The term EEA refers to the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement signed January 1, 2004 between the European Commission (EC), its EU member states, and three countries that wished to participate in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) but not assume full responsibility of EU membership. The EFTA countries are Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Technically, EFTA countries are non-EU countries. However, the agreement gives them the EU four fundamental pillars of freedom (i.e. freedom of movement of goods, persons, services and capital) and the right to be consulted by the EC, although they do not have the right to vote.
Two EFTA countries, Norway and Iceland, are also Schengen countries.
Switzerland was once an EFTA country, but has since opted out and entered a bilateral agreement with the EU that essentially gives citizens the same four pillars listed above. It is technically a non-EU country and will fully enter Schengen starting March 2009, although land/border checks stopped December 12, 2008.
* The European Commission once had a wonderful article “European Economic Area (EEA) – Country Approach” on this topic, but it was removed. A government website in Denmark has a similar one on offer, which I recommend, called “What are EFTA and EEA?”
* Article last updated on January 14, 2012