Cooperation between member states of the EU and members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that have joined the European Economic Area (EEA) strengthens Europe's voice in the world, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE), who chaired a meeting of the EEA Council on behalf of the EU on Tuesday.
"Great cooperation between the EU and the EEA EFTA states and synergy between the countries' positions on foreign policy and other important issues makes our common voice stronger on the world stage," the minister was quoted by spokespeople as saying. "The EU highly appreciates it."
During the Council's political discussion, the ministers discussed the impact Brexit will have on the EEA. "We take into account that the negotiations do not concern only EU member states, but also EFTA states as members of the single market," Mikser noted.
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, who also participated in the discussion, gave partners an overview of the current state of negotiations; likewise discussed were the concerns of EEA EFTA countries regarding the U.K.'s withdrawal from the EU and the EEA.
On the subject of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), Mikser emphasized the importance of the partnership as well as dialogue regarding it with EEA EFTA states. "We appreciate your principled position on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the partner countries and support for the countries' reforms," Mikser said. Mikser also gave an overview of preparations for the EaP Summit taking place in Brussels on Nov. 24 as well as the situation in Ukraine.
The EEA Council also focused on opportunities to develop the European data economy, which is one of the priorities of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU. "Digital technologies have great economic potential," Mikser noted. "If we manage to guarantee favorable political and legal conditions, the value of the EU data economy could reach €739 billion by 2020."
The EEA Council meets twice per year. Mikser led the EU delegation at Tuesday's meeting, while Liechtenstein's Minister of Foreign Affairs Aurelia Frick led the delegation of EFTA countries. Minister of EEA and EU Affairs of Norway Marit Berger Røsland and Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson were also in attendance.
The Agreement on the European Economic Area, which entered into force on Jan. 1, 1994, brings together EU member states and three EEA EFTA States — Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway — in a single market.
Editor: Aili Vahtla