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Agreement on the European Economic Area

The agreement on the European Economic Area establishes a single market to facilitate trade between the European Community and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries.

ACT

Decision 94/1/CE, ECSC of the Council and the Commission of 13 December 1993 on the conclusion of the Agreement on the European Economic Area between the European Communities, their Member States and the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Finland, the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden and the Swiss Confederation [Official Journal L 1 of 3.1.1994].

Agreement on the European Economic Area - Final Act - Joint Declarations - Declarations by the Governments of the Member States of the Community and the EFTA States - Arrangements - Agreed Minutes - Declarations by one or several of the Contracting Parties of the Agreement on the European Economic Area [Official Journal L 1 of 3.1.1994].

SUMMARY

This Agreement aims to strengthen economic and trade relations between the European Community and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. In part it extends the four freedoms of movement in the single market to these States, and establishes a trading system which ensures compliance with competition rules. It shall not constitute a market without borders nor a customs union.

The Parties also agree to strengthen certain areas of cooperation, specifically research and development, the environment, education and social policy.

The Agreement does not apply to agricultural and fishery products, or to indirect taxation (VAT and excise duties). These fields are covered by different, specific agreements.

Free movement of goods

Trade liberalisation means the abolition of import and export customs duties (including customs duties of a fiscal nature), quantitative restrictions and measures having equivalent effect with regard to products originating in the Contracting Parties.

The rules of origin are set out (Protocol 4) without prejudice to any obligations subscribed to under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

Agricultural and fishery products are part of a progressive system, covered by specific agreements.

Free movement of persons

The Agreement establishes the principle of the free movement of workers and self-employed persons. Workers from the European Community and the EFTA countries have the right to move to the territory of another Party in order to look for and undertake employment. They may remain in the country after having been employed there.

Workers benefit from the right to equal treatment in terms of employment, remuneration and working conditions. Free movement should also be facilitated through the coordination of provisions relating to access to employment, social security and the recognition of diplomas, certificates and other evidence of formal qualifications.

The right of establishment concerns individuals and companies. It permits the setting up of agencies, branches or company subsidiaries in the territory of another Party.

Free movement of services

The parties shall abolish all restrictions to the free provision of services, specifically regarding industrial and commercial activities and activities of craftsmen and of the professions. Service providers may temporarily pursue their activities in the State where the service is provided, under the same conditions as are imposed by that State on its own nationals.

Free movement of capital

The Agreement establishes the principle of equal treatment with regard to the capital market and the credit system. There shall be no restrictions based on nationality, place of residence or place where the capital is invested.

However, the Parties may take protective or corrective measures, specifically with regard to differences between exchange rate regulation, in case of disturbance in the capital market by one Party or a crisis in their balance of payments.

Institutional and financial provisions

An EEA Council shall be established to implement the Agreement. It shall consist of members of the Council and the Commission, as well as a member from each EFTA State. The office of President of the EEA Council shall be held alternately, for a period of six months. The Council shall be supported in its mission by an EEA Consultative Committee, composed of equal numbers of members of the Economic and Social Committee and members of the EFTA Consultative Committee.

The financial mechanism provided for in the Agreement should contribute towards reducing the economic and social disparities between the two Parties.

Context

The EEA Agreement was signed in 1992 between the twelve Member States and the six EFTA Member States, comprising Austria, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. The Agreement did not enter into force until 1994 due to its rejection by Switzerland. Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in 1995.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force – Expiry date Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 94/1/CE, ECSC

1.1.1994

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OJ L 1 of 3.1.1994

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 08.01.2010

See also

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