In their comment, the EEA EFTA States welcome the European Commission’s proposal. With their strong tradition in volunteering and their longstanding participation in the European Voluntary Service (EVS) through Erasmus+, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway attach major importance to the opportunity of being granted the possibility to participate in the ESC through the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement). The EEA EFTA States have some concerns, however, regarding the splitting of the EVS and the future quality of Erasmus+, and warn of adverse consequences in the case of delayed incorporation of this important act into the EEA Agreement.
The EEA EFTA States participate in the Internal Market of the European Union through the EEA Agreement. They also cooperate with the EU in a range of areas beyond the four freedoms such as education, training and youth. The Erasmus+ Programme (including the EVS) is central to this cooperation. The EEA EFTA States understand that their possible participation in the ESC should take place by extending the EEA framework to include cooperation in the ESC.
The Commission proposal as it stands would, as of 2018, lead to a split of the EVS. While a small part of today’s EVS would remain within Erasmus+, a larger part would be redeployed to the ESC. The EEA EFTA States are concerned how the redeployment of funds to the ESC could lead to the disappearance of the established brand name “EVS” and confusion for both the volunteers and the organisations involved. The substantial reduction in budget for the EVS could also lead to a reduction in the quality of Eramus+ and the EVS.
Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway have become both attractive destinations for and reliable suppliers of volunteers. It is crucial to allow for the final act to be incorporated into the EEA Agreement swiftly in order to avoid any adverse consequences on volunteering in the EEA EFTA States.
Submitting comments on important policy issues is one of the ways in which the EEA EFTA States participate in shaping EU legislation. A typical EEA EFTA Comment provides a brief commentary and suggestions regarding Commission initiatives such as green papers or legislative proposals. The comments are endorsed by the Standing Committee of the EFTA States and officially noted by the EEA Joint Committee after they have been sent to the relevant services in the Commission, the European Parliament and/or the Council.
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