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Explaining the meaning of the concepts EU and EEA

The EU is an abbreviation of European Union. The EU is an economic and political union consisting of 27 member states. It was founded in 1957, in the aftermath of the Second World War, as a means of ensuring peace and stability in Europe. Back then there were only six member states and its powers and political influence was limited. Over the years the number of member states has more than quadrupled and the extent of the union´s political powers has increased significantly. However, one thing that hasn´t changed is the foundation of this European project. From the very beginning, the EU has stood for the respect of human rights and the creation of a single European market based on the so-called four freedoms, namely the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The free movement of people means individuals who are citizens of one of the 27 member states has the right to live, work, study or retire in another EU country.
Current EU member states in alphabetical order:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

The EEA stands for European Economic Area. The agreement creating the European Economic Area came into force 1 January 1994. The agreement allows the three EFTA (European Free Trade Association) member states (Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) to participate in the EU´s single market on the same terms as EU member states. Therefore citizens of these three countries have the same rights as EU citizens when it comes to the free movement of people.

Switzerland is an EFTA member state, but is not part of the EEA agreement. However, it has a bilateral agreement with the EU which, among other things, gives Swiss citizens the right to study in EU member states on the same terms as EU citizens.

Published by: Lina Kickert Page responsible: Veronica Liljeroth Updated: 2022-10-25
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