EFTA’s Advisory Bodies – the EFTA Parliamentary Committee (PC) and EFTA Consultative Committee (CC) – met with the EEA EFTA Foreign Ministers on 20 November 2023, directly before the Ministers’ meeting with their EU counterparts at the EEA Council. The meeting provided a unique opportunity to share knowledge and information, and to coordinate positions on topical issues such as safeguarding the competitiveness of the EEA despite the current geopolitical challenges and ensuring consistency in supporting and reconstructing Ukraine.
Trine Lise Sundnes, Chair of the EFTA PC, and Kristin Hansen, Chair of the EFTA CC, were hosts and co-chairs of the meeting, which took place at EFTA House in Brussels. At ministerial level the meeting was attended by Dominique Hasler, Liechtenstein Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ministerial Chair of the Standing Committee of the EFTA States; Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Bjarni Benediktsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland.
Importance of European competitiveness
In her statement as Ministerial Chair of the EFTA Standing Committee, Dominique Hasler referred to the current unprecedented global challenges: “We are being forced to rethink the sources of our competitiveness. The EU has put forward far-reaching proposals to strengthen its open strategic autonomy and to progress with the Green and Digital Agendas. These proposals touch upon important aspects of our Internal Market, cut across many sectors and often have an external dimension, and we are following them closely”.
Kristin Hansen, Chair of the EFTA CC, raised the issue of the competitiveness of the EEA: “Our ability to remain as integrated as possible is going to be defining for the EEA EFTA countries' competitiveness in the next 30 years. As the EU continues to respond to a changing global and regional landscape, we must keep up. When the EU increasingly develops horizontal legislation, we must find ways of dealing with this.”
Need to coordinate on Ukraine reconstruction
The meeting also provided the opportunity to take stock of the initiatives taken by the EEA EFTA States in supporting Ukraine and its reconstruction. “As there is a proliferation of international initiatives to help Ukraine, we believe it is important to avoid overlaps with the support of other donors. We need to focus on our strengths and provide complementarities in niche sectors”, said Trine Lise Sundnes.
As part of their scrutiny of cooperation under the EEA Agreement, the two committees held sessions with several experts on important EEA topics such as EU enlargement and possible institutional reforms, the forthcoming European elections in 2024, the extension of European standards on Artificial Intelligence at global level, and the EU’s support to Ukraine regarding reconstruction.
In addition to these meetings, the Bureau of the Committee of Members of Parliament of the EFTA States discussed the budget proposal of the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) for 2024 with the members of the ESA College and a representative of the ESA Court Committee, and subsequently adopted an opinion.
The EFTA PC is a forum of parliamentarians from the EFTA States, while the EFTA CC brings together representatives of trade union confederations and employers’ associations in the EFTA States. The objective of these committees is to scrutinise issues that are relevant to their stakeholders and provide advice to the EFTA States, including on the EEA Agreement. They are vital platforms for dialogue and consultation on the political, social and economic aspects of EEA matters.
See the photo gallery from the meeting here.
See high-level interviews from the day on the EFTA YouTube channel.
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