- EFTA Consultative Committee Members
- EFTA Consultative Committee Terms of Reference
- EFTA Consultative Committee Rules of Procedure
The Consultative Committee is a vital platform for dialogue and consultation between the EFTA social partners and the EFTA authorities. It provides regular input to the work of the Standing Committee of the EFTA States and the EFTA Ministerial Council. The Committee focuses especially on the social and economic aspects of the EFTA free trade agreements (FTAs) and the European Economic Area (EEA).
The Consultative Committee’s aim and mission are threefold. Firstly, the Committee takes part in the shaping of the EFTA and EEA agendas, and seeks to influence policies in the areas that affect the social partners. Secondly, it intends to be a forum for dialogue among social partners from all EFTA countries, and a link to social partners in the EU and EU accession countries. Finally, the Committee seeks to raise awareness of the social and economic aspects of EFTA’s FTAs and the EEA, and the role of the social partners.
In the course of its more than 40 years of existence, the Committee has been put in charge of an increasing number of tasks and responsibilities. It has consequently strengthened its role as an EFTA advisory body and in consultation processes. In recent years, the Committee has especially taken on a more important role in covering trade and sustainable development, digitalisation and e-commerce. The Committee continues to play a key role in assessing and providing its opinion on EU/EEA matters and FTAs.
The Committee attaches great importance to several economic and social issues related to the EEA and third-country relations, such as initiatives under the European Green Deal, the EU’s digital and social agenda, EFTA participation in EU programmes, the Conference on the future of Europe and the relationship with the United Kingdom. Moreover, the Committee monitors developments in new and current FTAs.
The Consultative Committee usually holds 4-5 internal meetings yearly, in addition to the annual joint meeting with the Standing Committee of the EFTA States. Biannually, the EFTA social partners meet with the EFTA Council at ministerial level – in the spring with Ministers from all four EFTA States and in the autumn with the Ministerial Chair.
Informal policy consultations with relevant working groups under the Standing Committee structure also take place. Moreover, annual meetings with the EFTA Parliamentary Committees ensure a fruitful exchange of views between social partners and parliamentarians in EFTA.
On certain issues, the Committee appoints special rapporteurs who function as experts and coordinators. The Committee writes opinions and resolutions which are presented to the EFTA authorities and EEA bodies. It also produces working papers as a basis for discussion on new, emerging issues of relevance to EFTA and the EEA.
The members of the Committee are designated by the Member States, and chosen from the social partner organisations, i.e. trade unions and employers’ organisations in the four EFTA countries. Each country can send six representatives to the EFTA Consultative Committee. The European organisations ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) and BusinessEurope may send one observer each. The Consultative Committee elects a Chairperson and two Vice-Chairpersons, chosen from among its members with a term of office of two years.
Cooperation with the European Economic and Social Committee
The cooperation between the social partners in EFTA and in the EU has been strengthened considerably through the close contacts between the EFTA Consultative Committee and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Informal cooperation between the two institutions began already in 1975, but was later formalised by the EEA Agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 1994 and established the EEA Consultative Committee. This body consists of an equal number of representatives from the EFTA Consultative Committee and the EESC.