The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union (EU).
EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to, join the then-European Economic Community (EEC) which has now become the European Union (EU). The Stockholm Convention, establishing EFTA, was signed on 4 January 1960 in Stockholm by seven countries.
Today, only Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein remain members of EFTA (of which Norway and Switzerland are the only remaining founding members). The initial Stockholm Convention was subsequently replaced by the Vaduz Convention. This Convention provides for the liberalisation of trade among the member states.
Three of the EFTA countries are part of the European Union Internal Market through the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), which took effect in 1994; the fourth, Switzerland, opted to conclude bilateral agreements with the EU. In addition, the EFTA states have jointly concluded free trade agreements with a number of other countries.
In 1999 Switzerland concluded a set of bilateral agreements with the European Union covering a wide range of areas, including movement of persons, transport and technical barriers to trade. This development prompted the EFTA States to modernise their Convention to ensure that it will continue to provide a successful framework for the expansion and liberalization of trade among them and with the rest of the world.