European Economic Area

The European Economic Area (EEA), which was established via the EEA Agreement in 1992, is an international agreement which enables the extension of the European Union (EU)'s single market to non-EU member parties.[5] The EEA links the European Union member states and three European Free Trade Association states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) into an internal market governed by the same basic rules. These rules aim to enable free movement of labour, goods, services, and capital within the European Single Market, including the freedom to choose residence in any country within this area. The EEA was established on 1 January 1994 upon entry into force of the EEA Agreement. The contracting parties are the European Union (EU), its member states, and three EFTA member states.[6]

However, the EEA Treaty is a commercial treaty and differs from the EU Treaties in certain key respects. The EFTA members do not participate in the Common Agricultural Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy. According to Article 1 its purpose is to "promote a continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relation." Unlike the EU Treaties, there is no mention of "ever closer union".

The right to free movement of persons between EEA member states and the relevant provisions on safeguard measures are identical to those applying between members of the European Union.[7][8] The right and rules applicable in all EEA member states, including those which are not members of the EU, are specified in Directive 2004/38/EC [9] and in the Agreement on the European Economic Area. [10]

The EEA Agreement specifies that membership is open to member states of either the European Union or European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA states which are party to the EEA Agreement participate in the EU's internal market without being members of the EU or the European Union Customs Union. They adopt most EU legislation concerning the single market, with notable exclusions including laws regarding the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.[11] The EEA's "decision-shaping" processes enable EEA EFTA member states to influence and contribute to new EEA policy and legislation from an early stage.[12] Third country goods are excluded for these states on rules of origin.

When entering into force in 1994, the EEA parties were 17 states and two European Communities: the European Community, which was later absorbed into the EU's wider framework, and the now defunct European Coal and Steel Community. Membership has grown to 31 states as of 2016: 28 EU member states, as well as three of the four member states of the EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).[6] The Agreement is applied provisionally with respect to Croatia—the remaining and most recent EU member state—pending ratification of its accession by all EEA parties.[2][13] One EFTA member, Switzerland, has not joined the EEA, but has a series of bilateral agreements with the EU which allow it also to participate in the internal market.

  EU and EEA member state   EFTA and EEA member state   EU member state provisionally applying the EEA agreement (Croatia)   EFTA member state and signatory of the EEA agreement that has not ratified (Switzerland)
  EU and EEA member state
  EFTA and EEA member state
  EU member state provisionally applying the EEA agreement (Croatia)
  EFTA member state and signatory of the EEA agreement that has not ratified (Switzerland)
  • Institutions
  •  • Governance
  •  • Regulators
  •  • Courts
Member states[1][2]
• EEA Agreement signed
2 May 1992
• Entry into force
1 January 1994
• Total
4,944,753 km2 (1,909,180 sq mi)
• 2017 estimate
GDP (nominal)2018 estimate
• Total
US$20 trillion[3][4]
• Per capita


In the late 1980s, the EFTA member states, led by Sweden, began looking at options to join the then-existing European Economic Community (EEC), the precursor of the European Union (EU). The reasons identified for this are manifold. Many authors cite the economic downturn in the beginning of the 1980s, and the subsequent adoption by the EEC of the Europe 1992 agenda as a primary reason. Arguing from a liberal intergovernmentalist perspective, these authors argue that large multinational corporations in EFTA countries, especially Sweden, pressed for EEC membership under threat of relocating their production abroad. Other authors point to the end of the Cold War, which made joining the EEC less politically controversial for neutral countries.[14]

Meanwhile, Jacques Delors, who was President of the European Commission at the time, did not like the idea of the EEC enlarging with more member states, as he feared that it would impede the ability of the Community to complete the internal market reform and establish the monetary union. Delors proposed a European Economic Space (EES) in January 1989, which was later renamed the European Economic Area, as it is known today.[14]

By the time the EEA was established in 1992, however, several developments hampered its credibility. First of all, Switzerland rejected the EEA agreement in a national referendum on 6 December 1992 obstructing full EU-EFTA integration within the EEA. Furthermore, Austria had applied for full EEC membership in 1989, and was followed by Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland between 1991 and 1992 (Norway's EU accession was rejected in a referendum, Switzerland froze its EU application after the EEA agreement was rejected in a referendum). The fall of the Iron Curtain had made the EU less hesitant to accept these highly developed countries as member states, since that would relieve the pressure on the EU's budget when the former socialist countries of Central Europe were to join.[14]


