Version: 1.0.20.21 (2020-10-12 14:45)

European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement

Learn about the EEA Agreement between 27 EU member states and three European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nations: Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

At a glance

The European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement brings Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway (EEA EFTA countries) into the EU’s internal market, guaranteeing the freedom of movement for goods, services, people and capital, as well as unified related policies (competition, transport, energy, economic and monetary cooperation).

  • The same rules and conditions apply to all businesses within the EEA. EU legislation relating to the internal market is part of EEA countries’ legislation.

What does the EEA Agreement cover?

In addition to the commitments that fall under the internal market and its related policies, the EEA Agreement ensures the three states’ participation in a number of EU programmes and agencies in the fields of:

  • research and development (R&D)
  • education
  • social policy
  • environment
  • consumer protection
  • tourism
  • culture

Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein do not formally access the EU decision-making process. However, they are able to provide input during the preparatory phases. For example, they have the right to participate in expert groups, Commission committees and to submit comments on upcoming legislation to be incorporated into the EEA Agreement.

What does the EEA Agreement not cover?

The EEA Agreement does not cover the following EU policies:

  • Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies (although the Agreement contains provisions on various aspects of trade in agricultural and fish products);
  • Customs Union;
  • Common Trade Policy;
  • Common Foreign and Security Policy;
  • Justice and Home Affairs (even though the EFTA countries are part of the Schengen area);
  • the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Trade in Goods

The EEA agreement provides for a high degree of trade liberalisation across most sectors. However, agriculture and fisheries are not covered by the EEA Agreement.

Agricultural Products

Protocol 3 to the EEA Agreement sets out a price compensation system for processed agricultural products. This system aims to compensate for the differences in prices of basic agricultural products within the EEA. It achieves this by granting subsidies on exports and levying customs duties on imports. The subsidies and customs duties are calculated on the basis of reference prices agreed by the Contracting Parties. Protocol 3 does not apply to Liechtenstein.

Fish

The EEA EFTA States do not take part in the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU. Iceland and Norway issue their own fishing quotas and retain certain restrictions on ownership and establishment in the fisheries sector.

On the basis of the EEA Agreement and additional bilateral agreements, customs duties on most types of white fish products have been abolished. There are, in addition, substantial reductions in customs duties for other fish and processed fish products. However, the EEA Agreement does not cater for reductions in the customs duties for some of the most important species in Iceland and Norway.

Hence, the EEA Agreement does not prevent the EU from applying safeguard measures, such as antidumping duties and countervailing measures, on fish products.

Tariffs

  • All products originating from the EEA, except certain fish and agricultural products and in accordance with the rules of origin, may be traded free of tariffs within the EEA.
  • However, the EU and EEA EFTA countries apply different tariffs to imports from third countries.
  • Check the tariffs applying to your product in the My Trade Assistant

Rules of origin

In order for a product to obtain preferential treatment under the EEA Agreement, it has to originate in the EEA. The EEA Agreement therefore contains rules of origin that determine to what extent a product must be produced or processed within the EEA in order to obtain status as a product of EEA preferential origin.

Before you export/import, make sure that you:

  • Check the rules of origin applying to your product in the My Trade Assistant
  • Consult your customs authorities.

Product requirements

Goods can circulate freely between EU and the other EEA countries. Product requirements between EEA countries (including EU) are either:

  • Harmonised and identical, because rules adopted at European level that apply throughout the EEA have replaced national product regulations. Therefore, goods can circulate without additional approval or testing.
  • Non-harmonised but mutual recognition applies. Therefore, products lawfully marketed in one EEA State can be marketed in all other EEA States, even if the product does not fully comply with the technical rules of the importing EEA State.

Technical rules and requirements

  • Learn about the technical requirements, rules and procedures that goods have to meet in order to be imported in the European Economic Area.
  • Search for the specific rules and regulations applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant. To view requirements for your product you will first have to identify its customs code. If you do not know the customs code, you can search for it with your product's name in the built-in search engine.

Health and safety requirements SPS

  • Veterinary and phytosanitary matters are covered by Annex I to the EEA Agreement and food legislation is covered by Chapter XII of Annex II. Legislation on food and veterinary matters do not apply to Liechtenstein, which, due to its customs union with Switzerland, applies the veterinary provisions laid down in the Swiss-EU Agreement on Agriculture.
  • The EU and the EEA EFTA States do not have fully harmonised legislation regarding plants. The EEA Agreement contains legislation regarding plant seeds, covered by Chapter III of Annex I (phytosanitary matters), with the exception of provisions relating to imports and border control.
  • Learn about the health, safety, sanitary and phytosanitary standards that goods have to meet in order to be imported in the European Union.
  • Search for the health, safety and SPS rules applicable to your product and its country of origin in the My Trade Assistant. To view requirements for your product you will first have to identify its customs code. If you do not know the customs code, you can search for it with your product's name in the built-in search engine.

Custom clearance documents and procedures

  • The EU Customs Union does not extend to Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland. Customs borders and procedures are still in place between these countries and the EU.
  • For some products considered as high risk, a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) is required to assess whether a product conforms to the applicable Product certification conducted by a CAB designated by one EEA State is recognised throughout the entire EEA.
  • Find out about other custom clearance documents and procedures needed to import into the European Economic Area.
    • Intellectual Property (IP) and Geographical Indications (GI)
  • The EEA Agreement contains harmonised provisions on IPR and ensures a high level of protection of industrial rights (inventions, designs, trademarks, etc) and copyright (music, films, print media, software, etc) in all EEA States.
  • The rules also contain the principle of regional exhaustion of IPR, applicable in the entire EEA. In practice, once a product has been placed on the market in the EEA by a right-holder (or with his consent), the latter can no longer rely on his exclusive right to prevent the importation of such products from another EEA State.
  • Based on Article 65(2) of the EEA Agreement, intellectual property legislation is incorporated into Annex XVII. Nevertheless, not all EU initiatives in this field have been incorporated.
  • Find out more about IP and GI legislation in the EU, as well as EU IPR policy towards trade.

Trade in Services

Find more information about the rules, regulations and facilities for trade in services

Public Procurement

The EEA Agreement established a single market in public procurement worth approximately 18% of EEA GDP. Therefore, there are significant opportunities for companies within the EEA because they can compete for government contracts throughout the Internal Market.

Find general information about public procurement legislation, rules and access to different markets. Find Specific information on the EU market of public procurement.

Investment

Find general information to enable your investment abroad i. If you are investing from abroad into the EEA, find specific information.

Other (competition, TSD)

Competition

In order to ensure a homogeneous EEA with equal conditions for competition, the same competition rules apply to all undertakings throughout the EEA. The rules on competition in the Internal Market cover four main areas and are identical in the three EEA EFTA States and the EU Member States. These rules are:

  • Elimination of agreements that restrict competition and the abuse of a dominant position (e.g. price-fixing agreements between competitors)
  • Control of mergers between firms (e.g. a merger between two large groups which results in their dominating the market)
  • Liberalisation of monopolistic economic sectors (e.g. telecommunications)
  • Prohibition − subject to certain exceptions − of state aid that would distort competition by selectively favouring certain firms or national industrial sectors.

As a result of the strict competition rules incorporated into the EEA Agreement, anti-dumping measures, countervailing duties and other trade measures are, as a general rule, forbidden between the EEA States.

State Aid

In line with the EU Treaties, the EEA Agreement generally prohibits any measures that can be identified as state aid, including grants, soft loans and tax concessions, which may distort trade. However, certain political, economic and social considerations may lead to exceptions to this prohibition.

Useful links and documents

Quick links