Successful seminar on the Two-Pillar Structure of the European Economic Area

Published 26-11-2019
Gunnar Pálsson, Iceland's Ambassador to the EU welcomed the participants to the seminar.
On 15 November, the Icelandic Mission to the EU and the EFTA Secretariat organised a seminar on the two-pillar structure of the EEA Agreement. Around 100 delegates from various institutions of the EFTA States and the EU participated in the seminar.

The seminar provided insight into how two-pillar issues have been addressed since the entry into force of the EEA Agreement in 1994. It looked at what aspects of the partnership have been successful, which challenges have been met and how they have been resolved. In this context, the seminar also focused on attempts to ensure successful solutions to the future implementation of the agreement. The speakers were representatives from the EEA EFTA States, the European Commission and the EFTA Surveillance Authority.

In his introductory address, Gunnar Pálsson, Iceland's Ambassador to the EU, pointed out that experience has shown that the two pillars could be trusted – even though the legislation introduced in the EEA has increased over the years. However, he said it would be important to keep the debate on the two-pillar system alive, given its importance to the EEA EFTA States.

“In existence for 25 years, the EEA Agreement provides our countries with access to a market of more than 500 million people. It establishes a level playing field for individuals and businesses alike to operate in the Single Market for goods, services, capital and movement of people”, said Pálsson in his opening remarks.

Ólafur Jóhannes Einarsson, Registrar at the EFTA Court, set the stage for the subject at the beginning of the seminar and gave an overview of recent two-pillar solutions, which he divided into different categories.

Then Susanne Höke, Deputy Head of Unit, Institutional Affairs from the European Commission, talked about the EU's development of its institutions and how decentralised agencies have become an inherent element in the functioning of the European Union.

Gunnar Þór Pétursson, Director of Internal Market at ESA, reviewed the Agency's supervisory role and gave some insight into some recent examples from the two-pillar angle. He emphasized good cooperation between the two pillars, especially since it is not required technically from a legal point of view.

Each EEA EFTA State showcased concrete examples of two-pillar challenges and solutions. Jóhanna Bryndís Bjarnadóttir, Deputy Director General, Directorate for Legal and Executive Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Iceland; Kaja Moe Winther, Deputy Director, Legal Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway; and Stefan Barriga, Deputy Head of the Liechtenstein Mission to the EU, gave presentations.

All speakers expressed great confidence in the two-pillar structure that has withstood the test of time. In his address at the end of the seminar, Norway's Ambassador to the EU, Rolf Einar Fife, discussed the importance of mutual trust between the States and the European Union in EEA EFTA relations.


You can find high resolution photos from the seminar here.

Interested in our seminars?

Our next biannual seminar on the European Economic Area (EEA) will take place on Thursday 13 February 2020 at the EFTA Secretariat in Brussels.

The seminar is intended to provide professionals, both inside and outside the European Union, with a thorough understanding of the EEA Agreement, and how it integrates Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway into the EU's Internal Market. Presentations by the EFTA Secretariat, the EEA and Norway Grants, the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court on the day-to-day operation and management of the Agreement, including recent developments and challenges, will be given.

More information and registration here.

Head of Information and Communication
Secretary-General's Office

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