The four EFTA countries have a long-standing policy of contributing financially and actively participating in EU technical cooperation programmes in the field of quality infrastructure.
The overall objective of these jointly financed EU/EFTA programmes consists of facilitating intra-regional trade and overall free movement of goods, with a view to improving the competitiveness of the economy in the targeted region and preparing the beneficiaries for future EU/EEA accession negotiations.
EFTA’s participation in the projects highlights the Association’s commitment to cooperation and its contribution to building the quality infrastructure necessary for underpinning free trade in industrial goods. It further stresses the crucial importance of the Single Market and its harmonious development for EFTA.
Today, the beneficiaries of most of the regional projects are located in South East Europe. The region covers five EU candidate countries, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey as well as two EU potential candidate countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo).
EFTA contributed to four successive Commission PHARE Regional Programmes on Quality Assurance (PRAQ), which were designed to assist in the building up of the quality infrastructure of the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) from 1992 to 2000. EFTA also participated in a key Networking Programme on Quality Assurance for the CEECs that lasted until 2004. In 2005, EFTA was actively involved in a quality infrastructure project for Bulgaria and Romania that came to a successful conclusion in May 2007 and from 2007 to 2008, EFTA participated in another technical co-operation project under the CARDS framework aimed at quality infrastructure institutions in the Western Balkans. From 2009-2014 EFTA further participated in an EU project on quality infrastructure in the Western Balkans and Turkey, under the IPA 2008 and IPA 2011 framework.
Quality infrastructure refers here to all aspects of metrology, standardisation, accreditation, market surveillance, testing, quality management, inspection and certification that have a bearing on conformity assessment. This includes public and private institutions and the regulatory framework within which they operate.