The Enlargement Agreement of the European Economic Area (EEA) is now ready for ratification after it was signed on 11 November by Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.
European Free Trade Area (EFTA) countries Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland have all signed the Enlargement Agreement of the European Economic Area. The other EU Member States and Accession States had signed the agreement earlier. The European Economic Area Enlargement Agreement will enable the new Member States to participate in the EEA following the EU's enlargement. The EEA provides for the participation of the three aforementioned EFTA countries in the EU's Internal Market.
Negotiations on the EEA's enlargement were launched on 9 January 2003 and concluded on 3 July 2003 (see also
EURACTIV 11 June 2003). Under the agreement, the EEA EFTA states will apply the same adaptations and transition periods as those specified in the EU Accession Treaty. The agreement includes a new Financial Mechanism through which the EEA EFTA states will make substantial contributions towards the reduction of social and economic disparities in an enlarged Internal Market. In addition, Norway will contribute to the same objectives through a separate bilateral Financial Mechanism.
The EEA Enlargement Agreement and the related bilateral instruments will have to be ratified in the coming months by the 28 contracting parties in order to enable its entry into force on 1 May 2004. As from 1 May 2004, with the enlargement of the EU and the EEA, the EEA will cover 28 countries and approximately 450 million consumers.