On the occasion of her recent appointment, EFTA had the pleasure of interviewing Eggenberger about her thoughts on her new role and the importance of Liechtenstein’s EFTA membership in an ever-changing world.
Eggenberger is coming from a role as Head of the Community of Chairpersons and Chief of Staff at the World Economic Forum, while simultaneously finishing a PhD in International Affairs and Political Economy at University of St.Gallen with research activities at the London School of Economics and Political Science and University of Cambridge. She has also previously been a visiting researcher at both Princeton University and Harvard University. Eggenberger is replacing the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aurelia Frick.
In this exclusive interview Eggenberger talks about possible future challenges for EFTA and the EFTA States, and her thoughts on how Brexit will affect Liechtenstein.
Q: What is your sentiment/motivation for taking up this position?
After having gathered professional experience and completed my doctorate, I am motivated to use my knowledge and competences to the best for Liechtenstein and its population. I have taken over this position with pride, also being conscious of the challenges that await me. In all fields of the Ministry I had the honour of taking over – encompassing justice and culture in addition to foreign affairs – multiple challenges are waiting before the next elections in 2021. I am committed to leave my mark and advance priorities in all these areas.
Q: Which are the strengths and challenges for EFTA and the EFTA States in the years to come?
The strengths of EFTA and its Member States are clear: They form a relatively homogenous group of countries with open and competitive economies and a combined merchandise trade volume of almost 700 billion euros, together promoting free trade and economic cooperation around the globe. At the same time, I am worried about current trends in international relations calling into question multilateral frameworks and the rules-based international order, with strong pressure being applied to free trade by some countries.
Q: How important is EFTA membership and the EEA to Liechtenstein?
Together with the Customs and Monetary Union with Switzerland and our WTO membership, the EEA and EFTA’s third country activities form the pillars of Liechtenstein’s foreign economic policy. For a country with a very limited domestic market and a strong export economy, as approximately 40 per cent of Liechtenstein’s GDP comes from the industry sector, it is essential that we have secure, non-discriminatory access to the European Internal Market and other economies around the globe.
The European Union is Liechtenstein’s biggest trading partner. Access to the Internal Market is essential for our export-oriented industry but also for the financial centre, which benefits from EU passporting rights. Furthermore, almost half of the jobs in Liechtenstein are held by EU nationals and Liechtenstein citizens enjoy the four freedoms by living, working or studying in the EU.
Q: As for the EEA, are there any areas for the improvement of the Internal Market that you hope to see in particular?
The Internal Market is at the heart of our EEA cooperation, offering great opportunities for businesses and citizens throughout 31 EEA States. But this cannot be taken for granted and requires constant adjustments to a rapidly changing environment. The full potential of the Internal Market is to be unlocked, especially in the field of services and digitalisation where Liechtenstein has been keen to contribute to the European regulatory process. Smart regulation is one way to remove remaining barriers for cross-border services, but effective enforcement of existing rules is equally important. Liechtenstein remains committed to a well-functioning EEA and we hope that strengthening our common Internal Market will continue to figure high on the agenda of the new EU leadership.
Q: What is the most important area of interest for Liechtenstein when it comes to Brexit?
Liechtenstein’s Government has defined four strategic priorities regarding Brexit: The functioning of the EEA as the closest form of partnership with the EU must be safeguarded; the rights of Liechtenstein citizens and enterprises in the United Kingdom must be protected; a sudden break after Brexit should be avoided; and market access to the United Kingdom should be maintained for Liechtenstein enterprises as far as possible in the future.
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