The EEA Agreement was signed in Porto on 2 May 1992 by the then seven states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the European Community (EC) and its then 12 member states.[15][16] On 6 December 1992, Switzerland's voters rejected the ratification of the agreement in a constitutionally mandated referendum,[17] effectively freezing the application for EC membership submitted earlier in the year. Switzerland is instead linked to the EU by a series of bilateral agreements. On 1 January 1995, three erstwhile members of the EFTA—Austria, Finland and Sweden—acceded to the European Union, which had superseded the European Community upon the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty on 1 November 1993. Liechtenstein's participation in the EEA was delayed until 1 May 1995.[18]

As of 2014 the contracting parties to the EEA are 3 of the 4 EFTA member states and 27 of the 28 EU member states. The 28th and newest EU member, Croatia, finished negotiating their accession to the EEA in November 2013,[19] and since 12 April 2014 is provisionally applying the agreement pending its ratification by all EEA member states.[2][13]


Besides the 1992 Treaty, 1 amending treaty was signed, as well as 3 treaties to allow for accession of new members of the European Union

Treaty Signature Entry into force original signatories comment
EEA agreement 2 May 1992 1 January 1994 19 states + EEC and ECSC Entered into force as adjusted by the 1993 Protocol
Adjusting Protocol 17 March 1993 1 January 1994 18 states + EEC and ECSC Allowing entry into force without Switzerland
Participation of 10 new States 14 October 2003 6 December 2005 28 states + EC following 2004 enlargement of the European Union
Participation of 2 new States 25 July 2007 9 November 2011 30 states + EC following 2007 enlargement of the European Union
Participation of 1 new State 11 April 2014 not in force 31 states + EU following 2013 enlargement of the European Union

Ratification of the EEA Agreement

State Signed
[Note 1][1][20]
[Note 1][1]
Entered into force[1] Notes
 Austria 2 May 1992 15 October 1992 1 January 1994 EU member (from 1 January 1995)
Acceded to the EEA as an EFTA member[20]
 Belgium 2 May 1992 9 November 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Bulgaria[21] 25 July 2007 29 February 2008 9 November 2011 EU member
 Croatia[2] 11 April 2014 24 March 2015[22] No EU member (from 1 July 2013)
Provisional application from 12 April 2014[2]
 Cyprus[23] 14 October 2003 30 April 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
(The agreement is not applied to Northern Cyprus[Note 2])
 Czech Republic[23] 14 October 2003 10 June 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Denmark 2 May 1992 30 December 1992 1 January 1994 EU member
 European Union 2 May 1992 13 December 1993 1 January 1994 originally as European Economic Community
and European Coal and Steel Community
 Estonia[23] 14 October 2003 13 May 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Finland 2 May 1992 17 December 1992 1 January 1994 EU member (from 1 January 1995)
Acceded to the EEA as an EFTA member[20]
 France 2 May 1992 10 December 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Germany 2 May 1992 23 June 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Greece 2 May 1992 10 September 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Hungary[23] 14 October 2003 26 April 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Iceland 2 May 1992 4 February 1993 1 January 1994 EFTA member
 Ireland 2 May 1992 29 July 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Italy 2 May 1992 15 November 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Latvia[23] 14 October 2003 4 May 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Liechtenstein 2 May 1992 25 April 1995 1 May 1995 EFTA member
 Lithuania[23] 14 October 2003 27 April 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Luxembourg 2 May 1992 21 October 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Malta[23] 14 October 2003 5 March 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Netherlands 2 May 1992 31 December 1992 1 January 1994 EU member
 Norway 2 May 1992 19 November 1992 1 January 1994 EFTA member
 Poland[23] 14 October 2003 8 October 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Portugal 2 May 1992 9 March 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Romania[21] 25 July 2007 23 May 2008 9 November 2011 EU member
 Slovakia[23] 14 October 2003 19 March 2004 6 December 2005 EU member
 Slovenia[23] 14 October 2003 30 June 2005 6 December 2005 EU member
 Spain 2 May 1992 3 December 1993 1 January 1994 EU member
 Sweden 2 May 1992 18 December 1992 1 January 1994 EU member (from 1 January 1995)
Acceded to the EEA as an EFTA member[20]
  Switzerland[20] 2 May 1992 No No EFTA member
EEA ratification rejected in a 1992 referendum
Removed as contracting party in 1993 protocol
 United Kingdom 2 May 1992 15 November 1993 1 January 1994 EU member, includes Gibraltar
Voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU

