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NtEU Facts: What is the difference between EU membership and the EEA agreement?

 The European Economic Area (EEA) agreement encompasses less than ten percent of EU lawmaking.

The EU is both single market and a political and economic union. The EEA agreement includes Norway in the single market, but Norway is still independent from most of the European Union. 

This fact sheet is an updated and translated version of an earlier publication (Faktaark 5-2014).

EU and EEA year by year

Every year EU adopts about ten times the number of directives and regulations that Norway has to accept through the EEA agreement. In the period 2000–2013 (01.01.2000-31.12.2013) a total of 4,724 EU laws were incorporated into the EEA agreement. In the same period, EU adopted 52,183 pieces of legislation. Of all EU legislation, only 9.05 per cent was incorporated into the EEA agreement.

These figures are based on the annual reports from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the database of EU law, EUR-lex. This comparison does not take into consideration the scope of each individual piece of legislation, but it demonstrates that the EEA agreement is very limited compared to EU membership.

During the last years of the period, the number of EU laws incorporated into the EEA agreement has increased. In the period of 2010-2013, EU adopted 14,117 pieces of legislation, while 1,605 directives and regulations were incorporated into the EEA agreement. This amounts to 11.37 per cent of the total. 

What does the EEA agreement include?

The EEA agreement includes:

  • Free movement of goods, capital, services and persons. Agriculture and fisheries are not covered by the EEA agreement. 
  • Common competition regulations (cooperation on the regulation of competition, state aid and monopolies) and harmonising company law.
  • Cooperation on transport policies.
  • Common veterinary regulations (but as a main rule tariffs on trade in agricultural goods still applies).
  • Cooperation on environmental protection, education, research, consumer protection and social policy.
  • Structures for consultations, in which the EEA-EFTA states will participate in development of future EU law that may become EEA law.
  • A common decision-making process in which the EU and EEA-EFTA states must agree on adopting new EEA law, giving each EEA-EFTA state the right to veto the inclusion of new legislation.
  • Institutions to manage the EEA agreement (EFTA Surveillance Authority and EFTA Court).
  • The EEA and Norway Grants to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe.
  • Norway contributes about  7 billion NOK to the EEA programs, including the EEA and Norway Grants, EU research programs, and EEA institutions. 

What does the EEA agreement not include?

The EEA agreement is very limited compared to EU membership. Among other things, the EEA agreement does not include:

  • The EU Customs Union and trade agreements with third countries. In World Trade Organisation negotiations, the European Commission represents all EU member states. Norway has its own voice.
  • The Common Agricultural Policy. Norway’s agricultural policy is adapted to local needs.
  • The Common Fisheries Policy. Norway’s fisheries policy balances coastal fishing and offshore fishing, benefitting coastal communities and creating employment.
  • The euro. Norway’s monetary policy is decided in Norway for Norway.
  • EU’s attempts to coordinate taxation. Norway is free to set taxes and duties to finance our welfare state.
  • The Common Foreign and Security Policy. The EU wishes to speak with one voice in international forums, such as the UN. 

  

 

Pieces of legislation adopted in EU, included agreements with third countries

Pieces of legislation incorporated into the EEA agreement

2000

4,502

216

2001

4,484

401

2002

4,019

324

2003

3,990

298

2004

3,879

309

2005

3,818

314

2006

3,884

340

2007

3,349

416

2008

3,238

218

2009

2,903

283

2010

3,377

346

2011

3,684

373

2012

3,489

486

2013

3,567

400

Total

52,183

4,724

Bakgrunn

The European Economic Area (EEA)

The European Economic Area (EEA) provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the single market of the European Union (EU) between its 28 member states, as well as three of the four member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA): Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

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