EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Glossary of summaries

Glossary of summaries

EUROPEAN FREE TRADE ASSOCIATION (EFTA)

  • EFTA is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1960 by the EFTA Convention, that promotes free trade and economic integration between its members, within Europe and globally .
  • There were 7 founding countries: Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK). They were joined in 1970 by Iceland, in 1986 by Finland and in 1991 by Liechtenstein. Meanwhile, in 1973, Denmark and the UK joined the EU; in 1986, Portugal joined the EU, and, in 1995, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU, consequently leaving EFTA.
  • EFTA currently has 4 member countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
  • The EFTA countries have developed one of the largest networks of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). These FTAs span over 60 countries and territories, including the EU.
  • EFTA’s highest governing body is the EFTA Council. It generally meets 8 times a year at ambassadorial level and twice a year at ministerial level.
  • The headquarters of the EFTA Secretariat are located in Geneva, with offices in Brussels and Luxembourg. The Secretariat in Geneva assists the EFTA Council in the management of relations between the 4 EFTA States, and deals with the negotiation and operation of EFTA’s FTAs and Joint Declarations on Cooperation with non-EU countries. The Secretariat in Brussels provides support for the management of the EEA Agreement, including the preparation of new legislation and assistance in providing input into EU decision making. The EFTA Statistical Office in Luxembourg contributes to the development of a broad and integrated European statistical system.
  • The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) monitors compliance with European Economic Area (EEA) rules in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It has powers that are similar to those of the European Commission regarding the surveillance and application of EEA law.
  • The EFTA Court, based in Luxembourg, has the competence and authority to settle internal and external disputes regarding the implementation, application or interpretation of the EEA agreement. Its jurisdiction corresponds to that of the Court of Justice of the European Union in matters relating to the EEA EFTA countries.

SEE ALSO