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A 'special relationship' built on a patchwork – How the CJEU sees the EEA EFTA States

This contribution presents and analyses a recent judgment from the Court of Justice of the European Union that may prove to be very important both to the future of the European Economic Area and to the relationship between the EFTA States and the EU more generally.

Author: Halvard Haukeland Fredriksen


With the Grand Chamber judgment in Case C-897/19 I.N., the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) firmly demonstrates its commitment to the object and purpose of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA): To extend the EU internal market to the participating EFTA States. Despite a number of differences in the legal context, the Grand Chamber ruled that the EEA Agreement protects an Icelandic citizen on vacation in an EU Member State from extradition to a third State in the same way as EU law protects EU citizens in such situations. Drawing not only on the EEA Agreement but also a number of the other agreements that exists between the EU and the EEA/EFTA States, the CJEU stated that Iceland has ‘a special relationship with the European Union, which goes beyond economic and commercial cooperation’. In striking contrast to the approach advocated by the Norwegian government, the judgment strengthens the impression of the EEA/EFTA States as ‘insiders’ rather than ‘outsiders’ also in matters where the application of EEA law is affected by parts of EU law that fall outside the scope of the EEA Agreement, but which are covered by other agreements between the EEA/EFTA States and the EU. The full reach of such a more holistic approach to the legal relationship between the EU and the EEA/EFTA States remains to be mapped out, but it could be considerable. It may also be relevant for Swiss-EU relations, one way or the other.


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EFTA-Studies.org provides in-depth analyses of the institutions and processes that link the EFTA states to the EU. An independent academic blog addresses developments in the EFTA states from a political and legal perspective, thus providing up to date information on the EFTA states' relations with the EU.

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