EFTA countries still not implementing EU rules fast enough, says supervisor

Vidar Helgesen

Norway's minister for the EU, Vidar Helgesen. [Mission of Norway to the EU/Flickr]

None of the countries that are members of European Free Trade Association (EFTA) are implementing EU rules fast enough. But Norway has ‘improved remarkably’, says the ESA, the body that oversees its implementation on behalf of EFTA.

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland are members of EFTA, a free trade organisation between those four European countries, which operates in parallel with and is linked to the EU. The countries are also members of the European Economic Area (EEA), with Switzerland being so through bilateral agreements.

Norway and Iceland have repeatedly been criticised by the EU in the semi-annual evaluation of their efforts to implement the applicable laws and regulations of the Union’s single market. For the past few years, the European Commission has viewed Norway, in particular, as a troublesome member of the EEA.

For example, in January 2013, EURACTIV reported that the Commission had complained about Norway putting extra taxes on imported goods from the EU, and that it had failed to implement more than 400 directives, effectively obstructing the EU’s single market.

Norway had introduced a tax on specific imports, bringing the price of imported EU cheese up by 277%, and the the price of imported hydrangea flowers by 72%.

The pro-EU Norwegian government, which took office in September 2013, has stated many times that it aims to live up to the rules of the single market. But a majority in the Norwegian parliament is blocking changes to Norway’s EU affairs policies.

However, EFTA’s surveillance body now says that Norway has picked up the implementation pace since November, according to the Norwegian news site Nationen.

“Once again, we have to emphasise the importance of the authorities making an effort to improve the situation, Oda Helen Sletnes, the President of ETA, told Nationen.

“We have registered that Norway has made a great effort to be up to date. We want to encourage the Norwegian authorities to keep up the speed so that new rules can be implemented on time,” Sletnes said.

Over the past six months, Norway has failed to implement 23 EU directives, while Iceland missed 2.8% of the directives, and Lichtenstein 1.2%. The overall average for EU member states is 0.5%. In 2014, the ESA pursued 14 court cases on behalf of EFTA concerning lack of implementation of single market directives.

>> Read: Commission and Norway fight over single market contribution

In January, EURACTIV reported that the Commission had threatened to double Norway’s financial contribution to the EEA. Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Minister of EEA and EU Affairs, responded that since EEA and EFTA countries can first process legislation once the EU has adopted it, a backlog is inevitable.

“This is a matter of priority for us, and we are pleased that the backlog has been reduced significantly the last few months. We also trust that the EU side will do its utmost to make the decision-making process in the EEA as efficient as possible,” Helgesen said in a statement.


Norway is not a member of the EU, but closely associated with the Union via its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), in the context of being a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member.

After Norwegians voted against an EU membership in 1994, the country subsequently joined the EEA, along with Iceland and Liechtenstein. Iceland is now on course to join the EU.

Norway's trade is dominated by the EU and Norway is the EU's 4th most important partner.

Norway to EU trade amounted to €91.85 billion in 2008, primarily energy supplies (only 14.1% is manufactured products). EU exports to Norway were worth €43.58 billion, and primarily constituted manufactured products.


  • 31 Oct. 2015: Next ESA evaluation of EFTA countries.

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