Article | Last updated: 24/03/2015 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The EEA Agreement does not cover the EU’s single market for agricultural products nor the EU’s common agricultural policy. Trade in processed agricultural products such as pizza, yogurt, crispbread and baby food is regulated by a protocol to the EEA Agreement. A separate agreement on trade in basic agricultural products allows for negotiated quotas for derived products such as cheese and meats.
Even though agriculture is not part of the EEA Agreement and the agricultural sector is not covered by EEA legislation on state aid and competition, this sector is affected by the agreement. EEA food and veterinary legislation, which is largely harmonised with EU legislation, sets requirements for foods and food production, animal health and animal welfare. Food and veterinary legislation, taken together, is often called food law.
EU agricultural policy
The EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) dates back to the 1950s, when Europe was emerging from over a decade of severe food shortages during and after World War II. The objectives were to increase agricultural productivity, ensure a stable supply of affordable food, ensure a fair standard of living for farmers, and stabilise the prices of agricultural products. The subsidies to farmers under the CAP gave them incentives to increase production, and brought about a restructuring of the agricultural sector.
In the 1980s, agricultural overproduction in the EU meant vast surpluses of many important agricultural products. The CAP has since undergone several reforms. The main feature of the most recent reform was the change from producer support to income support payments. In addition, the importance of rural development as a pillar of EU agricultural policy has increased.
The European Commission is now working on an extensive reform of the CAP, with the following key objectives: more targeted income support, green support for long-term productivity and the conservation of ecosystems, increased innovation, research and development, and rural development and entrepreneurship. The CAP now accounts for about 40 % of the EU budget. According to the proposed plans, this share will be reduced somewhat.
The EU does not have a common forestry policy, but there is a common forestry strategy. Support for various forestry measures is incorporated into the rural development framework. The forestry policy of the member states is also influenced by the EU’s environmental, regional, energy and economic development policies.
Norway’s cooperation with the EU in the field of agriculture
Agriculture is not part of the EEA Agreement, with the exception of legislation governing food safety, animal health and animal welfare. However, the EEA/EFTA countries and the EU have a separate agreement on trade in processed agricultural products (Protocol 3), and Norway and the EU have a bilateral agreement on trade in basic agricultural products (Article 19). Both of these agreements have also been incorporated into the EEA Agreement.
Protocol 3 regulates trade in processed agricultural products such as pizza, yogurt, crispbread and baby food. Products regulated by this protocol are subject to the general provisions of the EEA Agreement on the free movement of goods, but the parties to the agreement can use export refunds and production refunds to compensate for price differences in the basic agricultural products used in the production of the processed foods. The purpose of the protocol is to harmonise conditions of competition for producers of processed agricultural products in the EEA and to provide a basis for increased trade.
Article 19 is a bilateral agreement between Norway and the EU on trade in basic agricultural products. According to Article 19 of the EEA Agreement, Norway and the EU are to carry out reviews of the conditions of trade in agricultural products at two-yearly intervals. The most recent changes in the agreement entered into force on 1 January 2012. For Norway this agreement means an increase in the tariff-free export of cheese to the EU, as well as tariff-free quotas for a number of agricultural products, including berries, various snacks, dog and cat food, cod liver oil and Christmas trees. For the EU, this agreement increases the tariff-free import quota for cheese and various meat products, as well as certain inputs for the food preservation and feed industries. Norway makes use of the available export quotas to a limited degree, whereas the EU fills its agricultural quota allocations.
In addition to the direct impact of the trade agreements with the EU, developments in the CAP indirectly affect Norwegian agriculture and Norway’s food industry.
In recent years, questions related to market power and the functioning of the food market have been high on the EU agenda. When the European Commission established the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain in 2010, Einar Steensnæs was invited to participate as an observer in his capacity as chair of the Norwegian Inquiry Commission for Power Relations in the Food Chain. Many of the questions investigated by this commission are also on the EU agenda.
The EU’s food safety legislation applies to all types of food and food production, including agricultural products and fish. Through the EEA Agreement, this legislation – which deals with health hazards, food labelling, and animal health and animal welfare, and covers fish, feed and seed – has been implemented in Norway. The legislation has great significance for trade in food and makes it possible for Norwegian food, particularly fish, to be exported to the EU without further control measures on the part of the EU.
