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European Economic Area and competition policy

The EEA agreement (Agreement on the European Economic Area) entered into force in 1994. It was concluded between the European Communities, all EU Member States and all EFTA (European Free-Trade Association) members. Switzerland, although a signatory and member of EFTA, failed to ratify the EEA agreement and is therefore not part of EEA. Since the accession to the Community of Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995, the remaining EFTA parties to the EEA agreement are Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The objective of the EEA agreement is to establish a dynamic and homogeneous European Economic Area, based on common rules and equal conditions of competition. The EEA agreement contains specific competition provisions, principally Articles 53 to 64, which mirror those of the EC Treaty.

The EEA agreement implies that two separate legal systems are applied in parallel within the EEA. The EEA agreement is applicable whenever trade between one or more EFTA States (which have ratified the EEA agreement) and one or more EU Member States is affected, as well as when trade between the EFTA states themselves is affected. Community law is applicable whenever trade between the EU Member States is affected.

Two authorities who share jurisdiction to apply the EEA agreement: the European Commission and the EFTA Surveillance Authority. The EFTA States have also established a court of justice (the EFTA Court) which can review decisions taken by the EFTA Surveillance Authority. The division of competence is laid down in the EEA agreement (Articles 56 and 57) and its Protocols. In merger cases the Commission has exclusive jurisdiction in the EEA to deal with all concentrations with a Community dimension, as defined in the EC Merger Regulation.

Cooperation between the European Commission and the EFTA Surveillance Authority in competition matters is governed by the terms of Protocols 23 (cooperation between European Commission and ESA in cartel and dominance cases) and Protocol 24 (cooperation in the field of concentrations).

Key documents

Agreement on the EEA: Competition and other common rules

The Protocols to the EEA Agreement, in particular Protocols 21 to 25, provide further rules for the application of the EEA Agreement in the field of competition:

  • Protocol 21 - on the implementation of competition rules applicable to undertakings
  • Protocol 22 - concerning the definition of 'undertaking' and 'turnover' (Article 56 EEA)
  • Protocol 23 - concerning the cooperation between the surveillance authorities (Article 58 EEA)
  • Protocol 24 - on cooperation in the field of control of concentrations
  • Protocol 25 - on competition regarding coal and steel
  • Protocol 26 - concerning State Aid
  • Protocol 27 - concerning State Aid
  • Annex XIV - Competition
EEA Competition Authorities
Related links
EU-Iceland relations
EU-Liechtenstein relations
EU-Norway relations