chapter
10 Pages

Introduction

The European Union (EU)1 is unique among international organizations in the extent to which it can compel national governments to adapt to its rules and requirements. As a comprehensive form of regional integration in which nation-states pool sovereignty, it has had an extensive impact on its member states. The EU’s competences have expanded over the years and it now legislates in a wide range of policy domains. Accordingly, academic literature has increasingly focused on the EU’s impact on the domestic sphere or the adaptation of national structures, behaviour and policies in response to the demands of the EU, a process which is frequently referred to as ‘Europeanization’ (Bache 2008: 10; Wong 2006: 15). The EU’s impact is not confined only to its member states; it is also felt in

a range of non-member states within its sphere of influence. As the EU continues to expand its power and grow in size, the question of how it can effectively structure its relations with neighbouring states is becoming ever more important. Recent studies have drawn attention to the EU’s impact on candidate countries which are subject to accession conditionality and states included in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) (Featherstone and Kazamias 2001b; Grabbe 2001; Hughes et al. 2004; Kelley 2006; Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2005c). Yet, while research on non-member states has tended to focus eastwards, the few remaining non-member states in Western Europe are in many ways the most closely linked to the Union and among those most heavily affected by the EU. In particular, the members of the European Free Trade Association

(EFTA) have a longer history of EU rule adoption and closer institutional contact with the EU than most other third countries. The current members of EFTA are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. With the exception of Switzerland, the EFTA states are parties to the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement. As such, they adopt a large bulk of EU legislation and are almost full participants in the internal market. In fact, it has been argued that the EEA Agreement entails a form of ‘quasi-membership’ of the EU (Lavenex 2004: 683), which can be compared and contrasted with the EU’s relations both with its member states and with other non-member states such as candidate and ENP countries.