Poland blocks agreement on expanding the European Economic Area

Poland vetoed on 10 April an agreement on expanding the European Economic Area after failing to obtain higher fishing quotas.

The EEA is a free-trade zone between the EU and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, who enjoy the full benefits of the Union's internal market. Negotiations on the accession of the ten future EU Member States (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) to the European Economic Area (EEA) were launched on 9 January 2003.

The main issue for negotiation concerns a proposed increase in the financial contribution of these three countries to structural and cohesion efforts in the enlarged internal market. The deal under negotiation would increase the contributions of the three non-members of the EU from 24 million euro to 233 million euro. The EU had initially demanded 400 million euro from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Other issues for discussion are transition periods, marine products, and agricultural products.

Poland's veto raises fresh concerns about the effectiveness of the EU's decision-making after its expansion to 10 new members on 1 May 2004.

The EU hopes it can persuade Poland to drop its veto and does not intend to reopen the talks on the entire deal.


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