The Government decided today to request the Storting to approve the agreement on EEA enlargement that will allow Croatia to become part of the European Economic Area (EEA). This will open up new opportunities for closer cooperation between Norway and Croatia, for both the business sector and for private individuals.
“I am pleased that Croatia has joined the EU and that it will now also have closer ties to Norway through the EEA Agreement,” said Minister and Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister Vidar Helgesen, who is also responsible for EEA and EU Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The agreement on EEA enlargement is expected to enter into force in April 2014. Croatia became a member of the EU on 1 July 2013 and negotiations with Croatia on enlargement of the EEA were completed in December. The provisions of the EEA Agreement were made applicable to Croatia, and the parties also reached agreement on the provision of additional funding for social and economic development in Croatia by the three EEA EFTA states through the EEA and Norway Grants.
“Between 1 July 2013 and 30 April 2014, Norway will be providing approximately NOK 78 million to Croatia. Priority areas will be defined in more detail in a separate framework agreement with Croatia. The funding that Norway is providing will be an important contribution to social and economic development in Croatia and will provide a framework for closer economic and political cooperation,” Mr Helgesen said.
“In the negotiations on the enlargement of the EEA to include Croatia, one of the Government’s key concerns was the issue of market access for Norwegian seafood in the EU. Norway secured agreement to raise the duty-free tariff quota for herring to a total of 1 400 tonnes,” Mr Helgesen said.
The agreement on EEA enlargement contains the same transitional arrangements as Croatia’s EU accession treaty. These relate among other things to the free movement of labour: individual EU and EEA countries may choose to maintain certain restrictions on labour immigration from Croatia for an initial period of two years. This period may be extended at a later date for a further five years under certain specific conditions.
The Government has decided not to make use of its right to limit labour immigration from Croatia at present. Sweden, Denmark and Finland are taking a similar approach. Croatia is a small country and the level of labour migration from Croatia to Norway is expected to be low. However, if this turns out not to be the case, the Government will be able to introduce restrictions at a later date within the transition period of maximum seven years, in accordance with the provisions of the enlargement agreement.