Norway faces legal action over Spaniards’ demands / News / The Foreigner

Norway faces legal action over Spaniards’ demands. STAVANGER/VALENCIA: The Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger draws no firm conclusions in the matter of the 12,000 Spanish sailors’ compensation claim. This brings court proceedings one step closer, according to their representatives. Ombudsman Falkanger’s move brings the latest round in the long-running dispute to a close. Long Hope Association spokesperson Alberto Paz Viñas and others travelled to Oslo last month in what he said was a final effort to move Norway towards a bilateral agreement to settle the issue.

spain, sailors, pension, tax, norway, ships



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Norway faces legal action over Spaniards’ demands

Published on Tuesday, 2nd December, 2014 at 22:07 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 2nd December 2014 at 22:30.

STAVANGER/VALENCIA: The Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger draws no firm conclusions in the matter of the 12,000 Spanish sailors’ compensation claim. This brings court proceedings one step closer, according to their representatives.

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg
This Court is one option the Long Hope Association is considering using in order to get Norway to pay the sailors compensation they say they are owed.European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg
Photo: CherryX/Wikimedia Commons


Ombudsman Falkanger’s move brings the latest round in the long-running dispute to a close.

Long Hope Association spokesperson Alberto Paz Viñas and others travelled to Oslo last month in what he said was a final effort to move Norway towards a bilateral agreement to settle the issue.

They met with several people. These were Deputy Labour and Social Affairs Minister Thor Kleppen Sættem, Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger, unions, Spanish Ambassador to Norway, His Excellency Antonio López Martínez, law firm Grette, and EU Ambassador to Norway, Helen Campbell. Deputy Head of Mission at the Spanish Embassy, Raúl Bartolomé, assisted the Spanish delegation.

According to Long Hope, the sum Norway owes the sailors, or their surviving relatives, amounts to some EUR 520m (about NOK 3.5bn in then monetary value).

Correct according to the law

Long Hope Association
Long Hope Association
©2014 Michael Sandelson/The Foreigner
The Association alleges the Norwegian State has violated the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of the right to possessions), in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).

In their 4th November letter to the Ombudsman, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs officials said they remain “unconvinced […] of a possible breach of ECHR Article 14 in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the Convention.” This letter was in reply to the Ombudsman’s 15th August letter raising the matter of the potential contraventions.

Bureaucrats at the Ministry also stated in general terms that Norwegian legislation regarding social security for sailors in force at the time (pre-1994) did not violate Norway’s international obligations.

Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger has now informed Long Hope spokesperson Alberto Paz Viñas that “as you are aware, the Ombudsman may state his opinion and give recommendations, but does not make legally binding decisions. Also, the Ombudsman has to base his opinions on the relevant prevailing law.”

No firm answer

Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger (2010)
Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger (2010)
Justis- og politidepartementet/W. Commons
His letter dated 26th November, a copy of which The Foreigner has, also states that it is not likely that the Spanish sailors have a legitimate claim for either a pension or for a tax refund. This restates his earlier conclusions.

 “Based on the information presented to the Ombudsman, it is hard to conclude that the Spanish seamen have a claim with sufficient basis in national law for the purpose of Article 1 of Protocol No.1 of the ECHR.”

Long Hope has decided to take the Norwegian State to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg or the UN should the issue remain unresolved.

 “In order to get a legally binding decision of the Spanish seamen’s claims, and the relevance of Norway’s human rights obligations to these claims, it seems necessary to bring the case to court. The Ombudsman, however, will neither encourage nor discourage any such legal steps,” the letter reads.

Declaring that he cannot offer them any further regarding the outcome of this case, Ombudsman Falkanger concludes by saying that “it also falls outside the Ombudsman’s mandate to facilitate a political solution for the Spanish seamen.”

“No change”

“We’re going to hold a demonstration together with [university] students between 12:00 and 14:00 outside the Norwegian Embassy in Madrid on 17th December,” Alberto Paz Viñas tells The Foreigner. “If this is not enough, we’ll be demonstrating every month in front of the embassy until the matter is solved.”

He adds they also now have the support of two major European workers’ unions: the CCOO (Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras), and the UGT (Union General de Trabajadores de España). According to him, both unions have some 14 million members, total.

Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Madrid
Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Madrid
Public domain
“The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom I have now requested a meeting, says that this matter will be top of the agenda anytime there are discussions with Norway,” Mr Viñas says.

How does Parliamentary Ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger’s letter to you alter your plans?

“It doesn’t affect them at all. In fact, it makes our case stronger due to the ambiguity of the answer. He neither encourages nor discourages legal action, which means there is a case to be brought to court. We will continue to try to bend Norway to come to an agreement, but will pursue this in court if this does not succeed.”

Grette law firm lawyer Thorkil H. Aschehoug confirms that they have received a copy of the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s letter.

The legal professional also tells Mr Viñas in his email that the firm “would like to call you later this week to hear your view on this letter and also to discuss the further process.”



Published on Tuesday, 2nd December, 2014 at 22:07 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 2nd December 2014 at 22:30.

This post has the following tags: spain, sailors, pension, tax, norway, ships.





  
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