The European Economic Area (EEA) which establishes a homogenous economic area between the member states of the European Union (EU) and the so-called EEA EFTA states, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, is the most far-reaching agreement that the EU has concluded with non-member states. As a result, the EEA is often referred to as a source of inspiration or a future aspiration for the EU’s neighbours. Nonetheless, there is little knowledge about the daily administration of the EEA as well as whether the EEA does indeed fulfil its main goal: homogeneity. Homogeneity is fully realized by consistent selection, timely and complete adoption and correct application of EEA relevant EU legislation by the EEA EFTA states. In this perspective, a low degree of homogeneity in the EEA is equal to a low degree of compliance with the goals and obligations set out in the EEA Agreement. The research project is based on a dataset which literally covers the entire EU secondary legislation. Based on this data I empirically test different sets of country-related and policy-related hypotheses as well as structural factors that account for non-compliance in the EEA. In a nutshell, I argue that the EEA EFTA states provide favourable preconditions for an effective and well-functioning regime of external differentiated integration. Still, the empirical findings show various malfunctions of the EEA in terms of serious violations of the EEA’s homogeneity. The vast majority of those violations are likely to be explained by policy-specific variables such as the salience of an EU act, its scope or institutional requirements. However, structural factors are also likely to decrease the degree of homogeneity in the EEA, in particular, the limited access of the EEA EFTA states to the EU policy making as well as the institutional complexity of the EEA’s two pillar structure.
Project duration: since 2011