The EUROPEAN FREE TRADE ASSOCIATION (EFTA) was created by a convention agreed to at Stockholm on 20 November 1959 (signed on 4 January 1960 and effective 3 May 1960) among the so-called "Outer 7" (as opposed to the "Inner 6" of the European Economic Community's "Common Market")- these being Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
After failing to create a free economic zone involving all 13 countries (the "Inner 6" plus the "Outer 7"), negotiations for same largely breaking down over EEC members' insistence on a common external tariff to protect its "Common Market", the "Outer 7" formed EFTA as a means to maintain a common front in any future negotiations with the EEC. Unlike the "Common Market", EFTA was principally intended to only foster the eventual elimination of trade barriers involving certain (mostly non-agricultural) goods.
Later in its history, EFTA became a vehicle for resisting the EEC (and, later, the descendant European Union)'s push for the closer- where not also complete- economic and political integration of free Europe (although quite a few EFTA members did end up joining what is now the EU); nevertheless, in 1992 (as the EEC began to transmogrify into the EU via the Maastricht Treaty), the remaining EFTA countries did agree to form a single free economic zone with the nascent EU, allowing for the free flow of goods and services, between the Member-States of both organizations.
The table below lists the members of EFTA over time (as well as the date, and reason, for a Member-State's withdrawal from EFTA). The term original signatory refers to those "Outer 7" countries that had originally formed EFTA back in 1960: of these, only Norway and Switzerland have been continuous members of the organization from its inception (Norway has, twice, rejected membership in the EEC become EU by referendum).
|EFTA Member-State||Date of EFTA Membership||Date of (and reason for) Withdrawal from EFTA|
|AUSTRIA||original signatory||1 January 1995 [joined the EU]|
|DENMARK||original signatory||1 January 1973 [joined the EEC]|
|FINLAND||1 January 1986||1 January 1995 [joined the EU]|
|LIECHTENSTEIN||22 May 1991|
|PORTUGAL||original signatory||1 January 1986 [joined the EEC]|
|SWEDEN||original signatory||1 January 1995 [joined the EU]|
|UNITED KINGDOM [GREAT BRITAIN]||original signatory||1 January 1973 [joined the EEC]|
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