How the enlargement challenges the institutions - or the existence - of the European Economic Area

This article discusses the status of EFTA and its member states in light of the EU enlargement. It argues that while enlargement has not fundamentally challenged the EEA agreement which regulate relations between EFTA and the EU, it has nevertheless induced adjustments which may question the legitimacy of this agreement in its present form.

ARENA Working Paper 02/2005 (pdf)

Ulf Sverdrup

In May 2004 the European Union (EU) was enlarged to include ten new member states. In this article, I discuss how the EU enlargement affects the member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The empirical focus is the impact on the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), which is of key importance in regulating the relationship between the EU and EFTA. I argue that the enlargement process has not challenged fundamentally the existenceof the EEA Agreement nor its institutions. The legality of the agreement has not been challenged, nor has enlargement triggered protests or strong desires for terminating the Agreement. On thecontrary, the enlargement of the EU has been followed by a parallel enlargement of the EEA, and has been warmly supported by the EFTA states. However, I discuss three issues that in the longer run could make the legitimacy and the fulfillment of the principal aims of the EEA more difficult. First, I argue that the enlargement has increased the costs for the EFTA countries. Second, I argue that the enlargement is likely to further reduce the possibility of the EFTAcountries to influence EU decision making. Finally, I argue that the enlargement has increased the administrative heterogeneity in the EU to such an extent that it is likely to challenge the notion of homogeneous implementation and application of rules and regulations.

Tags: EEA-agreement, implementation, enlargement, legitimacy
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM