EEA Ministers discuss strategic autonomy and impact of COVID-19 on the Internal Market

Published 28-05-2021
Clockwise from top left: Augusto Santos Silva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Dominique Hasler, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, and Ine Eriksen Søreide, Minister of Foreign Affairs Norway.

On 28 May, the EEA Council took place under the presidency of Augusto Santos Silva, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal. Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, co-chaired the informal meeting, which was also attended by Dominique Hasler and Ine Eriksen Søreide, respectively Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein and of Norway. On the EU side, the meeting was attended by representatives of the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS).

As at the previous EEA Council meeting last November, the members discussed the overall functioning of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) and the effect of COVID-19 on the Internal Market.

“The ongoing vaccine roll-out is promising for the normalisation of our societies. We need, however, to remain aligned to preserve the integrity of the Internal Market and to build back faster, collectively, from the pandemic. Such cooperation is key for the good functioning of the EEA Agreement. We are therefore pleased that in line with the EEA Agreement the Commission earlier this month reinstated the three EEA EFTA States on the list of countries exempted from the EU vaccine export authorisation scheme” stated EEA EFTA Chair Þórðarson.

Þórðarson also addressed on behalf of the EEA EFTA States their participation in the new generation of EU programmes.

“We are working hard to meet the tight timeline for the processing of the Joint Committee Decisions incorporating programme regulations into the Agreement by 10 July 2021. In the meantime, it is essential to ensure that actors from our States can participate in the early stages and preparations of the programmes. While we thank the EEAS for their written note on this issue and for distributing it to relevant Commission services, we rely on your continued support in clarifying our rights at all levels.”

An orientation debate on strategic autonomy was also on the agenda of the day. Maive Rute, Deputy Director-General of the DG internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs at the European Commission presented the topic. She was followed by Angelina Eichhorst, Managing Director for Western Europe, Western Balkans, Turkey and United Kingdom at the EEAS.

Finally, the members of the EEA Council made a joint statement addressing the following areas:

  • Response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Political dialogue
  • Cooperation in the EEA
  • Incorporation of EEA-relevant EU acts
  • The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU and the EEA Agreement
  • The development on the Internal Market and Digital Transformation
  • The European Green Deal
  • The social dimension
  • EU programmes
  • Financial mechanisms
  • Agricultural trade

Read the full statement here.

Find pictures from the EEA Council videoconference here.

Video statement from the EEA EFTA Chair:




Political dialogue on major foreign policy issues

Before the EEA Council meeting, the EEA EFTA Ministers had an informal political dialogue with EU counterparts on current foreign policy issues of mutual interest. The EU side was chaired by Augusto Santos Silva, as had been the case in the Council meeting. Ministers exchanged views on Russia, on the international dimension of COVID-19, and on climate and security.

Head of EEA Policy Coordination
EEA Coordination Division
Head of Information and Communication
Secretary-General's Office

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