The 52nd meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Commission of the European Economic Area was held on Tuesday, 13 March 2019, at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg. The Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, as the acting Presidency of the European Economic Area (EEA) Council, was represented by the chairman and the deputy chairman of the Workgroup for the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) of the EU Council. The chairman of the EFTA workgroup delivered the message of Minister for Business Environment, Commerce and Entrepreneurship Ștefan-Radu Oprea during the discussion on the developments around the EEA Agreement.
The agenda also included topics such as European Parliament initiatives and EFTA member state government initiatives; social security system coordination; 2019 European elections; workplace harassment; the 2018 Annual Report on the functioning of the EEA Agreement; the schedule for the next meeting of the EEA Joint Parliamentary Commission.
In their speech, the Romanian Presidency highlighted the contribution of this commission to the close cooperation of the EU and EFTA EEA member states in the fields covered by the EEA Agreement.
The Romanian Presidency underscored that, since its beginning, 25 years ago, the EEA Agreement had proven very flexible, undergoing an impressive number of amendments over the years. Its dynamic nature combined with the stability and quality of its institutions is the key element of its proven durability.
Additionally, the Romanian Presidency highlighted the importance of preserving the EEA agreement to ensure the continued proper functioning and uniformity of the EEA, for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of the Internal Market in an ever-changing Europe and world. For instance, the UK exit from the EU raises important questions both for the EU and for the EFTA EEA states.
The speech of the Romanian Presidency focused on the topics planned for the EEA Council meetings. These cover a wide array of aspects, such as digital market strategies and the modernisation of the Single Market, aspects regarding the financial sector and the banking union, environment, energy and climate change policies, agriculture, society and workforce occupation, as well as the evaluation from time to time of the functioning of the EEA Agreement and the evolution of bilateral relations.
The speech ended by highlighting the efforts to reduce delays due to the large number of EU legislation items that need to be incorporated in the EEA Agreement. These efforts have started to produce results, in particular with regard to financial services, wherein the recent inclusion of key legislation related to, among other things, financial instrument markets and capital requirements, has led to a significant reduction of these delays.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee of the EEA was established under the European Economic Area Agreement (EEA Agreement) signed on 2 May 1992 and implemented from 1 January 1994.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee of the EEA is an advisory body including 24 members, 12 of whom are MEPs, and 3 members from each of the EFTA states’ Parliaments (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The Swiss Parliament members attend meetings as observers, without voting rights.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee of the EEA adopt reports and resolutions and review the Annual Report of the Joint Committee of the EEA.
The participation of the acting Presidency representative at the bi-annual meetings of the Joint Committee of the EEA has become traditional. The EU Presidency is usually represented by the head of the EFTA workgroup of the Council. The Chairmanship of the EEA Council is held alternatively by the EU Council Presidency and the EFTA. During the first semester of this year the Chairmanship of the EEA Council is held by the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council.