How EU Law becomes EEALaw

How EU Law becomes EEA Law

The European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement enables Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (EEA EFTA States) to participate in the EU Internal Market. It covers the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons as well as competition and state aid rules and certain areas of cooperation such as consumer protection, environment, public health and education, which ensures that the Internal Market functions well.

For an EU act to apply to the EEA EFTA States, the EEA Joint Committee must adopt a Decision to incorporate the act into the EEA Agreement. The aim is to incorporate acts as closely as possible to their date of entry into force in the EU in order to ensure that the same rules apply throughout the EEA.

The EEA EFTA States contribute to EU decision shaping

When the European Commission assesses the need for new internal market legislation, experts from the EEA EFTA States participate in the process. They contribute with their technical expertise and identify possible issues for the EEA EFTA States.

Participation in EU expert groups and committees

When the European Commission prepares new legislation, it discusses the drafts in expert groups and committees where the EEA EFTA States participate, but do not have the right to vote.

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General

The EEA Agreement provides the right for experts from the EEA EFTA States to participate in EU Commission Expert Groups, Comitology Committees and Programme Committees. The EEA EFTA States can submit EEA EFTA Comments to the EU institutions on legislative initiatives and proposals. The EEA EFTA States also provide seconded national experts to the EU Commission.

EFTA Secretariat

When the Commission tables EEA relevant initiatives, the EFTA Secretariat informs the EEA EFTA States.

Iceland

At this stage, the national procedure in Iceland involves the ministries responsible for the relevant policy area, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Prime Minister’s Office and the Icelandic Mission in Brussels. The MFA organises regular consultations with interest groups and presents issues to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament, when requested. Every autumn, a list of priorities for adoption by the Government is made.

Liechtenstein

At this stage, the national procedure in Liechtenstein involves the EEA Coordination Unit, the Office that administers EEA matters, the relevant EEA experts in the Liechtenstein administration and an EEA contact person nominated by stakeholders for each policy area. Twice a year, the EEA Coordination Unit informs the Government of key EEA relevant EU initiatives and issues.

Norway

At this stage, the national procedure in Norway involves the ministries responsible for the relevant policy area, relevant directorates and agencies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and a special Clearing Committee. Twice a year, the Government informs the Norwegian Parliament of key EEA relevant EU initiatives and issues.

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Early assessment and EEA EFTA Comments

When the Commission publishes a proposal, the EEA EFTA Working or Expert Groups assess possible EEA challenges. Throughout the EU’s decision-making process, they may also voice their support and concerns to the EU institutions in an EEA EFTA Comment.

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Timeline

Experts in EFTA Working Groups or Expert Groups have six weeks to make an early assessment of EU Commission Proposals. They need to fill out and return a Commission Proposal Form to the EFTA Secretariat.

EFTA Secretariat

When an EU Commission proposal is published, the EFTA Secretariat makes a preliminary assessment of possible horizontal challenges and sends it to the EEA EFTA experts. If experts decide to prepare an EEA EFTA Comment, the EFTA Secretariat coordinates the drafting among the EEA EFTA States.

Iceland

Following registration in the Icelandic EEA Database, the responsible ministry assesses the proposal and informs the EFTA Secretariat and the other EEA EFTA States of its assessment. Acts subject to constitutional requirements are identified as early as possible to cater for translation and consultation with the Icelandic Parliament.

Liechtenstein

All procedural and legislative steps, responsible persons and timetables are registered and outlined in the Liechtenstein EEA Database. The relevant office assesses the proposal in consultation with the EEA Coordination Unit and informs the EFTA Secretariat of the outcome.

Norway

All EEA relevant proposals are registered in the Norwegian EEA Database. The responsible ministry carries out the assessment of the proposal and informs the EFTA Secretariat of the outcome.

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The EEA EFTA States agree on a draft decision to incorporate an act

When the EU has adopted an EEA-relevant act, the EFTA Secretariat launches the procedure to incorporate it into the EEA Agreement. After discussions with experts, the EEA EFTA States agree on a draft decision to incorporate the act.

Experts assess the act

EFTA Working or Expert Groups assess whether the act is EEA relevant and if it contains provisions requiring adaptations related to specific national circumstances or for the purposes of the EEA Agreement.

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Timeline
  • The EFTA Secretariat’s Registrar identifies, and registers published acts within 1 week from publication
  • Standard procedure16 weeks deadline for the EEA EFTA States to submit standard procedure form
  • Fast-track procedure6 weeks tacit approval
EFTA Secretariat

When a new act has been published by the EU, the EFTA Secretariat starts the procedure for incorporation into the EEA Agreement. The procedures differ according to the nature and content of the act. They all involve the scrutiny and approval of the EEA EFTA States.

