The EEA Agreement came into force in January 1994. It covers the 27 EU members and three of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It is the most comprehensive international agreement Norway is a party to.
Access to the EU internal market
The EEA Agreement allows Norway to take part in the EU internal market, and the four freedoms: freedom of movement of persons, goods, services and capital. This means, for example, that a product that has been approved in one country under Community legislation is as a general rule also legal in all the other countries. Workers and students from other EEA member states are generally entitled to be treated in the same way as the host country’s own citizens, for example with regard to social security benefits and the recognition of qualifications.
Harmonisation of legislation
Harmonisation of legislation is vital for the functioning of the European market. As the EU adopts new legislation for the internal market, this is incorporated into Norwegian law. The decision to incorporate EU legislation into the EEA Agreement is taken by the EEA Joint Committee, in which the EFTA countries and the European Commission also take part. All such legislation must be also be incorporated into each country’s national law. By June 2010, Norway had incorporated some 7 000 EU acts that are included in the EEA Agreement into Norwegian law.
Norwegian support for development in Europe
Support from the EEA EFTA countries through a grant system to promote economic and social development in poorer EU countries has been part of the EEA Agreement from the beginning. The grant system has been considerably expanded since the Agreement was first concluded. Through the two current schemes, the EEA and Norway Grants, Norway has made EUR 347 million a year available for development and investment in the beneficiary states for the period up to 2014. The beneficiary states are responsible for proposing, implementing and following up the projects that receive funding. Priority is given to projects in areas such as the environment, sustainable development, cultural heritage, education and research, more effective external border controls, strengthening of the judiciary, childcare and health. In addition to reducing social and economic disparities in the EEA, the grant schemes also promote close cooperation between Norway and the beneficiary states.