Five years before the Now scandal broke, an internal government inquiry found Norway’s practice of refusing people to take social security abroad was in breach of the EEA agreement.
“The introduction of residency requirements or direct export restrictions would be prohibited under the regulation, except in certain circumstances where the regulation permits such requirements,” wrote a task force within the government body in 2014.
Nevertheless, the Working Group concluded that Norway could use the room for maneuver in the EEA Agreement to create its own exceptions to the EEA Agreement’s right to free movement.
The 2014 report is titled “Export of welfare benefits”.
After the Nao scandal broke in 2019, it was all kept under wraps. Storting’s supervisory board was also denied access to the report when Storting Now dealt with the case in autumn 2020.
VG is now aware of parts of the content of the report.
The Nau case is considered one of the biggest legal scandals in Norwegian history. A panel headed by law professor Finn Arneson was appointed to investigate the scandal. The committee decided as follows:
“With a lack of critical thinking, good organization and behavior in line with the responsibilities of the various bodies, the importance of EEA legislation is blindsided by all concerned”.
But a 2014 report showed the task force focused too much on specific issues that lead to wrongful imprisonment for many people.
Viji also mentioned Nine warnings Since 2013, the same issues have been around.
Look for exceptions
In March 2014, the Solberg government set up a working group to find out how to create as many exceptions as possible to the main rule of free movement between EEA countries. It was commanded by two ministers: Robert Eriksson (Frp) and Vidar Helgesson (H).
The work was carried out internally by the Ministry of Labor and civil service personnel in four ministries, assisted by two lawyers in the Government Attorney’s Office.
IN Government platform since 2013 The Solberg government announced “social security measures that may limit and stop exports, but Norway will be bound by international agreements”.
Recent figures show that NOK seven billion was paid to expatriates from the Norwegian social security system.
What the Solberg government wanted to do was primarily ensure that EEA citizens had rights to social security because they worked and paid taxes for Norway.
If they become ill or unemployed, they can take generous Norwegian welfare schemes to cheaper countries. The government will try to control this.
“A strong Norwegian economy has combined with economic crisis times and hay
Unemployment in other parts of Europe means that people from other EEA countries will still come to work in Norway. Other factors that may drive high labor immigration, then high export of welfare benefits, are particularly high wage levels in Norway and good, universal welfare programs,” the task force writes in the introduction.
As Norway committed to the EEA Agreement to facilitate free movement between EU countries and EEA countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, the government wanted to find loopholes in the agreement:
The task force had to find provisions that would restrict the taking of welfare aid abroad — proposals that circumvented the key rule of free movement.
Exceptions must be justified
Although residence requirements or direct export bans are prohibited under EEA law, the 2014 report argues for finding other conditions that justify special Norwegian exceptions to the main rule of free movement. This may be a control concept, the financial sustainability of social security or a benefit objective, for example to stimulate job training:
The Working Party therefore concluded that “every residence element in a national social security rule is not affected (by the EEA Agreement), unless the national rule is also, or perhaps primarily, justified in other circumstances”.
One paragraph goes straight to the heart of what was exposed as a social security scandal in Naville in 2019:
“A special feature of the requirement of actual residence in Norway is that cases of absence from the country, long holidays or absences during stays abroad are grounds for loss of a benefit. EEA law gives relatively large freedom to states to determine such limitations on the right to receive social security benefits in absence from the country if the regulation is designed in a non-discriminatory way. The task force considers that,” he writes. Task Force.
“However, the committee considers that the tightening here will primarily affect those who are members of the social security system as residents of Norway, so it would not be a good move to reduce the export of social security benefits,” it continues.
Storting: No freedom of action
In October this year, after eight years, a majority in the Storting’s Committee on Labor and Social Affairs stated that this precedent for the task force’s inquiry was not acceptable:
In the field of social security, “Government has no freedom of actionBut to provide the same rights and obligations to all EU and EEA citizens”.
– Mayor Per Olaf Lundtigen (SP) told VG that the door to the so-called room for action in these cases is now closed.
The position will be debated by the Storting next Thursday.
Norway got it wrong
The confidential report shows that the task force was aware of a case from 2009 where Nav rejected a Swedish citizen’s application for unemployment benefits while he was in Sweden.
In 2013, the EFTA Court held that Norway misunderstood the court To bring unemployment benefits to another country. The court ruled that the Norwegian government’s requirement to reside in Norway was incompatible with EEA regulations.
The case is seen as a foreshadowing of Norway’s misinterpretation of EEA law on social security matters.
Yet another six years would pass before the Social Security scandal came to light.
In October, seven professors joined the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo Published in Aftenposten and requested that the working group document be made public.
They argued that the consideration of protecting internal working processes in the ministry and government may outweigh a complete purge.
The public prosecutor shared a redacted version of the 2014 report with plaintiffs in a new Nau court case coming up in Oslo District Court in December.
Many of those who were exonerated following the Nau-Obridingen association and social security scandal have filed lawsuits against the state and demanded that the state pay compensation and debt to Nau victims.
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