Digital infrastructure was high on the agenda at the 24th meeting of the Forum of Regional and Elected Representatives of the EEA EFTA States (EEA EFTA Forum). The delegates met in Saignelégier, Switzerland and the meeting was chaired by the Icelandic representative Rósa Guðbjartsdóttir.
The EEA EFTA Forum consists of elected local and regional politicians from Iceland and Norway. Switzerland has observer status. The Forum serves as a body to include the elected representatives in EEA matters and works closely with other EEA EFTA institutions and has established links with the Committee of the Regions of the European Union. This was the first time a meeting of the EEA EFTA Forum was held in Switzerland.
The Forum held active discussions on the ongoing digital transition of our societies. The main item on the agenda was the EU’s proposal for a Gigabit Infrastructure Act. The proposed regulation aims to reduce the cost of deploying gigabit electronic communications networks. This might in turn have a great effect on the local and regional authorities not only in the EU, but also the EEA EFTA States.
In an Opinion adopted at the meeting, the Forum highlighted that excellent connectivity in remote and sparsely populated communities, as often found in Iceland and Norway, is vital. The rapporteur of the Opinion was Hilde Onarheim from Norway. The Forum underscored that local and regional authorities play an important role in the deployment of fibre and next generation mobile networks.
They deliberated extensively on their Opinion and sought advice from various experts. It was highlighted that “The proposed legislation must allow for national cost-benefit analysis prior to any considerations of new requirements which may imply large investments and recurring costs for local and regional authorities which are not proportionate to its objective.”
The local and regional politicians also discussed digitalisation of public services in Switzerland at every level with Markus Dieth, the President of the Conference of Cantonal Governments and shared information on digitalisation of the administration in Iceland and Norway. The delegates also discussed other important topics such as the experiences of Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland of the digitalisation of the public administration.
The delegates heard about the latest developments in the EEA from Andri Lúthersson, Second Deputy Secretary General, of the EFTA Secretariat, and learned about the experience of the bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU from Mr Roland Mayer, General Secretary of the Conference of Swiss Cantonal Governments.
Find pictures of the meeting here.
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