(planned to be effective by 31 October 2019 however further delays to Brexit are possible.)
The future status of UK inclusion in the EEA remains unresolved.


  1. ^ a b Of the original agreement, or a subsequent agreement on participation of that particular state in the EEA.
  2. ^ Protocol 10 of the treaty of accession of the European Union to Cyprus suspended the application of the EU acquis to Northern Cyprus.[24][25] The EEA agreement states that it only applies to the territories of EU member states to which the EU treaties apply.[26] A joint declaration to the Final Act of treaty on accession of Cyprus to the EEA confirmed that this included the Protocol on Cyprus.[27]

Future enlargement

Recent EU member states

When a state joins the EU, they do not necessarily immediately become part of the EEA but are obliged to apply.[28] Following the 2007 enlargement of the EU, which saw Bulgaria and Romania acceding to the EU on 1 January 2007, an EEA Enlargement Agreement was not signed until 25 July 2007 and only provisionally entered into force on 1 August 2007.[29][30][21] The agreement did not fully enter into force until 9 November 2011.[21] On the other hand, the EEA Agreement was applied on a provisional basis to the 10 acceding countries in May 2004 as from the date of their accession to the EU.[31]


Croatia signed their Treaty of Accession to the EU 9 December 2011[32] and subsequently lodged their application to the EEA on 13 September 2012.[33] Negotiations started 15 March 2013 in Brussels, with the aim of achieving simultaneous accession to both the EU and the EEA on 1 July 2013.[34] However, this was not achieved.[35][36][37][38]

On 20 November 2013 it was announced that an enlargement agreement was reached. The text was initialled on 20 December 2013, and following its signature in April 2014 the agreement is being provisionally applied pending ratification by Croatia, all EEA states, and the European Union.[13][19][39] As of June 2017, the agreement has been ratified by 17 out of 32 parties.[2]

Future EU member states

There are five recognised candidates for EU membership that are not already EEA members: Albania (applied 2009), North Macedonia (applied 2004), Montenegro (applied 2008, negotiating since June 2012), Serbia (applied 2009, negotiating since January 2014) and Turkey (applied 1987, negotiating since October 2005).[40] Albania and North Macedonia have not yet started negotiations to join, nor has the European Union set any negotiations start date.[41] Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are considered potential candidates for membership. Bosnia and Herzegovina signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU and its member states, that went into effect in June 2015, which allowed the lodging of a membership application in February 2016,[42] while Kosovo, whose independence is unrecognised by 5 EU member states, finalised negotiations on a SAA that went into effect in April 2016.[43]

In mid-2005, representatives of the Faroe Islands hinted at the possibility of their territory joining the EFTA.[44] However, the ability of the Faroes to join is uncertain because, according to Article 56 of the EFTA Convention, only states may become members of the Association.[45] The Faroes, which form part of the Danish Realm, is not a sovereign state, and according to a report prepared for the Faroes Ministry of Foreign Affairs "under its constitutional status the Faroes cannot become an independent Contracting Party to the EEA Agreement due to the fact that the Faroes are not a state".[46] However, the report went on to suggest that it is possible that the "Kingdom of Denmark in respect of the Faroes" could join the EFTA.[46] The Danish Government has stated that the Faroes cannot become an independent member of the EEA as Denmark is already a party to the EEA Agreement.[46] The Faroes already have an extensive bilateral free trade agreement with Iceland, known as the Hoyvík Agreement.

