Norway is one of very few western European countries not to be a member of the European Union. Norway has held two referendums on the issue of EU membership, first in 1972 and then again in 1994. On both occasions, a rather narrow majority of the Norwegian population rejected membership (in 1994, 52% were against and 48% were in favour).
As a consequence, Norway is not a Member State of the EU, and the relationship with the Union is therefore based on other forms and means of close contact and co-operation. This co-operation enables Norway to maintain a very high level of economic integration, and political co-operation, with the EU and its Member States.
The EEA Agreement is by far the single most important agreement regulating the relationship between Norway (and the two other EEA EFTA States Iceland and Liechtenstein) and the European Union. The purpose of the agreement is to enlarge the EUs Internal Market to also comprise the EEA EFTA States, and it does so by creating a common ”European Economic Area”.
Through the EEA Agreement Norway and the other EEA EFTA States have taken on the obligation to implement all EU legislation relevant to the functioning of the internal market. The EEA Committee takes the decision on whether new Community legislation is of EEA relevance, with joint participation by the European External Action Service and the EEA EFTA Member States.
Thereafter, it is up to the national parliaments and legislators to ensure the national implementation. The EEA Agreement also ensures the EEA EFTA States some access to the preparatory work on new EU legislation on expert level (when prepared by the Commission).
Norway has also signed up to the Schengen Agreement, and is thus participating in the co-operation on common passport and border control, as well as several other issues within the EU policy area of Freedom, Security and Justice.
Another area of very close co-operation between Norway and the EU is the foreign and security policy, where Norway as a NATO-country has signed up to the Berlin+ accord on co-operation between EU and NATO on deployment of resources and development of policies.
Norway is also participating in a whole range of EU programmes and initiatives, for example within the fields of research, education and culture.
White paper on the EEA Agreement and Norway's other agreements with the EU (PDF file)
Brochure: Norway and the EU (pdf)
The European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement
White paper on Norway, the EEA Agreement and Norway's other agreements with the EU
The EEA and Norway Grants