At the 47th meeting of the EEA Council, held in Brussels on 16 May 2017, Ministers discussed the cooperation within the European Economic Area, including Brexit, the Arctic, climate change and the Paris Agreement.
On this occasion, the EEA Council took stock of the overall functioning of the EEA Agreement. In particular, it examined the cooperation between the EU and the EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) within the framework of the EEA Agreement.
The meeting was chaired by Mr Louis Grech, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EU Affairs of Malta, representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Mr Frank Bakke-Jensen, Minister of EEA and EU Affairs of Norway, co-chaired the meeting, which was also attended by Mr Guðlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland, and Ms Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, as well as by representatives of the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS).
In his address, Minister Bakke-Jensen reminded that the EEA Agreement was signed in Oporto 25 years ago.
“Since then, the EEA Agreement has proven it is viable, useful, possible to adapt to an ever changing landscape and still relevant for us,” he said.
“The EEA Agreement is by far the most comprehensive international agreement ever concluded by Norway. It is the basis for our relations with the European Union in a wide range of areas. (It is) our entry ticket to the Internal Market with free movement for persons, goods, services and capital. In addition, the agreement includes cooperation in areas such as environmental protection, education, research, culture, tourism, health, consumer matters, labour legislation and social security. The EEA Agreement gives a great contribution to growth and employment for all participants. For all of us, the EEA Agreement gives equal access and equal terms of competition in a market consisting of 500 million people,” he said.
The EEA Council also discussed climate change policy in the context of the Paris Agreement.
In connection with the EEA Council, Ministers and representatives of the Commission, including chief Negotiator on Brexit Michel Barnier, and the EEAS, held a political dialogue to discuss the implications for the EEA Agreement of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The Arctic was also on the dialogue agenda.
Minister Þórðarson reiterated that there has always been a political consensus in Iceland on the importance of the EEA Agreement.
“During the political dialogue, we had open and fruitful discussion on the state of play with regards to Brexit. We welcome the clear message from Mr Barnier, that the EFTA states will not only be informed, but consulted, on all stages in their coming negotiations.”
“It is of utmost importance that Brexit does not lead to the introduction of tariffs on fish and other exports. That would bring us into loser-only situation, while we still have a good possibility to conclude this as a win-win for everybody.”
The EEA Council meets twice a year and provides political impetus for the development of the EEA Agreement, which has been the cornerstone of relations between the EEA EFTA States and the European Union for more than 20 years. Find here the main documents of the meeting today.
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