EU legislation in this area
The main objective of the EU’s food and veterinary legislation is to ensure food safety and to prevent food and food production from spreading diseases and pests among humans, animals or plants. In order to achieve this objective, EU legislation covers the entire food chain, from farm to table, including activities in primary agricultural production, fisheries and fish farming, as well as transport, processing, storage and sale to the consumer. EU policy also seeks to ensure a high level of plant health, animal health and animal welfare. Further, in order to further the efficiency of the internal market, legislation in this area should promote development in the business sector and simplify trade between countries.
EU food law lays down the general principles and requirements for the production, monitoring and inspection of all types of inputs in all types of food enterprises, from primary production to slaughtering facilities and processing and sale to consumers, as well as trade with and import from countries outside the EU, including border inspection of live animals and animal products.
Organic products and the use of genetically modified food, feed and seed (GMOs) are also covered by EU food law. So are food labelling, rules governing food additives, and health and nutrition labelling.
The comprehensive legislation in this area should be seen in the light of the EU’s common agricultural and fisheries policies. Read more about EU fisheries policy here and EU agricultural policy here.
Food safety in the EEA Agreement
Under the EEA Agreement, Norway is required to conform to EU legislation on food safety and food production. The EU’s food and veterinary legislation, with some minor exceptions and adaptations, has been implemented in Norwegian law. EU plant health legislation and rules for the approval and use of pesticides are not covered by the EEA Agreement; however, the rules governing residues of pesticides in feed and food are included in the agreement. Genetically modified food and feed (GMOs) have not yet been incorporated into the EEA Agreement.
Food safety is a priority for the EU and essential for the efficient functioning of the internal market – which Norway is part of through the EEA Agreement. Under the agreement there is market access for food, subject to the existing tariffs and quotas in force at any time.
Food law accounts for about 60 % of the legislation that has been incorporated into the EEA Agreement. This is the largest area in the agreement in terms of volume.
Norway’s involvement in the development of food legislation
Norwegian experts participate actively in numerous European Commission committees and working groups. The most important of these is the Standing Committee on the food chain and animal health (SCFCAH) and its underlying working and expert groups, which all assist the Commission in the legislative process. The standing committees and working groups cover all the stages in the food chain.
The Council of the EU and the European Parliament adopt all general directives and regulations related to food. Norway does not have a formal role here, but seeks to influence the process through targeted input and contacts with individuals and groups in these institutions.
Participation in EU programmes and agencies
Norway takes part in the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which provides independent scientific advice on risks that directly or indirectly affect food safety. EFSA carries out risk assessments of foods, animal health, animal welfare, plant health, GMOs, and nutritional questions related to EU legislation.
Norway participates in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and in food-related research funded by the EU framework programme for research. Read more about the research programme here.
The EFTA Working Group on the Food Chain deals with all matters in the food sector except ecology. The working group, which is EFTA’s contact point with the European Commission, considers a large number of directives and regulations every year and facilitates the incorporation of relevant legislation into the EEA Agreement.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Food chairs the special committee for food production, in which the Ministry of Health and Care, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and other ministries participate.
The Ministry of Health and Care chairs the special committee for food, in which the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries and other ministries participate.
Government bodies responsible for food safety in Norway
Responsibility for the food sector from farm to table is shared among three ministries in Norway: the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, and the Ministry of Health and Care. For more information about the fields of responsibility of each of the ministries, visit their websites at www.regjeringen.no.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) is the ministries’ executive body in the food sector and has responsibility for the entire food chain. The NFSA drafts regulations and has the primary responsibility for monitoring compliance with existing food legislation.
Relevant institutions, such as the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research, the Institute of Marine Research, and Bioforsk (the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research), provide expert advice and support to the ministries involved and to the NFSA. The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety carries out independent risk assessments for the Norwegian Food Safety Authority.
National experts in the European Commission
Contact information for all the Norwegian national experts can be found on the EFTA Secretariat website.