European microstates

In November 2012, after the Council of the European Union had called for an evaluation of the EU's relations with the sovereign European microstates of Andorra, Monaco and San Marino, which they described as "fragmented",[47] the European Commission published a report outlining options for their further integration into the EU.[48] Unlike Liechtenstein, which is a member of the EEA via the EFTA and the Schengen Agreement, relations with these three states are based on a collection of agreements covering specific issues. The report examined four alternatives to the current situation: 1) a Sectoral Approach with separate agreements with each state covering an entire policy area, 2) a comprehensive, multilateral Framework Association Agreement (FAA) with the three states, 3) EEA membership, and 4) EU membership. The Commission argued that the sectoral approach did not address the major issues and was still needlessly complicated, while EU membership was dismissed in the near future because "the EU institutions are currently not adapted to the accession of such small-sized countries". The remaining options, EEA membership and a FAA with the states, were found to be viable and were recommended by the Commission.

As EEA membership is currently only open to EFTA or EU members, the consent of existing EFTA member states is required for the microstates to join the EEA without becoming members of the EU. In 2011, Jonas Gahr Støre, the then Foreign Minister of Norway which is an EFTA member state, said that EFTA/EEA membership for the microstates was not the appropriate mechanism for their integration into the internal market because their requirements differed from those of larger countries such as Norway, and suggested that a simplified association would be better suited for them.[49] Espen Barth Eide, Støre's successor, responded to the Commission's report in late 2012 by questioning whether the microstates have sufficient administrative capabilities to meet the obligations of EEA membership. However, he stated that Norway was open to the possibility of EFTA membership for the microstates if they decide to submit an application, and that the country had not made a final decision on the matter.[50][51][52][53] Pascal Schafhauser, the Counsellor of the Liechtenstein Mission to the EU, said that Liechtenstein, another EFTA member state, was willing to discuss EEA membership for the microstates provided their joining did not impede the functioning of the organisation. However, he suggested that the option of direct membership in the EEA for the microstates, outside both the EFTA and the EU, should be given consideration.[52]

On 18 November 2013 the EU Commission concluded that "the participation of the small-sized countries in the EEA is not judged to be a viable option at present due to the political and institutional reasons", and that Association Agreements were a more feasible mechanism to integrate the microstates into the internal market.[54]

Withdrawal of the United Kingdom

A 2016 UK referendum voted to withdraw from the European Union. Staying in the EEA, possibly eventually as an EFTA member, is one of the suggested options. A 2013 research paper presented to the Parliament of the United Kingdom proposed a number of alternatives to EU membership which would continue to allow it access to the EU's internal market, including continuing EEA membership as an EFTA member state, or the Swiss model of a number of bilateral treaties covering the provisions of the single market.[55] The United Kingdom was a co-founder of EFTA in 1960, but ceased to be a member upon joining the European Union. In the first meeting since the Brexit vote, EFTA reacted by saying both that they were open to a UK return and that Britain has many issues to work through[56] although the Norwegian Government later expressed reservations.[57] In January 2017, Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, announced a 12-point plan of negotiating objectives and confirmed that the UK government would not seek continued permanent membership in the single market.[58] The UK could be allowed by other member states to join the EEA or EFTA but existing EEA members such as Norway would have concerns about taking the risk of opening a difficult negotiation with the EU that could lead them to lose their current advantages.[59] The Scottish Government has looked into membership of EFTA to retain access to the EEA.[60] However, other EFTA states have stated that only sovereign states are eligible for membership, so it could only join if it became independent from the UK.[61]

Rights and obligations

The EEA relies on the same "four freedoms" underpinning the European Single Market as does the European Union: the free movement of goods, persons, services, and capital among the EEA countries. Thus, the EEA countries that are not part of the EU enjoy free trade with the European Union. Also, the 'free movement of persons is one of the core rights guaranteed in the European Economic Area (EEA) [...] [it] is perhaps the most important right for individuals, as it gives citizens of the 31 EEA countries the opportunity to live, work, establish business and study in any of these countries'.[62]

As a counterpart, these countries have to adopt part of the Law of the European Union. However they also contribute to and influence the formation of new EEA relevant policies and legislation at an early stage as part of a formal decision-shaping process.[12]

Agriculture and fisheries are not covered by the EEA. Not being bound by the Common Fisheries Policy is perceived as very important by Norway and Iceland, and a major reason not to join the EU. The Common Fisheries Policy would mean giving away fishing quotas in their waters.

