Financing the green transition while sustaining Europe’s competitiveness were core topics on the agenda along with other pressing issues when EFTA Parliamentarians met jointly with their counterparts of the European Parliament in the format of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee (EEA JPC) for the 59th time on 15 and 16 March 2023.
The meeting was co-chaired by Trine Lise Sundnes, Chair of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee and President of the EEA JPC and by Andreas Schwab, EEA JPC Vice President and Chair of the delegation of the European Parliament for the relations with EFTA countries and the EEA.
EEA JPC members first took stock of the latest developments in the EEA since their last meeting on 19 and 20 October in Strasbourg. Ambassador Rolf Einar Fife, the EFTA Chair of the EEA Joint Committee and representing the EFTA Chair of the EEA Council stressed “Fair competition is not only key to ensuring our long-term competitiveness; our shared regulatory environment also facilitates the EEA EFTA States’ deep integration into European value chains. Our EEA obligations are therefore crucial for our common endeavour to make our economies greener and more digital, including where relevant in trade policy.”
Commenting on the developments that occurred in the EEA since the last meeting, Thomas McClenaghan, representing the EU Chair of the EEA Joint Committee stressed “recent crises over the last two years have clearly demonstrated that the EEA Agreement provides a stable and predictable cooperation framework by ensuring that the Union’s approach to the Single Market and the EEA is understood in EEA EFTA States”.
Members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee discussed the current situation in Ukraine and the state of play of cooperation in supporting the country. Petras Auštrevičius, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and of the EU–Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee said “we need to look at the enforcement of sanctions whose circumvention is becoming a huge business”. Daniel Seger, Member of the Liechtenstein Parliament stressed that “Liechtenstein is committed to sanctions. A task force led by the Financial Intelligence Unit has been established. Any use of Russian frozen assets for compensating Ukraine will have to be done in accordance with international law.”
Against the backdrop of energy prices volatility, the Committee discussed the prospects of reforming the EU and EEA energy markers by de-coupling the gas and electricity markets in setting energy prices. Christophe Grudler, Member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy said “the reform aims at responding to the concerns of consumers, the industry, investors and their exposure to short-term volatility of prices. Long-term contracts will allow final consumers to benefit from more fixed- price contracts and will ultimately foster investment in clean technologies.”
While members shared the common endeavour to speed up the green transition, they expressed concerns about the US Inflation Reduction Act and its impact on Europe’s competitiveness. “We share the same concerns as the EU. We should avoid a subsidy race that would distort the EEA while making sure that EEA EFTA States would be covered by any sort of exception granted by the US to the EU,” said Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, Member of the Icelandic Parliament.
Andreas Schwab, in his capacity as European Parliament’s rapporteur on the Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduced the proposal aiming at ensuring the resilience of the Single Market in crisis time. “We need to reflect on the meaning of borders in crises times. The pandemic has demonstrated that the EEA is more resilient when borders are open.” Gísli Rafn Ólafsson stressed “preparedness and resilience building are key to crisis response. The wording on the participation of EEA EFTA States to the governing body should be further strengthened.”
The Committee also discussed with Maria Manuel Letão-Marques, European Parliament’s rapporteur on the proposal, the prohibition in the EEA of products made with forced labour. Ms Letão-Marques was of the opinion that “forced labour continues to exist, it is difficult to detect and eliminate. Enforcement will be key and require effective coordination between surveillance authorities and customs based on accessible data and clear guidelines.”
On the margins of the meeting, the EFTA delegation discussed with Vladimír Bilčík - Member of the Special Committee on foreign interference in all democratic processes in the European Union, including disinformation, and the strengthening of integrity, transparency and accountability in the European Parliament – ways of combating foreign interference in our common democratic space.
The EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee is a joint forum composed of members of the national parliaments of the EEA EFTA States and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). Its mandate is to contribute – through dialogue and debate – to a better understanding between the EU and the EFTA States in the fields covered by the EEA Agreement.
Find photos from the EEA JPC here:
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