European Economic Area

European Economic Area

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The European Economic Area (EEA) came into being on 1 January 1994 following an agreement [PDFlink| [ EEA Agreement] ] between member states of European Free Trade Association (EFTA),the European Community (EC), and all member states of the European Union (EU). It allows these EFTA countries to participate in the European single market without joining the EU.


:"See also: Enlargement to EFTA states"

The contracting parties to the EEA Agreement are three of the four EFTA states—Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway—and the 27 EU Member States along with the European Community. [previously, the European Economic Community and European Coal and Steel Community. The latter was absorbed into the former in 2002 and the former became the European Community pillar of the EU in 1993.]

Switzerland is not part of the EEA. A referendum (mandated by the Swiss constitution) was held and rejected the proposal to join. [ [ Swiss reject EEA] ] Switzerland is linked to the European Union by the Swiss–EU bilateral agreements, with a different content from that of the EEA agreement.

Freedoms and obligations

The EEA is based on the same "four freedoms"as the European Community: the free movement of goods, persons, services, and capital among the EEA countries. Thus, the EFTA countries that are part of the EEA enjoy free trade with the European Union.

As a counterpart, these countries have to adopt part of the Law of the European Union.These states have little influence on decision-making processes in Brussels.

The EFTA countries that are part of the EEA do not bear the financial burdens associated with EU membership, although they contribute financially to the European single market. After the EU/EEA enlargement of 2004 there was a tenfold increase in the financial contribution of the EEA States, in particular Norway, to social and economic cohesion in the Internal Market (€1167 million over five years).

EFTA countries do not receive any funding from EU policies and development funds.


The non EU members of the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) have agreed to enact legislation similar to that passed in the EU in the areas of social policy, consumer protection, environment, company law and statistics. These are some of the areas covered by the European Community (the "first pillar" of the European Union).

The non EU members of the EEA have no representation in Institutions of the European Union such as the European Parliament or European Commission. In February 2001, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg described the situation as a “fax democracy”, with Norway waiting for their latest legislation to be faxed from the Commission. [ [ In Norway, EU pros and cons (the cons still win)]]


A Joint Committee consisting of the EEA-EFTA States plus the European Commission (representing the EU) has the function of extending relevant EU law to the non EU members. An EEA Council meets twice yearly to govern the overall relationship between the EEA members.

Rather than setting up pan-EEA institutions, the activities of the EEA are regulated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court, which parallel the work of the EU's European Commission and European Court of Justice. See EEA institutions for further information.

ee also

*Free trade areas in Europe
**Central European Free Trade Agreement
*EU enlargement to EFTA states
**Iceland and the European Union
**Norway and the European Union
**Liechtenstein and the European Union
**Switzerland and the European Union
*Parallel importation
*Schengen Agreement
*Trade bloc


External links

* [ More about the EEA on the website of the Mission of Norway to the EU]
* [ EFTA Secretariat]
* [ EFTA Surveillance Authority]
* [ The EU and the European Economic Area] Europa (web portal): External Relations

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