European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority
The EFTA Surveillance Authority monitors compliance with the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway; the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States which are part of the EEA. The EEA Agreement enables those States to participate in the Internal Market of the European Union.
The Authority operates independently of the EFTA States and seeks to protect the rights of individuals and market participants who find their rights infringed by rules or practices of the EFTA States or companies within those states. The Authority monitors the timely implementation of EEA law (such as directives and regulations) by the EFTA States and may investigate whether national legislation or practices are in line with EEA law. Such an investigation may lead to the launching of formal infringement proceedings against an EFTA State, a three-step procedure which may result in the Authority referring the case to the EFTA Court.
The Authority is based in Brussels (Belgium) with 70 employees of 16 different nationalities, 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 EEA EFTA 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. All decisions which formally bind the Authority are taken by the College. Although College members are appointed by the Member States, they undertake their functions independently and free of political direction. Unlike the European Commission, the members of the Authority are often 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 appointed from among the college members every two years.
- The college currently consists of
The College is served by four departments that form the staff of the Authority: the Internal Market Affairs Directorate, the Competition and State Aid Directorate, the Legal and Executive Affairs Department and the Administration.
- High Authority of the ECSC
- European Free Trade Association
- EFTA 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 ..."