The EEA countries that are not part of the EU do not contribute financially to Union objectives to the same extent as do its members, although they contribute to the EEA Grants scheme to “reduce social and economic disparities in the EEA”. Additionally, some choose to take part in EU programmes such as Trans-European Networks and the European Regional Development Fund. Norway also has its own Norway Grants scheme.[63] 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).


Council of EuropeSchengen AreaEuropean Free Trade AssociationEuropean Economic AreaEurozoneEuropean UnionEuropean Union Customs UnionAgreement with EU to mint eurosGUAMCentral European Free Trade AgreementNordic CouncilBaltic AssemblyBeneluxVisegrád GroupCommon Travel AreaOrganization of the Black Sea Economic CooperationUnion StateSwitzerlandIcelandNorwayLiechtensteinSwedenDenmarkFinlandPolandCzech RepublicHungarySlovakiaGreeceEstoniaLatviaLithuaniaBelgiumNetherlandsLuxembourgItalyFranceSpainAustriaGermanyPortugalSloveniaMaltaCyprusIrelandUnited KingdomCroatiaRomaniaBulgariaTurkeyMonacoAndorraSan MarinoVatican CityGeorgiaUkraineAzerbaijanMoldovaArmeniaRussiaBelarusSerbiaAlbaniaMontenegroNorth MacedoniaBosnia and HerzegovinaKosovo (UNMIK)
A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational European organisations and agreements.

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 former European Community (the "first pillar" of the European Union).

The non-EU members of the EEA are not represented in Institutions of the European Union such as the European Parliament or European Commission. This situation has been described as “fax democracy”, with Norway waiting for their latest legislation to be faxed from the Commission.[64][65] However, EEA countries are consulted about new EU legislative proposals and participate in shaping legislation at an early stage. The EEA Agreement contains provisions for input from the EEA/EFTA countries at various stages before legislation is adopted, including consent at the EEA Joint Committee. Once approved at the EEA Joint Committee, it is part of the EEA Agreement and the EEA EFTA States must implement it in their national law.[66]


The EEA Joint Committee consists of the EEA-EFTA States plus the European Commission (representing the EU) and has the function of amending the EEA Agreement to include relevant EU legislation. 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 European Union institutions, as well as the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. The EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court regulate the activities of the EFTA members in respect of their obligations in the European Economic Area (EEA). The EFTA Surveillance Authority performs the European Commission's role as "guardian of the treaties" for the EFTA countries to ensure the EEA Agreement is being followed. The EFTA Court performs a similar role to the European Court of Justice's in that it resolves disputes under the EEA Agreement.

While the ECJ and European Commission are respectively responsible for the interpretation and application of the EEA Agreement in the EU (between EU member states and within EU member states), and the EFTA Court and EFTA Surveillance Authority are likewise respectively responsible for interpreting and monitoring the application of the EEA Agreement among the EEA-EFTA states (between the EEA-EFTA states and within the EEA-EFTA states), disputes between an EU state and an EEA-EFTA state are referred to the EEA Joint Committee rather to either court. Only if the Joint Committee cannot provide a resolution within three months, would the disputing parties jointly submit to the ECJ for a ruling (if the dispute concerns provisions identical to EU law) or to arbitration (in all other cases).[67]

The original plan for the EEA lacked the EFTA Court or the EFTA Surveillance Authority, as the "EEA court" (which would be composed of five European Court of Justice members and three members from EFTA countries and which would be functionally integrated with the ECJ)[68] and the European Commission were to exercise those roles. However, during the negotiations for the EEA agreement, the European Court of Justice informed the Council of the European Union (Opinion 1/91) that they considered that giving the EEA court jurisdiction with respect to EU law that would be part of the EEA law, would be a violation of the treaties, and therefore the current arrangement was developed instead. After having negotiated the Surveillance Authority, the ECJ confirmed its legality in Opinion 1/92.

