions are genuinely motivated …, that they are apt to achieve the desired objective and that there are no other means of achieving protection that are less restrictive of trade”. See also Case E-9/11 EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway  EFTA Ct. Rep. 442, paragraph 88; and Case E-1/03 EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Republic of Iceland (Icelandic Air Passenger Tax)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 143, paragraph 35.
Case E-15/10, Posten Norge AS v EFTA Surveillance Authority  EFTA Ct. Rep. 246; Case E-14/11, DB Schenker v EFTA Surveillance Authority (“DB Schenker I”)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 1178; Case E-7/12, DB Schenker v EFTA Surveillance Authority (“DB Schenker II”)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 356; Case E-8/12, DB Schenker v EFTA Surveillance Authority (“DB Schenker III”)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 148; Case E-5/13, DB Schenker v EFTA Surveillance Authority (“DB Schenker IV”)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 304; Case E-4/13, DB Schenker v EFTA Surveillance Authority (“DB Schenker V”)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 1180; and Case E-22/14, DB Schenker v EFTA Surveillance Authority (“DB Schenker VI”)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 350.
Barbier de La Serre (2014), p. 432; furthermore, Temple Lang (2012), p. 467: “The Norway Post judgment therefore provides an interpretation of [Article 6 ECHR] of very great scope and importance. It has the effect of providing a single principle requiring in-depth judicial review of administrative procedures in competition cases in EU law, in EEA law and under the Convention, at least in all cases involving serious sanctions.” See also Baudenbacher (2016), p. 37(9).
Case E-1/06, EFTA Surveillance Authority v The Kingdom of Norway (Gaming Machines)  EFTA Ct. Rep. 8, paragraphs 30 to 41 or Case E-14/15 EFTA Surveillance Authority v Iceland (Holship) Official Journal 2016/C 467/14, paragraphs 121 to 129.
Case E-8/16, Netfonds Holding ASA m.fl. v Staten v/Finansdepartementet, judgment of 16 May 2017, not yet published, paragraph 115: “An obligation of dispersed ownership in banks and insurance companies may only serve as a means, subject to the suitability and necessity assessment, of ensuring the objective pursued but not as a legitimate aim in itself”.
Ibid., paragraph 126: “In particular, boycotts, such as the one at issue, detrimentally affect their situations. They are barred from performing the unloading and loading services and may even lose their employment if their employer affiliates to the Framework Agreement.”
Case E-9/11, ESA v Norway, cited above, paragraph 96: “In this regard the Court finds that the defendant has not sufficiently demonstrated … that other forms of control, even if administratively more burdensome, may not achieve the relevant public interest objective in an equally effective way” (emphasis added).
Case E-2/01, Dr. Pucher, cited above, paragraph 35. Against this background, the Court held that “more appropriate and less restrictive means of monitoring and controlling of the activities of domiciliary companies could … comprise periodic reporting”.
Amongst others Rosas (2005), p. 167; Bücker and Warneck (2011), Vries et al. (2012), Gerstenberg (2009), p. 493. This criticism was in particular fuelled by the ECJ’s judgments in cases such as C-112/00, Schmidberger, C-438/05, Viking and C-341/05 Laval.
Ueda (2003), p. 564, asks: “How can we estimate with any degree of precision the costs and benefits concerned with the operation of any measure? To what extent can we conceive of the concerned losses or gains in terms of tangible costs and benefits? How can we address ripple and indirect effects? … How do we reckon invisible or non-pecuniary costs and benefits, such as opportunity costs or enjoyment of a pristine environment?”
These provisions have been referred to by the ECtHR in Case Hafsteindóttir v Iceland, paragraph 33. They are summarised as provisions which codified “notably the limited powers conferred on the police (by a so-called general mandate) to take such measures as are necessary to maintain law and order and the rule of proportionality applying to the use of force.”
Icelandic Supreme Court, Case no 660/2016, judgment of 15 December 2016, Matvælastofnun v þrotabú Beis ehf.: “[…] skal stjórnvald því aðeins taka íþyngjandi ákvörðun þegar lögmætu markmiði, sem að er stefnt, verður ekki náð með öðru og vægara móti. Skal þess þá gætt að ekki sé farið strangar í sakirnar en nauðsyn ber til.”
See, for example, Thorarensen (2003) with reference to case 167/2002 from 14 November 2002 Alþýðusamband Íslands v the Icelandic State and Samtök atvinnulífsins and Samtök atvinnulífsins v Alþýðusamband Íslands.
Gesetz vom 21. April 1922 über die allgemeine Landesverwaltungspflege (die Verwaltungsbehörden und ihre Hilfsorgane, das Verfahren in Verwaltungssachen, das Verwaltungszwangs- und Verwaltungsstrafverfahren), idF 01.01.2017.
Norwegian Supreme Court, HR-2016-2195-S, judgment of 21 October 2016, dissenting opinion by Justice Ingvald Falch, paragraphs 99 ff.; in particular 121 to 123; it may be added that the majority dismissed the case and accordingly did not go on to consider the possible impact on the right to property.
