On 10 March 2021, the EFTA Consultative Committee (CC) and the EFTA Standing Committee (SC) met for their annual bilateral meeting. After last year’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two committees had not met bilaterally for almost two years. Therefore, they had many topics to discuss, such as Brexit, the move towards green and sustainable policies, and the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on social and labour-market related issues.
“These meetings are a highly appreciated opportunity to exchange views on recent developments and future perspectives, both regarding the EEA Agreement and Swiss-EU relations.” said Brigitte Haas who chaired the meeting for the CC.
The SC Chair, Icelandic Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson, presented the latest developments and future perspectives in the European Economic Area (EEA) and EFTA relations with the EU. He highlighted the recently adopted EEA EFTA Comment on the European Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility and the EEA EFTA Comment currently discussed among experts on the new Digital Services act and Digital Market act. He stressed that the EFTA countries should continue to contribute actively to new policy developments in areas such as the European Green Deal, Europe Digital Decade, and various social policies. Ambassadors from Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland were also invited to take the floor.
The Norwegian Ambassador, Rolf Einar Fife, backing his Icelandic counterpart also wanted to underline the importance of Rule of Law and the role of the Internal Market for the EFTA States. Observing the latest concerning Rule of Law developments in Europe, he said: “We are, through the EEA and Norway Grants and in a close dialogue with the EU Commission, keen on seeing how to promote best the respect for Rule of Law for Europe to continue to shine as the best example.”
Bente Angell Hansen, President of the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), shared a statement with the participants. On ESA’s litigation role, she said: “Last month reversing a long-standing precedence to the contrary, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) allowed ESA and the EEA EFTA States to intervene in so-called direct-action cases, that is, infringement action that the Commission brings against EU member states. This is of great importance as the ECJ through its judgements shapes the internal market rules and clarifies values and democratic principles underpinning the internal market.”
The next joint meeting between the EFTA CC and the SC should take place in spring next year.
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