European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority
The European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority performs the executive role of the European Commission in the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which are part of the European Economic Area (EEA).
The authority is tasked with ensuring laws and regulations are properly enacted by members, challenging them before the EFTA Court if necessary. The Authority has its headquarters in Brussels (Belgium) and its working language is English. Enterprises and individuals can, however, address the Authority in any official EEA language.
The original plan for the EEA lacked the EFTA Surveillance Authority, and instead had the European Commission exercising this role. However, during the negotiations for the EEA agreement, the European Court of Justice informed the Council of the European Union by way of letter that they considered that giving the EU institutions powers with respect to non-EU member states would be a violation of the treaties, and therefore the current arrangement was developed instead.
The Authority takes on many of the roles performed by the European Commission within the EU, though only for the three EFTA EEA states and on a smaller scale. It also differs in that it does not propose new law or policy as the Commission does.
The primary task of the Authority is ensuring relevant EU law is properly transposed and enforced by EFTA states. If a state fails to do so, the Authority may resort to bringing the state to the EFTA Court. Secondly, the Authority ensures free competition, with the power to inspect and fine companies engaging in cartels or abusing their market position. This also extends to overseeing state aid to undertakings.
There are then further administrative tasks related to the approval of EFTA states decisions relating to areas such as banning harmful products or the recognition of driving licences. It also provides information and advice on interpreting and implementing the EEA agreement.
Relations with the Commission
Due to their mirror roles and the need to ensure uniform application of law, the Authority cooperates closely with the European Commission. The two bodies consult each other and exchange data; in matters of state aid and competition there is a particularly deep level of cooperation. In the event of a disagreement, negotiations are referred to an EEA Joint Committee.
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The EFTSA undertakes supervisory approvals in regard to major restructurings such as those resulting from the 2008–2012 Icelandic financial crisis, such as the refinancing of Iceland's Housing Financing Fund.
The Authority is led by a college of three members, one from each country. Unlike the European Commission, the members of the Authority are recruited from administrative positions with little political history. The body is appointed by common accord between the three countries for a four-year term period and a majority vote. The President is selected from among the college members every two years. Below the college is a staff of sixty officials divided into four divisions. The official language is English, though communication in any EEA language is accepted.
- The college as appointed in 2011;
- Oda Helen Sletnes, Norway, President
- Sabine Monauni-Tömördy, Liechtenstein
- Sverrir Haukur Gunnlaugsson, Iceland
- High Authority of the ECSC
- European Free Trade Association
- European Free Trade Association Court
- European Economic Area
- European Union
- Free trade areas in Europe
- "About the EFTA Surveillance Authority". EFTA SA.
- OECD Economic Surveys: Iceland 2011 -OECD - 2011 Page 50 "The Housing Finance Fund (cont.).. To ensure that the HFF remained solvent, the government made a capital injection of ISK 33 billion (2.1% of 2010 GDP) at the end of 2010. The European Surveillance Authority recently approved this state ..."