The EFTA Secretariat is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The EFTA Surveillance Authority has its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium (the same location as the headquarters of the European Commission), while the EFTA Court has its headquarters in Luxembourg (the same location as the headquarters of the European Court of Justice).

EEA and Norway Grants

The EEA and Norway Grants are the financial contributions of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe. In the period from 2004 to 2009, €1.3 billion of project funding is made available for project funding in the 15 beneficiary states in Central and Southern Europe.

Established in conjunction with the 2004 enlargement of the European Economic Area (EEA), which brings together the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in the Internal Market, the EEA and Norway Grants were administered by the Financial Mechanism Office, which is affiliated to the EFTA Secretariat in Brussels.

See also


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  65. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 8 Jun 2005 (pt 17)". 8 June 2005. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  66. ^ "Influencing the EU – EEA Decision Shaping | European Free Trade Association". Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  67. ^ Internal preparatory discussions on framework for future relationship – Governance of an International Agreement p. 14
  68. ^ "The EEA Judicial System and the Supreme Courts of the EFTA States" (PDF). Retrieved 7 May 2017.

External links

1992 Liechtenstein referendums

Five referendums were held in Liechtenstein during 1992. The first was held on 15 March on whether referendums should be introduced to approve international treaties, and was approved by 71.4% of voters. The second on 28 June concerned lowering the voting age from 20 to 18, but was rejected by 56.3% of voters. Two were held on 8 November on abolishing the 8% electoral threshold and adding a clause to the constitution banning discrimination, both of which were rejected. The fifth and final referendum on 13 December was on joining the European Economic Area. It was approved by 55.8% of voters, with a voter turnout of 87%.Despite the vote in favour, when the EEA subsequently came into existence in 1994, Liechtenstein did not join until after a second referendum in 1995.

1995 Liechtenstein European Economic Area membership referendum

A second referendum on membership of the European Economic Area was held in Liechtenstein on 9 April 1995. Although a previous referendum in 1992 had seen the majority of votes in favour, the country had not joined the EEA on its formation in 1994. The result of the second referendum, which also included a treaty with neighbouring Switzerland, was 55.88% in favour of membership, with voter turnout at 82.03%. Liechtenstein subsequently joined the EEA in May.

CE marking

CE marking is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA). The CE marking is also found on products sold outside the EEA that are manufactured in, or designed to be sold in, the EEA. This makes the CE marking recognizable worldwide even to people who are not familiar with the European Economic Area. It is in that sense similar to the FCC Declaration of Conformity used on certain electronic devices sold in the United States.

The CE marking is the manufacturer's declaration that the product meets the requirements of the applicable EC directives.The mark consists of the CE logo and, if applicable, the four digit identification number of the Notified Body involved in the conformity assessment procedure.

"CE" originated in 1985 as an abbreviation of Conformité Européenne, meaning European Conformity, but is not defined as such in the relevant legislation. The CE marking is a symbol of free marketability in the European Economic Area (Internal Market).

Citizens’ Rights Directive

The Citizens’ Rights Directive 2004/38/EC (also sometimes called the "Free Movement Directive") defines the right of free movement for citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA), which includes the member states of the European Union (EU) and the three European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Switzerland, which is a member of EFTA but not of the EEA, is not bound by the Directive but rather has a separate bilateral agreement on free movement with the EU.

It consolidated older regulations and directives, and extended the rights of unmarried couples. It gives EEA citizens the right of free movement and residence across the European Economic Area, as long as they are not an undue burden on the country of residence and have comprehensive health insurance. This right also extends to close family members that are not EEA citizens.

After five years, the right of residence becomes permanent, which means it does not depend on any precondition any longer.

EEA Joint Committee

The EEA Joint Committee is an institution of the European Economic Area (EEA). It is composed of representatives of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and the European Union. Its main function is to approve the application of European Union directives and regulations in the three EEA states which are not EU members. One approved by the Committee these modify the EEA Agreement and thus force the three EEA states to implement them. Its decisions are taken by consensus.

