The EFTA Parliamentary Committee is a forum for parliamentarians from the four Member States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The work of the Committee provides EFTA with a valuable link to political life in each EFTA country, and through its cooperation with parliamentarians in the European Union, the Committee also serves as a link between political life in EFTA and the EU.
Informal exchanges of views and discussions between parliamentarians from the different EFTA countries started back in 1963. These meetings were formalised in 1977 when the Committee of Members of Parliament of the EFTA Countries was founded.
Since 1981, regular meetings have taken place between the European Parliament and the Committee of Members of Parliament of EFTA Countries. With the entry into force of the EEA Agreement in 1994, these relations were institutionalised in the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
Since the entry into force of the EEA Agreement in 1994 there have in fact been two EFTA Parliamentary Committees: the Committee of Members of Parliament of the EFTA States (MPS), which deals with EEA related matters and forms the EFTA side of the EEA JPC, and the Committee of Members of Parliament of the EFTA Countries (CMP), which deals with all other matters, particularly relations with third countries. The CMP has up to five members from the national parliament of each EFTA country, while the MPS has six members from Norway, four from Iceland and two from Liechtenstein. Switzerland has observer status in the MPS. In practice, however, the CMP and MPS hold their meetings jointly and function practically as one.
The Parliamentary Committee usually holds around four meetings a year, in addition to the two customary joint meetings with EFTA ministers and a third country visit. The Committee attaches great importance to a number of issues related to the EEA and EFTA third-country relations, focusing on such issues as the functioning of the EEA, the latest political developments in the EU and their impact on the EEA, the state of play in the WTO multilateral framework negotiations and other aspects of free trade, such as human rights and environmental policies in free trade agreements. In 2008, the Committee obtained observer status in the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO, organised by the IPU and the European Parliament.
With representatives from each of the national parliaments, the Committee provides a valuable link to political life in each of the Member States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Recently, the Committee has put increased emphasis on EFTA's third country relations and has visited partner countries such as Canada and India.
Informal meetings with the EFTA Consultative Committee ensure a fruitful exchange of views between parliamentarians and social partners in the EFTA Member States. Every other year the Committees jointly organise a conference on a given topic.
The task of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee is to contribute, through dialogue and debate, to a better understanding between the Community and the EFTA States in the fields covered by the EEA Agreement. The focus of the Committee is to scrutinise developments in the EU which have an impact on the functioning of the EEA Agreement, and its representatives have the right to put oral and written questions to the representatives of the EEA Council and the EEA Joint Committee. The EEA JPC meets twice a year, once in one of the three EEA EFTA States and once at the seat of the European Parliament in either Brussels or Strasbourg.
As a consultative body, the EEA JPC monitors developments in the EEA and expresses its views to the EFTA States on any matter of relevance to the EEA. This includes addressing issues related to the functioning of the EEA and exploring developments in the EU that may affect the EEA in the long run.
For much of the past 15 years, the bulk of deliberations in the EEA JPC meetings has been devoted to commenting on past developments and legislation that has already been adopted on the EU side. In recent years, however, the EEA JPC has become increasingly forward looking, keeping an eye on new initiatives that could become EEA relevant. Recent examples of topics that EFTA parliamentarians have raised, debated and passed resolutions on, include:
The EEA JPC has also addressed these issues with Commissioners and Commission representatives with the aim of raising the profile of issues in which the EEA EFTA States have a high interest.
In 2007 and 2008 the EEA JPC focused its attention on the future perspectives for the EEA, reflecting on the structural changes of the EU since the EEA entered into force, by preparing a report on the subject. This undertaking highlighted possible ways for the EEA EFTA national parliaments to enhance their role in the development of the EEA by strengthening their relations with the European Parliament.
Mr Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Independence Party (CMP/MPS Chair)
Mr Árni Páll Árnason, Social Democratic Alliance
Ms Katrin Jakobsdóttir, Left-Green Movement
Mr Vilhjálmur Bjarnason, Independence Party
Mr Willum Þór Þórsson, Progressive Party
Mr Birgir Ármannsson, Independence party
Ms Bjarkey Gunnarsdóttir, Left-Green Movement
Ms Elín Hirst, Independence Party
Mr Karl Garðarsson, Progressive Party
Ms Katrín Júlíusdóttir, Social Democratic Alliance
Mr Elfried Hasler, Progressive Citizens' Party
Mr Harry Quaderer, Independent
Mr Manfred Kaufmann, Patriotic Union
Mr Eugen Nägele, Progressive Citizens' Party
Mr Svein Roald Hansen, Labour Party (CMP/MPS Vice-chair)
Mr Gunnar Gundersen, Conservative Party
Ms Marianne Aasen, Labour Party
Mr Nikolai Astrup, Conservative Party
Mr Jørund Rytman, Progress Party
Mr Geir Toskedal, Christian Democratic Party
Ms Irene Johansen, Labour Party
Mr Fredric Holen Bjørdal, Labour Party
Ms Jette F. Christensen, Labour Party
Ms Elin Rodum Agdestein, Conservative Party
Mr Ove Bernt Trellevik, Conservative Party
Mr Hans Andreas Limi, Progress Party
Mr Tor André Johnsen, Progress Party
Ms Liv-Signe Navarsete, Centre Party
Mr Sveinung Rotevatn, Liberal Party
Mr Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås, Socialist Left Party
Swiss delegation (observers in the MPS)
Mr Thomas Aeschi, Swiss People's Party
Ms Karin Keller-Sutter, FDP. The Liberals
Ms Kathy Riklin, Christian Democratic Party
Mr Hannes Germann, Swiss People's Party
Mr Eric Nussbaumer, Social Democratic Party
Mr Didier Berberat, Social Democratic Party
Mr Jean-François Rime, Swiss People's Party
Mr Hans Peter Portmann, FDP. The Liberals
Mr Hans Egloff, Swiss People's Party
Mr Konrad Graber, Christian Democratic Party