Tuesday

20th Oct 2020

EU satellite states could be part of Brexit deal

  • Iceland's FM Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson (left), Liechtenstein's FM Aurelia Frick, and Norway's EEA/EU minister Frank Bakke-Jensen (l) meet Malta's deputy PM Louis Grech. (Photo: Council of the EU)

Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway could be part of the EU's deal with the UK after the latter leaves the bloc in April 2019.

"Solutions to soften the landing should be available to us," Liechtenstein's foreign minister Aurelia Frick said on Tuesday (16 May), ahead of a meeting with the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and Maltese deputy prime minister Louis Grech, whose country holds the EU presidency.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"When the EU is negotiating the divorce from the UK, it automatically means a divorce from the EEA-Efta countries as well," she said, referring to the European Economic Area (EEA), to which Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland belong, along with all EU member states.

Under a nightmare scenario, the EU would find a good deal for itself but forget about the EEA countries.

"I call it the EEA cliff," Frick said.

Together with Switzerland, the EEA trio forms the European free trade association (Efta), but Swiss people rejected being part of the EEA and have bilateral relations with the EU instead.

EEA countries implement EU law, but have no say over its making.

Instead, the EEA council meets with the EU twice a year and provides political impetus to the relationship.

Frick said that the three countries were "not first thing on the EU's mind when dealing with Brexit", but she insisted that they were "in the same boat" as the EU on border protection, police cooperation and asylum policy.

"We are not ordinary third countries, but the EU's closest partners and friends," she said.

She added it was necessary to clarify how the rights of persons and companies acquired through the EEA treaty could be maintained after Brexit.

Her colleague, Norway's EU minister Frank Bakke Jensen, said it was important to regularly remind EU institutions of the EEA countries' interests.

"Barnier sees EU members as his first priority. EEA countries are priority number two," the minister told Norwegian press agency NTB.

But the EEA countries, in their meeting with Barnier, managed to secure a promise that they would not only be kept informed, but also consulted about the Brexit negotiations.

The UK has not yet triggered a clause in the EEA treaty, notifying the EU that it intends to leave the EEA.

If it neglects this formal obligation, the clause will likely be triggered by the EU, said Dag Werno Hotler, deputy secretary general of Efta.

“The agreement is only available to EU and Efta members,” he said.

Frick and Bakke Jensen said they were "open-minded" about the UK re-joining Efta, an organisation it helped to found in the 1960s.

"But the initiative would have to come from the UK. For the moment, the question is not on the table," the ministers said.

Bakke-Jensen said that the EEA cooperation worked well.

"The EEA agreement has proven it is viable, useful, possible to adapt to an ever changing landscape and still relevant for us,” he said.

"Our relationship with the EU is a dynamic relationship. When EU changes its laws and agreement we do the same. We are working on this every day," he said.

Frick also said the institutions worked smoothly, and the problem was that few people knew about it.

"As a minister, I try to raise awareness about the EEA and the fact that it's actually functioning very well. In a time of populism and globalisation critics, we should be very happy that we have unexciting integration politics”, she said.

Feature

Paradox: Nordics' privileged youth feel miserable

Young people in the Nordic countries are among the most privileged in the world - yet many of them feel miserable. The Nordic Council is concerned and aims to find out why.

Denmark falls behind in gender-equality ranking

Iceland remains the most gender-equal country in the world, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden. But one Nordic country sticks out from its neighbours with few female lawmakers, senior officials and managers.

North Atlantic mini states in geopolitical turbulence

Donald Trump wanted to buy Greenland, while the Faroe Islands have come under pressure to ditch China's Huawei for its 5G network. Both incidents reflect growing geopolitical interest for the North Atlantic countries sharing foreign and security policy with Denmark.

Nordic PMs meet youth to close climate gap

Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. EU money used by neo-Nazi to promote Holocaust denial
  2. Over 80% of Europe's habitats in poor or bad condition
  3. EU's Brexit move could end deadlock in talks
  4. EU's migrants more at risk from coronavirus
  5. Baltics pin hopes on Biden
  6. France marks trauma of history teacher's murder
  7. Spain's Sanchez in storm over judicial appointments bill
  8. Violating promises and law, von der Leyen tests patience

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us