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National procedures in the EEA EFTA States

Once the incorporation procedure has started, the EEA EFTA States launch their national procedures. The procedures vary among the three countries and according to the nature of the legal acts.

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Iceland

Experts assess whether the act is EEA relevant and whether Iceland would need adaptations. In some cases, the Parliament needs to be consulted.

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Liechtenstein

Experts assess whether the act is EEA relevant and whether Liechtenstein would need adaptations, in consultation with the EEA Coordination Unit.

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Norway

Experts assess whether the act is EEA relevant and whether Norway would need adaptations. A special Clearing Committee ensures cooperation across ministries. Consultation with stakeholders is carried out by the relevant agency or directorate.

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Agreement on a draft Decision

Based on the feedback from the EEA EFTA States, the EFTA Secretariat prepares a draft Decision to incorporate the act into the EEA Agreement. This draft is sent to the EEA EFTA States for approval.

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Timeline

The Secretariat has 1 week to draft Joint Committee Decisions (JCDs) with no adaptations and 4 weeks for JCDs with adaptations.

Approval of draft JCDs at expert level (if needed) - 2 weeks deadline

Approval of draft JCDs at Subcommittee level – 2 weeks deadline

EFTA Secretariat

The EFTA Secretariat drafts Joint Committee Decisions (JCDs) based on feedback given by experts. When all three EEA EFTA States have approved the draft JCD, it is ready to be sent to the European External Action Service (EEAS) for scrutiny by the EU. When the EEA EFTA States intend to request substantive adaptations, experts may informally consult with the relevant Commission Directorate-General (DG) before formally sending a draft JCD.

Iceland

At this stage, the responsible ministries and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs cooperate to clear the Joint Committee Decision.

Liechtenstein

At this stage, experts and the EEA Coordination Unit cooperate to clear the Joint Committee Decision.

Norway

At this stage the Clearing Committee has already approved the draft JCD. It therefore only needs a final check by the responsible ministry before the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can clear it.

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The EU reviews and approves the draft Decision

Once the EEA EFTA States approve the draft Decision, the EFTA Secretariat forwards it to the European External Action Service (the EEAS). The EEAS coordinates the EU’s part of the EEA process.

The European Commission

The EEAS launches an inter-service consultation on the draft Decision with the relevant Directorates-General of the Commission. If a draft decision contains no substantive adaptations and simply extends acts of EU legislation to the EEA, the EEAS can adopt it on behalf of the EU and the review process stops at this stage. If the EU requests changes to the draft, discussions are held with the aim to find a common agreement.

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Timeline

It takes approximately 3 weeks to clear a draft Joint Committee Decision (JCD) without adaptations.

European Union

The EEAS coordinates the incorporation process in the EU. If a draft JCD simply extends EU law to the EEA, the EEAS can adopt it, on behalf of the European Union, in the EEA Joint Committee.

EFTA Secretariat

Once the EEA EFTA States have agreed to a draft Joint Committee Decision (JCD), the EFTA Secretariat submits it to the European External Action Service (EEAS).

If the draft JCD needs to be changed during the consultation with the EU, the EFTA Secretariat coordinates the consultation on the EFTA side and updates the draft JCD accordingly. The EEAS coordinates the consultation on the EU side.

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The Council of the EU

If the draft Decision contains substantive adaptations or budgetary consequences, the Council of the European Union must give the EEAS the mandate to adopt it.

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Timeline

It takes approximately 3-6 months to clear a draft JCD with substantive adaptations.

European Union

If a draft Joint Committee Decision (JCD) contains substantive adaptations, the EU’s position regarding the draft must be adopted by the Council. The Commission submits a draft Council Decision with the draft JCD as an annex. The Council approves it and gives the EEAS the mandate, on behalf of the EU, to co-adopt the JCD with the EEA EFTA States, in the EEA Joint Committee.

EFTA Secretariat

If the draft Joint Committee Decision needs to be changed during the consultation with the EU, the EFTA Secretariat coordinates the consultation on the EFTA side and updates the draft JCD accordingly. The EEAS coordinates the consultation on the EU side.

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The EEA Joint Committee adopts the Decision

When both sides have finalised their approval procedures, the EEA Joint Committee adopts the Decision incorporating the act.

List of acts ready to be incorporated

EEA EFTA States and the EU agree on a list of draft Joint Committee Decisions that are ready for adoption and put them on the agenda for the next meeting of the EEA Joint Committee.