In a similar vein Harbo (2015), p. 178: “One could claim that the manifestly unreasonable test is an excessive burden test and thus has similarities with the proportionality stricto sensu test”; Ibid., p. 190.
Compare for example the finding of the majority in paragraph 79 which attaches some weight to the possibility of administrative manoeuvre, albeit not directly naming institutional balance. (“I add that, should the expulsion in the present case be regarded as disproportionate, it would be difficult to envisage when it should be possible to expel a foreign national who has a child with a person holding a residence permit. It would have the consequence that a foreign national in such a situation would normally be protected against expulsion. It would imply a change in current practice, and would moreover have clearly undesirable aspects.”).
130. löggjafarþing 2003–2004 Þskj. 1441 — 947. mál. Frumvarp til laga um breyting á lögum um flugmálaáætlun og fjáröflun til flugmála, nr. 31/1987, með síðari breytingum; available at http://www.althingi.is/altext/130/s/1441.html (last visited on 08.06.2017).
The State Court’s earlier approach had also been criticised in the academic literature, as the State Court noted in its judgment; see StGH 2006/94 paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4 of the State Court’s reasoning.
Ibid., Case E-14/15, paragraph 130. Here, the Court referred to the ECJ’s judgment in Commission v Spain, dealing with a similar system established in Spanish ports, in which the ECJ concluded that the system was not necessary for the attainment of the objective of “protection of workers”, as there were viable alternative and less restrictive measures available. The Spanish port system was amended very recently. See Real Decreto-ley 4/2017, de 24 de febrero, por el que se modifica el régimen de los trabajadores para la prestación del servicio portuario de manipulación de mercancías dando cumplimiento a la Sentencia del Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea de 11 de diciembre de 2014, recaída en el asunto C-576/13 (procedimiento de infracción 2009/4052).
Ibid., paragraphs 128 and 129; this implicit affirmation of the EFTA Court’s conclusion is noteworthy for the reason that the Supreme Court analysed the same question a few years before. At that time, it came to the conclusion that the boycott profited from the exemption of competition law. See Rt. 1997, 334 (Port of Sola) as quoted in HR-2016-2554 paragraph 73.
In paragraph 47 the Supreme Court states: “Det kreves med andre ord at de alternative tiltak skal være likeverdige med hensyn til måloppnåelse, og det må være åpenbart at dette er tilfellet”. And Ibid., paragraph 62: “Det er ikke fra den ankende parts side gjort gjeldende at det er forskningsmessig belegg for at den effekt reklame må antas å ha for totalvolumet vil bli eliminert ved innføring av restriksjoner på hvordan alkoholreklame tillates utformet, eventuelt ved at det også innføres påbud om at det skal inntas helseadvarsel i alle annonser. Den ankende part har imidlertid gjort gjeldende at det ikke er fremlagt dokumentasjon for at det anførte alternative tiltak vil være uten virkning, og at dette innebærer at staten ikke har fylt sin bevisbyrde, og at totalforbudet da må anses unødvendig. Jeg finner det klart at heller ikke den teoretiske mulighet for at innholdsmessige begrensninger skulle ha like god effekt som et totalforbud, kan føre til at totalforbudet anses uforholdsmessig. Det må sies å være en naturlig formodning for at reklame, også med innholdsmessige begrensninger, vil ha betydning for totalforbruket, og det er ikke særlige omstendigheter som kan begrunne en bevisføringsplikt for staten utover dette, jf. EFTA-domstolens angivelse av. at det må være åpenbart at de alternative tiltak vil sikre den samme måloppnåelse.”
Case E-3/06, Ladbrokes, cited above, paragraph 59: “If it turns out that the national authorities have opted for a rather low level of protection it is less probable that a monopoly is the only way of achieving the level of protection opted for”.
Ibid., paragraph 60: “The restriction placed on the monopoly provider must be taken into account when identifying the level of protection … A low level of protection exists if the Norwegian authorities tolerate high numbers of gaming opportunities and a high level of gaming activity. Important factors … are restrictions on how often per week or per day games are on offer, restrictions on the number of outlets which offer games of chance and on sales and marketing activities of the outlets, as well as restrictions on advertising and on development of new games…”.
Ibid., paragraph 61; the Court held in particular that the national court must determine factors such as the extent and effect of marketing and “whether the advertising of the gambling and betting services is rather informative than evocative in nature”.
HR-2007-1144-A - Rt-2007-1003, cited above, paragraph 106: “Dette viser etter min mening at EFTA-domstolens moderate prøvingsintensitet i denne saken er i god harmoni med den norske tradisjon ved domstolsprøving av. vurderinger av. utpreget politisk karakter”.
See, for example, Case E-1/06, Gaming Machines, cited above, paragraphs 25 to 53 (in particular the findings regarding the necessity of the measure, where the Court also criticised the policy decision (paragraph 50)).