Europe today is characterized by increasing economical and political integration between the EU member states, expansion of the Union and increased regionalization. With the Lisbon-treaty from 2009, the European Parliament (EP) has received increased influence, and the EU’s earlier columnal structure has been merged into a framework – the European Union.
Increased economic cooperation is an important engine for the EU, particularly because of the global financial crisis that started in 2007. Lately the EU has also developed in additional policy areas. Growth, environment, consumer interests, employment and civil rights are issues high on the EU’s agenda. The unions growth strategy ‘Europe 2020’ will contribute to create growth and jobs in the EU through development of a competitive, knowledge based and environmental friendly economy in addition to a socially inclusive society.
Ten new members joined the Union in May 2004, Romania and Bulgaria became members in January 2007, while Croatia joined on 1st. July 2013. Turkey, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Serbia have status as candidate countries, and new agreements similar to the EEA agreement are considered with other neighboring countries through the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).
Over 70 % of all EU directives influence both local and regional level. Since the creation of the Committee of Regions in 1994, regional authorities have gained increased influence and power in the shaping of EU’s policy and legislation as they are consulted within a widening array of policy areas.
The main objective of regional policy in the European Union is economic and social cohesion. It provides a framework for financing a wide range of projects and investments with the aim of encouraging economic growth and creating attractive, innovative and competitive regions in Europe.
The EEA Agreement
Norway and the EU cooperates both formally and informally, and is tightly interwoven with European countries through historical ties, common values and legal traditions. This creates a high degree of economic integration and political cooperation. The most important agreement between Norway and the EU is the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. The agreement was effective from 1st January 1994 and today it includes 28 EU-member states, in addition to the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, and as a result connects the internal market.
The EEA-agreement includes:
- Free trade with industrial goods and free movement of capital, services and people.
- Common competition rules (market regulation, state support and public monopolies) and harmonization of business law in the entire EEA-area
- Access to a common market for public procurement
- Cooperation on environmental protection, education, research, consumer issues and social issues
- Common decision-making processes where new EEA rules are approved by agreements between EFTA and the EU
- Separate EFTA organs (surveillance and judiciary)
- Participation in the EU programs, which includes everything from research and innovation, education, culture, youth, health etc.
The EEA agreement does not include
- Participation in common EU organs such as the European Council, the Council of the European Union, European Parliament, European Commission, Court of Justice of the European Union, European Central Bank, etc.
- EU’s toll union, which means participation in EU’s common trade policy towards non-member states
- EU’s common agriculture- and fisheries policy
- Cooperation on development politics
- The Regional Development Fund
- Coordination of policies in the Economic and Monetary Union
- The Common Foreign and Security Policy
- Cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs. However, Norway and Iceland has a separate agreement on participation in the Schengen agreement for the abolition of border control between the states that have signed the Schengen agreement.
The EEA grants financial mechanism was established when the EEA was extended with ten further countries in 2004 – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta. The grants also cover Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, the latter from 2014. Norway contributed about 3 billion NOK annually in the period 2009-2014.
The goal for the EEA grants is to contribute to social and economic levelling in the wider EU and EEA area. It is also a goal to strengthen the connection between Norway and the recipient countries through different forms of project cooperation.
You can read more about the grants on our website.