European Economic Area Act 1993

The European Economic Area Act 1993 (c. 51) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that incorporates the EEA Agreement signed in Brussels on 2 May 1992 that made provision for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European Single Market into the domestic law of the United Kingdom and amends the European Communities Act 1972 to incorporate the agreement within the list of the EC/EU treaties. It was given Royal assent on 5 November 1993.

European Free Trade Association

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The organization operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the European Single Market and are part of the Schengen Area. They are not, however, party to the European Union Customs Union.

EFTA was historically one of the two dominant western European trade blocs, but is now much smaller and closely associated with its historical competitor, the European Union. It was established on 3 May 1960 to serve as an alternative trade bloc for those European states that were unable or unwilling to join the then European Economic Community (EEC), which subsequently became the European Union. The Stockholm Convention, to establish the EFTA, was signed on 4 January 1960 in the Swedish capital by seven countries (known as the "outer seven": Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom).Since 1995, only two founding members remain, namely Norway and Switzerland. The other five, Austria, Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom, have joined the EU in the intervening years. The initial Stockholm Convention was superseded by the Vaduz Convention, which aimed to provide a successful framework for continuing the expansion and liberalization of trade, both among the organization's member states and with the rest of the world.

Whilst the EFTA is not a customs union and member states have full rights to enter into bilateral third-country trade arrangements, it does have a coordinated trade policy. As a result, its member states have jointly concluded free trade agreements with the EU and a number of other countries. To participate in the EU's single market, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are parties to the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), with compliances regulated by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court. Switzerland has a set of bilateral agreements with the EU instead.

Icelandic passport

Icelandic passports are issued to citizens of Iceland for the purpose of international travel.

Liechtenstein passport

Liechtenstein passports are issued to nationals of Liechtenstein for the purpose of international travel. The passport may also serve as proof of Liechtensteiner citizenship.

National identity cards in the European Economic Area

National identity cards are issued to their citizens by the governments of all European Union member states except Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom, and also by Liechtenstein. Citizens holding a national identity card, which states EEA or Swiss citizenship, can not only use it as an identity document within their home country, but also as a travel document to exercise the right of free movement in the EEA and Switzerland. Identity cards that do not state EEA or Swiss citizenship, including national identity cards issued to residents who are not citizens, are not valid as a travel document within the EEA and Switzerland.

National identity cards are often accepted in other parts of the world for unofficial identification purposes (such as age verification in commercial establishments that serve or sell alcohol, or checking in at hotels) and sometimes for official purposes such as proof of identity/nationality to authorities (especially machine-readable cards).

Four EEA member states do not issue cards defined by EU as national identity cards to their citizens: Denmark, Iceland, Norway and the United Kingdom (except to residents of Gibraltar); although Norway is expected to start issuing such cards from 2020. At present, citizens from these four countries can only use a passport as a travel document when travelling between EEA member states, and Switzerland. However, when travelling within the Schengen Area or Common Travel Area, other valid identity documentation (such as a driving licence or EHIC card) is often sufficient. Ireland issues a passport card which is valid as national identity card in other EU countries.

Norway–European Union relations

The Kingdom of Norway is not a member state of the European Union (EU). It is associated with the Union through its membership in agreements in the European Economic Area (EEA) established in 1994, and by virtue of being a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) which was founded in 1960, one of the two historically dominant western European trade blocs. Norway had twice considered joining the European Community and the European Union, but opted to decline following referenda in 1972 and 1994.

Norwegian passport

Norwegian Passports are issued to nationals of Norway for the purpose of international travel. The passport may also serve as proof of Norwegian citizenship and is valid for ten years. The passport shares the standardised layout of most EU countries, as Norway has implemented the EU passport regulation. The colour is burgundy-red and similar, but not identical to the design of most EU countries. Despite the fact Norway is not part of the EU, the country is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement and a member state of the European Economic Area (EEA). Consequently, Norwegian citizens generally have the same rights as EU citizens in EEA countries and are treated as EU citizens for the purposes of travel and entry into EEA countries.

Passports of the European Union

The European Union itself does not issue ordinary passports, but ordinary passport booklets issued by its 28 member states share a common format.

