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Du er her: EU-OplysningenHomeFAQAll questions › What are EFTA and EEA?


What are EFTA and EEA?

EFTA (European Free Trade Association) is an international free-trade organisation with four Member States – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

EEA (European Economic Area) is the term for the common economic area established by the Agreement creating the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) between three of the EFTA countries and the EU. These three EFTA Member States – Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – concluded a cooperation agreement known as the EEA Agreement with the EU, under which the EU’s provisions on the internal market also apply to these countries.

‘EEA countries’ is therefore the term for all the EU Member States plus the three EFTA countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Background to EFTA
EFTA came into being in 1960 as a free-trade association between the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal. The basis for this cooperation was and remains the EFTA Convention, also known as the Stockholm Convention. EFTA was formed in response to Community cooperation, which was established in 1957.

During the 1960s, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway and Ireland applied for membership of the Community, but at that time the French President Charles de Gaulle blocked the admission of those countries. After de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway and Ireland repeated their applications for membership of the Community. The United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland joined the Community on 1 January 1973 and as a consequence the United Kingdom and Denmark left EFTA. In a Norwegian referendum, a majority voted against membership of the Community, however, and so Norway did not become a member. In 1986, Portugal joined the Community and left EFTA. Finland had become a full member of EFTA in 1986 but, along with Sweden and Austria, it joined the EU in 1995 and thereby left EFTA.

EFTA has its headquarters in Geneva, and it also has offices in Brussels and Luxembourg. You can read more about EFTA on the organisation’s website: www.efta.int


The EEA Agreement was signed in May 1992 by the EU and the then six EFTA countries (Austria, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland). In a Swiss referendum in 1992, a majority voted against entering into the EEA Agreement, however, and consequently the Agreement did not enter into force until 1994, without Switzerland. 50.3% voted against, with 49.7% in favour; voter turnout was 79%.

Negotiations were subsequently opened between Switzerland and the EU on agreements within seven areas. These agreements were approved in a referendum in Switzerland on 6 May 2000, and then entered into force on 1 June 2002. The agreements form a package, which meant that they all entered into force at the same time, and means that they will all cease to apply if one of them is revoked. Further agreements between the EU and Switzerland are in the pipeline.

The seven agreements between the EU and Switzerland concern the free movement of persons, air and land transport, public procurement, scientific and technological cooperation, mutual recognition in relation to conformity assessment (mutual recognition of the results of the compulsory conformity assessment procedures required for market access to the territory of the parties), and trade in agricultural products.

You can read more about EU and Switzerland on: http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/switzerland/intro/index.htm

Sidst opdateret: 23-07-2008  - ANSJ