Due to the challenging situation caused by COVID-19 and the recommendation from Belgian authorities to practice social distancing, both of the Committee meetings were held via teleconference. This is the third time the EEA Joint Committee has convened virtually after the outbreak of the pandemic. By utilising the technological tools available the EEA EFTA States and the EU are able to ensure the continued smooth functioning of the EEA Agreement, despite the unusual circumstances.
During the meeting the Joint Committee adopted a Decision implementing JCD 63/2020, which incorporates the fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD V). The Directive amends the fourth Directive (AMLD IV) which was incorporated in December 2018. The AMLD V further adds to existing measures for the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Among other things it improves transparency as regards ownership of companies and trusts, lifts anonymity on certain electronic payment systems and increases checks on transactions involving high-risk third countries. The AMLD V furthermore brings virtual currency exchange platforms and custodian wallet providers, which are necessary to conduct transactions with virtual currencies. These enter into the scope of the framework by making them “obliged entities” subject to similar regulatory requirements as banks and other financial institutions.
Among the other decisions was JCD 49/2020, incorporating an Official Controls Act in the field of veterinary matters. This act concerns controls on meat production and is of high importance to the EEA EFTA States. This Regulation lays down the specific rules for the performance of official controls for meat and bivalve molluscs. Its incorporation ensures that authorities inspecting the hygiene of meat and meat products, mussels, clams and oysters are all subjected to the same requirements throughout the EEA. The Joint Committee Decision further ensures specific derogations for Norway to allow the continuation of longstanding local and traditional practices for reindeer.
In the final agenda item of the EEA Joint Committee, the EFTA and EU side exchanged their views of the current COVID-19 situation. The European External Action Service (EEAS) provided their assessment of the situation and the Chair of the Standing Committee, Ambassador Rolf Einar Fife, endorsed the partnership. He said that he "would like to highlight the close cooperation between the EEA EFTA States and the EU during the Covid-19 crisis. This cooperation is highly appreciated and has been, and continues to be, of great value in order to handle the acute consequences of the pandemic, to mitigate the socio-economic crisis, but also to secure the integrity of the Internal Market."
During the meetings, the EFTA Secretariat announced the sad and unexpected news of the passing of our dear colleague Mr Finn Yrjar Denstad who served as the Secretary to the EFTA Consultative Committee in the EFTA Secretariat. Finn leaves behind Julie his beloved wife, and Sam their two-year-old son. "Finn was a great colleague to all of us, both professionally and socially. He had made Brussels his home and had successively worked in the European Commission and in the Financial Mechanism Office before joining EFTA in 2018. Finn meant a lot to many. With his energy and enthusiasm, he provided strong support to the EFTA family and was, moreover, a pillar in the Norwegian community in Brussels. It is hard to accept that he is no longer with us," Ambassador Rolf Einar Fife, expressed in his condolences. The Committee held one minute of silence to honour his memory.
The EFTA Standing Committee serves as a forum in which the EEA EFTA States consult one another, and they arrive at a common position before meeting with the EU in the EEA Joint Committee. The EEA Joint Committee is responsible for the management of the EEA Agreement.
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