EEA parliamentarians embrace future of shared prosperity to mark 30 years of partnership

Published 29-02-2024
© European Union 2024 - Source : EP

Ensuring a safe and prosperous Europe in the future was the key focus for EFTA parliamentarians when they met with their European Parliament counterparts for the 61st meeting of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee (EEA JPC) on 28 and 29 February in Strasbourg. It was their first meeting of 2024, the 30th anniversary year of the EEA Agreement.

The meeting was co-chaired by Andreas Schwab, President of the EEA JPC and Chair of the EP delegation for relations with the EFTA countries and the EEA, and Manfred Kaufmann, Chair of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee and EEA JPC Vice President.

An EEA that ensures long-term opportunities

Enrico Letta, President of the Jacques Delors Institute and former Prime Minister of Italy, addressed the committee about the future of the Single Market. Commenting on the mandate he had received from the European Council, he explained that he was currently visiting EU capitals to better assess the shortcomings and expectations. As the Single Market extended to the EEA EFTA States, he said that he was looking forward to receiving their contributions to complete his report.

This was echoed by the EFTA Chair of the EEA Joint Committee, Ambassador Kristján Andri Stefánsson, who stated that “the EEA Agreement remains the launchpad for our societies and economies to grow, to further enhance innovation, and to embrace the green and digital transitions”.

These transitions featured prominently on the agenda, with the committee first reviewing the content of the Artificial Intelligence Act with Brando Benifei, EP rapporteur on the proposal. He outlined the key provisions of the agreed text, which would soon have to be incorporated into the EEA Agreement to ensure that AI systems placed on the market across the EEA are both safe and trustworthy.

As part of their joint efforts towards a carbon-free future, the parliamentarians assessed new sustainability provisions stemming from recent legislative developments such as the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, deforestation-free products and the prohibition of products made with forced labour. As the EEA EFTA States are full participants in the Single Market but not members of the EU Customs Union, the EEA JPC examined how to ensure consistency of implementation across the entire EEA.

A safe EEA for all

The EEA JPC further explored how this unique EEA partnership was contributing to tackling common threats and disasters, which had been increasing steadily in recent years and knew no borders. Against this background, they discussed the EEA EFTA States’ participation in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, with a particular focus on the recurring volcanic eruptions in Iceland and their dramatic impact on the local population and sometimes on the EEA.

Michael Gahler, standing EP rapporteur on Ukraine, further briefed the committee on the latest developments with regard to EU support to Ukraine and the future steps of the country’s path towards EU accession. He remarked: “the Ukraine Facility will not be enough if we don’t step up our deliveries of ammunition and weapons to Ukraine so it can fight back and ultimately win the war”.

This was the last EEA JPC meeting to take place during the ninth term of the current European Parliament. The programme provided the opportunity to brief the EEA EFTA parliamentarians on the forthcoming European elections, scheduled from 6 to 9 June 2024. Manfred Kaufmann also used the opportunity to bid farewell to Andreas Schwab and to thank all of the EP delegation members for their commitment to the EEA cooperation over the last five years.

The EEA JPC is a joint forum composed of members of the national parliaments of the EEA EFTA States and Members of the European Parliament. Its mandate is to contribute – through dialogue and debate – to a better understanding between the EU and the EEA EFTA States in the fields covered by the EEA Agreement.

See high-resolution photos from the meeting here.

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