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EFTA Secretariat

Ahead of each EEA Joint Committee meeting, the EFTA Secretariat coordinates the establishment of the list of acts ready to be incorporated into the EEA Agreement at the meeting. This stage also involves the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Norway, the Liechtenstein EEA Coordination Unit and the EEAS.

Iceland

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) consults with responsible ministries and provides comments to the EFTA Secretariat on the list of acts ready to be incorporated. The MFA notifies the Government of the acts that are ready for incorporation, and the Government gives its approval to adopt the corresponding Joint Committee Decisions (JCDs). Some JCDs that are of high importance may need to be presented to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament for consultation.

Liechtenstein

The EEA Coordination Unit provides comments to the EFTA Secretariat on the list of acts ready to be incorporated, in consultation with experts in the EFTA Working Groups. It also informs the EEA Parliamentary Committee, which scrutinises all EU acts to be incorporated into the EEA Agreement.

The Government adopts a decision taking note of the list of draft Joint Committee Decisions ready for adoption before the EEA Joint Committee meeting.

Norway

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides comments to the EFTA Secretariat on the list of acts ready to be incorporated, after consulting with the responsible ministries. Before each EEA Joint Committee meeting, the Minister in charge of EEA matters meets with the European Consultative Committee of the Norwegian Parliament, which provides its opinion on the list of acts. The Government cannot accept to incorporate an act before it has received feedback from the Committee.

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Adoption of the Decision

The EEA Joint Committee is responsible for managing the EEA Agreement and meets 6-8 times per year. In this forum the EU and the EEA EFTA States exchange views and take decisions by consensus to incorporate EU acts into the EEA Agreement.

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Entry into force of the Joint Committee Decision

Decisions normally enter into force one day after adoption in the EEA Joint Committee, unless there are constitutional requirements. When the Decisions enter into force, the annexes or protocols to the EEA Agreement are updated accordingly and the incorporated acts must be made part of the national legal order of the EEA EFTA States.

Fulfilment of constitutional requirements

According to the constitutions of the EEA EFTA States, a Decision that entails amendments to national legislation requires approval of the national parliaments before its entry into force. A Decision with such constitutional requirements enters into force once the requirements have been fulfilled in all three EEA EFTA States.

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For all three EEA EFTA States, if a Joint Committee Decision (JCD) incorporates an act that calls for amendments to national legislation, then parliamentary approval is needed before it can enter into force. This is called “constitutional requirements” and is notified by the EEA EFTA States in the EEA Joint Committee when incorporating an act. EEA EFTA States have six months to seek approval of the national Parliament.

EFTA Secretariat

The EFTA Secretariat monitors the entry into force of acts in the EEA and handles notifications regarding fulfilment of constitutional requirements. Once an EEA EFTA State has the approval of its Parliament, it notifies the EFTA Secretariat, which forwards this information to the European External Action Service (the EEAS), the other EEA EFTA States and the EFTA Surveillance Authority. Once the last EEA EFTA State has notified that the constitutional requirements have been fulfilled, the Joint Committee Decision can enter into force.

The EFTA Secretariat is responsible for translating JCDs into Icelandic and Norwegian, and for publishing them in the EEA Supplement.

Iceland

In Iceland, the Parliament approves the entry into force of the Joint Committee Decision in the form of a Parliamentary Resolution.

Liechtenstein

In Liechtenstein, the Parliament approves the entry into force of the Joint Committee Decision based on a special Government Bill. The adoption of the Bill by the Parliament is followed by a referendum period of 30 days and the signature of the Hereditary Prince.

Norway

In Norway, the Parliament approves the entry into force of the Joint Committee Decision in the form of a Parliamentary Resolution. The Resolution is submitted to the Parliament along with the Bill to transpose the act into Norwegian law. The Parliament’s adoption must be sanctioned by Royal Resolution in State Council.

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The EEA EFTA States are obliged to implement incorporated acts

Acts that have been incorporated into the EEA Agreement and entered into force must be made part of the national legal orders of the EEA EFTA States. The EFTA Surveillance Authority monitors compliance with the legislation incorporated into the EEA Agreement. The EFTA Court in Luxembourg has jurisdiction to decide on infringement cases brought against the three EEA EFTA States for failure to fulfil their obligations under the EEA Agreement.

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EFTA Secretariat

After each EEA Joint Committee meeting, the EFTA Secretariat informs the EFTA Surveillance Authority of the entry into force of Joint Committee Decisions (JCDs).

Translation

The translation of acts incorporated into the EEA Agreement into Icelandic and Norwegian is the responsibility of Iceland and Norway respectively. Liechtenstein uses the German language version provided by the EU.

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