European Free Trade Association – EFTA) was established in the year 1960 by the seven Western European countries which were trying to protect their own economic interests. Their effort is not intended to be liable to any deeper mutual political and economic integration. Their aim was to liberalize bilateral trade in industrial products in the form of a free trade (and not a customs union and common market as was the case of the EEC), contribute to the formation of a market that would cover the whole Europe and promote the development of world trade. The countries that signed the ‘Stockholm Convention’, which entered into force on 3 May 1960 and are also founding members of EFTA are: United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland and Portugal. Later they joined Island (1961) and Finland (1986). Liechtenstein, which was attached to the EFTA already as part of the Swiss customs territory, was granted full membership in the year 1991.
The objectives of EFTA were generally less than those of EEC – the goal is to gradually reduce tariffs on most industrial production. However, countries pursue different economic policies and the issue of tariff preference different strategies.
The primary objective of the association – the elimination of tariffs on bilateral trade in industrial products – EFTA made earlier than planned. However, the EFTA countries are increasingly difficult to resist the merits of EEC. Already in the year 1973 there was a convertion of Great Britain and Denmark, followed by the Portugal in 1986. In 1995 joined the EU Finland, Austria and Sweden.
EFTA since 1972 maintains close relations with the EU Free Trade Agreement, signed in the time allowed to make during the 70th years between the countries largely eliminated tariffs on trade in industrial products. It finally culminated into a comprehensive agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), which since. 1994 expanded the overall rules of the EU single market on the EFTA countries except Switzerland.