EFTA Parliamentary Committee meets with EEA EFTA Ministers and Chief Brexit Negotiator of the EU

Published 21-11-2018
The meetings were co-chaired by Mr Halldór Árnason and Mr Elfried Hasler.
On 20 November, the EEA EFTA Ministers, the Committee of Members of Parliament of the EFTA States (MPS) and the EFTA Consultative Committee (EFTA CC) met at the EFTA Secretariat in Brussels. This annual meeting takes place in connection with the EEA Council and provides an opportunity for the two advisory bodies to discuss current EEA issues with the Ministers. MPS also met separately with the chief Brexit Negotiator of the EU, Mr Michel Barnier.

The EEA EFTA Ministers came from the EEA Council meeting to brief the parliamentarians and social partners on the outcome of that meeting and to exchange views on the main issues currently on the agenda in the EEA. The joint hosts, Chair for the MPS, Mr Elfried Hasler, and the Chair for the EFTA CC, Mr Halldór Árnason, opened the meeting by welcoming the Ministers and members.

The Ministerial Chair of the Standing Committee of the EFTA States, Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, briefed them on the outcome of the EEA Council and the political dialogue, in which Brexit had been on the agenda:

 “We had a long discussion on Brexit with Mr Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator. Mr Barnier provided us with an update on the negotiations with the UK, and how the next few days will run. We also discussed the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU for the EEA. Both sides underlined the importance of safeguarding the EEA Agreement and preserving the integrity of the Internal Market.”

The Ministerial Chair also addressed horizontal issues such as assessing the EEA Agreement and discussing current challenges such as the EEA EFTA States participating in relevant EU agencies and supervisory authorities.

“As we prepare for the 25th anniversary of the Agreement, we concluded that it has successfully achieved its main objective of promoting and strengthening economic relations between the EEA EFTA States and the EU in a common Internal Market.

“That being said, our cooperation in the EEA is not without challenges…[such as] the growing number of regulatory and supervisory agencies in the Internal Market. Finding solutions on how to reflect their decision-making powers in the institutional set-up of the EEA is a core concern for us. We made clear that the principles of the EEA Agreement must be respected and that legal homogeneity must be ensured.”

MPS and EFTA CC had the opportunity to ask questions to the EEA EFTA Ministers.  The topics discussed included Brexit, in particular citizens’ rights and EFTA’s future relationship with the UK. The broader EEA discussion concerned the status of the EEA Agreement in Iceland, the upcoming 25th anniversary of the EEA, EEA institutions, and the situation with the structural funds in Hungary and Poland.

Members of Parliament and EFTA’s social partners had the opportunity to discuss various issues with the EEA EFTA Ministers. The topics discussed included Brexit, in particular citizens’ rights and EFTA’s future relationship with the UK. The broader EEA discussion concerned the challenges of the increasing powers of EU Agencies to the EEA Agreement, the upcoming 25th anniversary of the EEA, and the situation with the EEA and Norway Grants in Hungary and Poland.

Afterwards, MPS met separately with Mr Michel Barnier, Chief Brexit Negotiator for the EU.  Mr Barnier presented the draft agreement between the EU and UK and took questions from MPS. “I hope that we can conclude negotiations on the framework for the future relationship over the next days,” said Mr Barnier. “We must, however, continue working very concretely on all other options, including no deal. I recommend the same [to EFTA States]. The Commission remains at your disposal if you need additional support, or technical support.”

Mr Michel Barnier meeting with the Parliamentary Committee

The Committee of Members of Parliament of the EFTA States (MPS) deals with EEA-related matters and forms the EFTA side of the EEA JPC. Switzerland has observer status in the MPS.

The Consultative Committee of EFTA is a forum for trade unions and employers’ organisations in the four Member States. Through its cooperation with social partners in the European Union, the Committee also serves as a link between social partners in EFTA and in the EU. 

Find high-resolution photos from the meeting here.


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Seminar on the European Economic Area - Brussels 14 February 2019