In 2010, the European Free Trade Association celebrated its 50th anniversary. The EFTA Convention entered into force on 3 May 1960. In connection with this milestone in EFTA's existence and the 15th anniversary of the EEA Agreement, which entered into force in 1994, EFTA organised a seminar in November 2009 in Geneva, entitled Partners in Progress. A book including material from the seminar, called EFTA 1960 – 2010: Elements of 50 Years of European History, was presented on 3 May in Geneva and on 5 May in Brussels. Commemorative events also took place in several of EFTA's free trade partner countries as well as during the EFTA summer ministerial meeting in Iceland in June. On the occasion of the winter ministerial meeting in Geneva in November, Switzerland held a special seminar on world trade. You can order the book here.
This fact sheet gives a brief overview of the main developments in EFTA over the last 50 years.
Moments in EFTA's history 1959-2009. A selection of the photographs used in EFTA's 50th anniversary book entitled "Elements of 50 Years of European History".
Leaders in politics and academia came together for a seminar held in Geneva on 10 November 2009.
The event marked the 50th anniversary of EFTA in 2010 and the 15th anniversary of the entry into force of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) in 2009.
Leaders from government and academia came together for a seminar held in Geneva on 10 November 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of EFTA in 2010 and the 15th anniversary of the entry into force of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA) in 2009. They paid tribute to EFTA’s contribution to the prosperity of its citizens as well as to the post-war economic and political integration of Europe.
“The present tasks of EFTA are in many ways fundamentally different from the first decades of the organisation’s existence when liberalisation of trade between the EFTA States was the prime objective”, Mr Kåre Bryn, Secretary-General of EFTA said in his opening statement. “It is a paradox that, while EFTA’s membership has been drastically reduced, its activities have expanded both in terms of geography and substance”. Regarding the future of EFTA he concluded that, for the foreseeable future, it is business as usual.
Under the theme “EFTA 1960-2010 – Partners in Progress”, speakers focused on the development of EFTA in the wider European context and on the implications of EFTA and EEA membership on the Member States.
“At today’s anniversary celebration, we have good reasons to look back with satisfaction and pride” stated Ms Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein and Chairperson of the EFTA Council. She said that for her country, the EEA was the ideal solution for its relations with the European Union. Ms Elisabeth Walaas, State Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Norway, noted that the EEA Agreement had proved to be a robust arrangement. She expressed confidence that the challenges that lay ahead for the EEA would be met successfully. Mr Jean-Daniel Gerber, State Secretary for Economic Affairs of Switzerland, highlighted the successful expansion of EFTA’s free trade network, noting that changes in the global landscape would certainly impact EFTA’s activities and approaches.
Five academic researchers presented their work at the seminar. Professors Gudmundur Jonsson, University of Iceland,Helge Pharo, University of Oslo and Rene Schwok, University of Geneva, looked back at Europe in the 1950s and political discussions in their countries at the time of their entry into EFTA and the effects on trade and economic growth. ProfessorRichard Griffiths of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands reviewed EFTA's history in the broader context of European developments, praising EFTA as a successful model of integration. Dr Ulf Sverdrup, University of Oslo, focussed on Norwegian experiences from the EEA Agreement and its present role in his country’s relations with the EU.
Ambassadors Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson of Iceland, Eivinn Berg of Norway and Franz Blankart of Switzerland, who led their countries’ negotiations for the EEA in the early 1990s, enriched the discussions with personal analyses and accounts of EFTA history as well as of the organisation’s prospects going forward.
The event’s moderator, Mr Ernst Walch, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that the seminar marked the anniversaries of two important agreements. “The reason for the success of EFTA and the EEA are pragmatism and substance over form”, Mr Walch concluded.
See the press release published on the 3 May 2010 in relation with the 50th anniversary event.
ere you can find the stamps that were published by Liechtenstein and Switzerland in recognition of EFTA's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Liechtenstein's special “EFTA stamp” was designed by local artist Sabine Bockmühl. It refers to former and today’s various EFTA member countries and their respective joining and leaving of the EFTA during the past fifty years of existence.
The Swiss special "EFTA stamp" was issued by SwissPost in September 2010. It depicts an international and uniting EFTA.
Here you can find the programme of the 50th anniversary concert, held at EFTA's summer ministerial meeting from 23 to 25 June 2010 in Reykjavik.
Here you can find the various EFTA logos over the last 50 years (click on the image below to open the picture album).
The current logo can be downloaded from here.
Here you can find pictures from a celebratory dinner in Geneva on 22 November 2010 at which the President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard, presented a painting to EFTA in the presence of ministers from the four EFTA Member States and EFTA Secretary-General Kåre Bryn.