Internal Market Affairs

The European Economic Area (EEA) unites the 28 EU Member States and three participating EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) in an internal market governed by the same basic rules. These rules aim to enable goods, services, capital and persons to move freely across the EEA in an open and competitive environment. 

One of the main tasks of ESA is to monitor the EFTA States' obligations to incorporate internal market rules into their domestic law, and to apply the rules correctly.

Developing the European internal market is about removing barriers to trade and red tape to enable everyone across the EEA - individuals, consumers and businesses - to make the most of the opportunities offered to them by having direct access to 31 countries and 500 million people.

The cornerstones of the single market are often said to be the “four freedoms” - the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital. These freedoms are enshrined in the EEA Agreement and form the basis of the single market framework. In practice they mean that individuals have a right to live, work, study or retire in any EEA country; consumers benefit from increased competition leading to lower prices, a wider choice of products to buy and higher levels of consumer protection; and businesses are able to do business across borders more easily and cheaply.

Developing the single market is also enabled by additional measures (directives) that remove barriers in specific areas and must be implemented into national law by the EFTA States themselves. These rules are supplemented by a number of “horizontal provisions”, covering areas such as health and safety at work, employment law, consumer protection, and the environment.

The role of ESA in developing the internal market

ESA monitors the EFTA States in order to ensure that the internal market rules have been effectively implemented into domestic law. In this context ESA performs broadly the same role as the European Commission, and the two bodies work closely together.

The EFTA States are obliged to notify ESA of the measures they adopt to implement directives and, if requested by ESA, to inform ESA of the incorporation of regulations into domestic law. If an EFTA State does not implement the EEA rules, ESA will intervene and may initiate infringement proceedings against the EFTA State concerned which may ultimately be adjudicated by the EFTA Court.

Where ESA has information about any domestic legislation or practices that may not comply with EEA law, it can decide to initiate an investigation. This may be based on incorrect implementation of EEA rules or where other domestic laws or practices are incompatible with the rules. Such investigations can be initiated on the basis of ESA's own surveillance of the EFTA States, or on the basis of a complaint. Anyone may submit a complaint to ESA against any EFTA States that has failed to comply with its obligations under the EEA Agreement.

Other EEA Institutions

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