This common format features a coloured cover (for which burgundy is recommended but not compulsory: all countries except Croatia follow this recommendation) emblazoned—in the official language(s) of the issuing country (and sometimes its translation into English and French)—with the title "European Union", followed by the name(s) of the member state, its coat of arms, the word "PASSPORT", together with the biometric passport symbol at the bottom centre of the front cover.Some EU member states also issue non-EU passports to certain people who have a nationality which does not render them citizens of the European Union (e.g., British Overseas Territories Citizens except those with a connection to Gibraltar, British Protected Persons and British Subjects).In addition, the European Commission issues European Union Laissez-Passers to the members and certain civil servants of its institutions.

Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement (English: ) is a treaty which led to the creation of Europe's Schengen Area, in which internal border checks have largely been abolished. It was signed on 14 June 1985, near the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, by five of the ten member states of the then European Economic Community. It proposed measures intended to gradually abolish border checks at the signatories' common borders, including reduced speed vehicle checks which allowed vehicles to cross borders without stopping, allowing residents in border areas freedom to cross borders away from fixed checkpoints, and the harmonisation of visa policies.In 1990, the Agreement was supplemented by the Schengen Convention which proposed the complete abolition of systematic internal border controls and a common visa policy. The Schengen Area operates very much like a single state for international travel purposes with external border controls for travellers entering and exiting the area, and common visas, but with no internal border controls. It currently consists of 26 European countries covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).Originally, the Schengen treaties and the rules adopted under them operated independently from the European Union. However, in 1999 they were incorporated into European Union law by the Amsterdam Treaty, while providing opt-outs for the only two EU member states that had remained outside the Area: Ireland and the United Kingdom. Schengen is now a core part of EU law, and all EU member states without an opt-out which have not already joined the Schengen Area are legally obliged to do so when technical requirements have been met. Several non-EU countries are included in the area.

Single Euro Payments Area

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is a payment-integration initiative of the European Union for simplification of bank transfers denominated in euro. As of 2018, SEPA consists of the 28 member states of the European Union, as well as the four member states of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), and Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City.


SlimBrowser is a tabbed multiple-site web browser from FlashPeak that uses the Microsoft Trident layout engine. It incorporates a large collection of features like built-in popup killer, skinned window frame, form filler, site group, quick-search, auto login, hidden sites, built-in commands and scripting, online translation, script error suppression, blacklist/whitelist filtering, and URL Alias.

SlimBrowser was one of the twelve browser choices offered to European Economic Area users of Microsoft Windows in 2010.Since V6.0, SlimBrowser has adopted a multi-process architecture to improve stability and eliminate performance restrictions associated with traditional single-process browsers. SlimBrowser included a full-featured form filler with the support of multiple identities in V6.01.

FlashPeak has also released two SlimBrowser clones with different engines from Trident: The cross-platform Slimjet which uses Chromium and SlimBoat which used WebKit, but SlimBoat is no longer supported. Flashpeak also recommends users of SlimBrowser to upgrade to SlimJet because support for SlimBrowser will be dropped in the near future.

Telephone numbers in Europe

Telephone numbers in Europe are managed by the national telecommunications authorities of each country. The country calling codes start primarily with 3 and 4, however, some countries that by the Copenhagen criteria are considered part of Europe have country codes from the Asia range, starting with 9.

The international access code (trunk prefix) has been standardized as 00, as recommended by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Visa policy of San Marino

San Marino is not a member of the European Union or European Economic Area. However, it maintains an open border with Italy. Since San Marino is only accessible via Italy entrance is not possible without entering the Schengen Area first and therefore Schengen visa rules apply de facto. Foreign visitors staying more than 10 days in San Marino must have a permit from the government.

Visa policy of Vatican City

Although not a member of either the European Union or the European Economic Area, the Vatican City maintains an open border with Italy and is treated as part of the Schengen Area. Since the Vatican City is only accessible via Italy, entering the Vatican City is not possible without entering the Schengen Area first; hence Schengen visa rules apply de facto. Nevertheless, as the Vatican City has no tourist accommodations (hotels or rental apartments), it is therefore virtually impossible to stay overnight as a tourist.

Members of the European Economic Area (EEA)
EFTA logo.svg EFTA member states
EU member states
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International reach and expansion of the European Union

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