The war in Ukraine, energy resilience, cybersecurity, space cooperation and the first meeting of the new European Political Community were on the agenda when EEA EFTA Parliamentarians met jointly with their counterparts of the European Parliament in the format of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee (EEA JPC) for the 58th time on 19 and 20 October 2022.
The meeting was co-chaired by Ingibjörg Ólöf Isaksen, Chair of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee and Vice-President of the EEA JPC and by Andreas Schwab, EEA JPC 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 24 and 25 May in Oslo. Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson, the EFTA Chair of the EEA Joint Committee and representing the Chair of the EEA Council stressed “With the Russian state’s weaponisation of energy and food prices, our Internal Market has become deeply connected with the war. Our crisis measures have enabled us to manage the resulting impact, but it is a fully functioning and modernised Internal Market that will ensure long-term recovery and growth.”
Commenting on the developments that occurred in the EEA since the last meeting, Nicolas Von Lingen, EU Chair of the EEA Joint Committee stressed “The EEA Agreement is the deepest and most comprehensive agreement that the EU ever concluded with international partners. The benefits of this long-term relationship are even more apparent in crisis time. It is however important to reduce the delay in the incorporation of EU legal acts into the EEA Agreement and to use responsively the right to notify constitutional requirements.”
Members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee discussed how the situation in Ukraine had evolved since their last meeting, the overall impact on the EEA and the prospects for the future. Witold Waszczykowski, Vice-Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and co-Chair of the EU–Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee said “We need to take tough sanctions on Russia so that there is a price tag for this aggression. It is not the war of Putin, but the war of Russia.” Ms Einarsdóttir emphasised that “Countries in the West had made a huge mistake not to listen to the warnings coming from Ukraine and other Eastern European countries over the last years”.
The EEA JPC then discussed the surge in energy prices and measures to ensure EEA energy resilience with Ville Niinistö, Member of the European Parliament, and Trine Lise Sundnes, Member of the Norwegian Parliament.
Commenting on the current energy crisis, Trine Lise Sundnes stressed “Norway wants to contribute to the stabilisation of the energy markets throughout the EEA. Norwegian companies and low-income households also suffer from the surge in energy prices. Norway has already taken short-term measures with the re-exportation of unused gas, postponed the maintenance of infrastructure and stepped-up its gas production to historical highs.” Cybersecurity threats throughout the EEA and measures to mitigate them also featured high on the agenda of the Committee. Ignazio Corrao, Member of the European Parliament and Gísli Rafn Ólafsson, Member of the Icelandic Parliament addressed the members on these issues.
”The main added-value of the proposal will be to ensure common cybersecurity standards throughout the entire EEA. To this end, it will be crucial that the EEA EFTA States do swiftly incorporate the directive into the Agreement once adopted by the EU. More broadly, EEA EFTA States should be part of all the information networks in order to be informed about vulnerabilities”, said Gislí Rafn Ólafsson.
In his capacity as rapporteur of the European Parliament on the Union Secure Connectivity Programme, Christophe Grudler introduced to the members the proposal to develop the European infrastructure of secure satellite-based connectivity. Together with Kenneth Bahr, members discussed the participation of EEA EFTA States through the EEA Agreement.
Commenting on the legal loopholes for participation of the EEA EFTA States in the programme under the EEA Agreement, Christophe Grudler said that the EEA EFTA States would ultimately be part of the programme. “I regret the current security and defence limitations that imply another legal basis under the Treaty. But once the participation is ensured via a bilateral agreement, the EEA EFTA States will enjoy full participation and benefits, both for the governmental and commercial services.”
The EEA JPC also addressed continental-wide European cooperation following the first meeting of the European Political Community. David McAllister, Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said “The first summit of the European Political Community was a success. It gathered 44 European Heads of State and Government who are not used to meet regularly. It will ensure long-term cooperation with a European perspective which is a positive thing.” Heidi Nordby Lunde, voicing the views of the EEA EFTA States said “All arenas that foster peaceful cooperation should be used. But we should avoid duplicating existing structures.” Benedikt Würth, Member of the Swiss Parliament, echoed his country’s views, “Switzerland also attended the summit which portrayed a united Europe against Russia’s aggression. It is in line with the Swiss foreign policy of building bridges like the Conference of Lugano that was held earlier in July on the re-construction of Ukraine.”
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.
Andreas Schwab, EEA JPC President and Chair of the delegation of the European Parliament for the relations with EFTA countries and the EEA, and Ingibjörg Ólöf Isaksen, Chair of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee and Vice-President of the EEA JPC
Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson, the EFTA Chair of the EEA Joint Committee and representing the Chair of the EEA Council
EFTA Parliamentarians and members of the European Parliament at the 58th meeting of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee
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