The EEA Agreement

Scope and Institutional Aspects

The EEA Agreement extends the EU Internal Market to three EFTA countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The institutional structure under the EEA Agreement is conceived as two pillars with certain joint EU-EFTA bodies for decision shaping, decision making and dispute settlement.

The idea of a European Economic Area (EEA) dates back to a joint EFTA-EEC ministerial meeting in Luxembourg in 1984, where a declaration mentioning the establishment of a European Economic Space (later “Area”) was adopted.

In 1989, Jacques Delors, then President of the Commission, proposed a new partnership between EFTA and the EC, which was to become the EEA. The EFTA states, at the time Austria, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, welcomed the idea. Formal negotiations began in June 1990 and the Agreement on the EEA was signed on 2 May 1992 in Oporto. It entered into force on 1 January 1994.

In December 1992, the majority of the Swiss people voted against joining the EEA. Since 1 January 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden have participated in the EEA as members of the EU. Liechtenstein became a full participant in the EEA on 1 May 1995.

The EEA Agreement unites the 27 EU member states and the three EFTA EEA states (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) into an internal market governed by the same basic rules (Acquis Communautaire). These rules cover the so-called four freedoms (free movement of goods, capital, services and persons). In addition, it establishes a system ensuring equal conditions of competition. The Agreement also provides for co-operation in such areas as research and development, education, environment, social policy, culture, health and equal opportunities, and in a range of programmes and activities carried out in the EU. The EEA Agreement does not cover the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy, but contains provisions on various aspects of trade in agricultural and fish products.

A central concept of the EEA Agreement is homogeneity, which means that the economic areas should have the same rules and the same conditions of competition for economic operators. To maintain homogeneity, the EEA Agreement is designed to be dynamic and is amended on a continuous basis to ensure that relevant and acceptable Community legislation is integrated via the EEA Agreement into the national legislation of the EEA EFTA States.

The EEA EFTA States are consulted and informed during the European Commission’s preparation of Community legislation. EFTA experts are consulted on the same basis as EU experts in the preparatory phase of EC legislation and the EEA EFTA States are consulted on proposals for legislation once they have been presented to the EU Council.

Institutional aspects
A two-pillar structure, including joint EU-EEA EFTA bodies, has been established to administer the EEA Agreement.

Decisions to extend Community legislation to the EEA are taken in the EEA Joint Committee. The Joint Committee, which generally meets once a month, is made up of representatives of the EEA EFTA States, the European Commission and the EU Member States. The Joint Committee is assisted by four subcommittees.

Political impetus and guidelines for the implementation of the Agreement are provided by the EEA Council, which is made up of EU and EEA EFTA ministers. In addition, the Agreement provides for joint committees of the social partners (EEA Consultative Committee) and of Members of Parliament of the EFTA States and of the European Parliament (EEA Joint Parliamentary Committee).

The joint structure is reflected by an internal EFTA structure consisting of the Standing Committee of the EFTA States, made up of representatives from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, with observers from Switzerland and the EFTA Surveillance Authority. Five subcommittees and a large number of working and expert groups assist the Standing Committee.

The European Commission for the EU territory and the EFTA Surveillance Authority for the three EFTA States monitor the implementation of common rules throughout the European Economic Area. The EFTA Court in Luxembourg provides judicial control on the EFTA side.


What is the European Economic Area (EEA)?

EEA: General information

EEA: Surveillance of implementation and application of legislation, and competition rules

EEA: Judicial control

  • EFTA Court
  • European Court of Justice and Court of First Instance

Information about the EEA Agreement in Norwegian

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The headquarters of EFTA in Brussels.

From a joint EFTA EC Ministerial meeting in 1989, the year the negotiations on the EEA Agreement was launched.

On 3 July 2003, the EEA Enlargement Agreement was initialled.