The EFTA CC meeting, chaired by Mr Halldór Árnason from the Confederation of Icelandic Employers, included a briefing on the social aspects of the Mobility Package. Europe on the Move, which was proposed by the Commission earlier in 2017, covers the road transport sector and several labour market-related issues.
Delegates were also briefed on the Commission’s Work-Life Balance initiative, which addresses the challenges faced by working parents and carers. This initiative is the result of previous work on the European Pillar of Social Rights, which sets out 20 key principles and rights to support a fair and well-functioning labour market and welfare systems. The EFTA CC has followed this topic closely: In June 2017, together with social partners on the EU side, it adopted a resolution on the Social Dimension of the EEA and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Also discussed was the state of play of the Brexit negotiations. The labour market in the EEA will be affected by UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and the social partners in the EFTA States are following developments closely. Mr André Sapir, Senior Fellow at Bruegel, gave an update on Brexit to members of the EFTA Parliamentary and Consultative Committees.
The EFTA CC adopted its Framework Programme for 2018, which is an overview of its priorities and activities for the coming year. Regarding EFTA’s third-country relations, the EFTA CC will continue focusing on the inclusion of model provisions on labour and environmental standards in free trade agreements (FTAs), and will follow developments in ongoing negotiations. On EEA issues, it will follow in particular the outcome of the European Pillar of Social Rights and developments on the Digital Single Market.
A separate meeting was held with the EFTA Ministerial Chair, the Liechtenstein Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Ms Aurelia Frick, to exchange views on the latest developments in EFTA’s third-country relations.
“The Consultative Committee supports the efforts made by EFTA Ministers to widen our network of free trade agreements,” said Mr Árnason. “[FTAs] are important for growth and employment in our countries, as they open up new markets for our economic operators. They also contribute to improving economic and social development in our partner countries.”
The EFTA CC is a vital platform for dialogue and consultation between the EFTA social partners and the EFTA authorities. By providing input to the work of the Standing Committee of the EFTA States and the EFTA Ministerial Council, the EFTA CC aims to raise awareness of the social and economic aspects of FTAs and the EEA, as well as the role of the social partners, i.e. to take part in the shaping of the EFTA and EEA agenda, and to influence policies that affect the social partners.
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