The EEA, or the European Economic Area, combines the member countries of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The EEA Agreement, established in 1992, is an international agreement that enables the extensions of the European Union’s single market to non-EU members.
The EEA Agreement was signed on May 2, 1992. Twenty of the thirty current members signed on that day. The remaining ten countries signed between 1992 and 2014. Countries were not ratified at the time they signed.
The EEA is currently comprised of 27 EU countries and the three EFTA countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. Switzerland, which was neither an EU nor an EFTA member, was a previous member of the EEA but no longer participates. Croatia has now applied to participate in the EEA under a provisional membership as Switzerland had.
According to the EEA Agreement, any state that is a part of the European Union or the European Free Trade Association can be a member of the EEA. Additionally, two regulators, the European Commission and the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority, and two courts, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the Court of Justice of the European Free Trade Association States, govern the EEA.
Citizens of each member country are positively affected by the EEA beyond trade. The EEA Agreement includes liberties on product, person, service and money movement between countries. This includes allowing citizens of any member country to travel freely to other member countries. Those who relocate to another member country still retain their citizenship in their home country. EEA regulations govern the coordination between countries to maintain each country’s governments and economies, which is fundamental to allow people to move freely.