EFTA was created as an international organisation based on the principle of intergovernmental cooperation. Its main task was to manage the free trade area and its external relations, in particular with the EEC. Its decisions were taken unanimously. Since the beginning of European integration, there have been different models of cooperation and different paths towards greater integration. The creation in 1957 of the EU`s previous organisations, the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), provoked a reaction from seven other Western European countries which founded the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960. Although EFTA is not a customs union and Member States have every right to conclude bilateral trade agreements with third countries, it has a coordinated trade policy.  As a result, their Member States have concluded free trade agreements with the EU and a number of other countries.  In order to participate in the UNION`s internal market, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are contracting parties to the Agreement on a European Economic Area (EEA), with compliance being governed by the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Court of Justice. Rather, Switzerland has a series of bilateral agreements with the EU. On 4 January 1960, in Stockholm, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom signed the Agreement establishing the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which was to have its seat in Geneva. Together, the seven represented a market of 90 million people. Finland became an associate member of EFTA on 27 March 1961 and a full member in 1986, Iceland joined in 1970.
While EFTA was created to compensate for the nascent EEC, it has never tried to be its rival by pursuing exclusively economic objectives without ever wanting to compete with it. It operated on a strictly intergovernmental basis. The EEA institutional framework is best placed to be described as a two-pillar structure, with the EEA/EFTA institutions corresponding to those of the EU. It ensures that the same legal obligations apply to EEA/EFTA Member States and EU Member States in the context of the functioning of the EEA Agreement. The complexity of the EEA`s institutional structure reflects the EFTA states` unwillingness to cede legislative powers to the EU, as well as the EU`s condition that the EEA cannot restrict its legislative power and the integrity of its competence. In 1989, Switzerland and the EEC signed the Convention on direct insurance, with the exception of life insurance. As part of this agreement, Switzerland and the EEC introduced the principle of “equivalence of legislation”, on which important agreements between Switzerland and the EU are still based. The principle is that no contracting party should formally lose its autonomy to legislate in the field of the agreement, but at the same time the parties accept that the rules of both parties are equivalent.
In 1972, Denmark and the United Kingdom left EFTA to join the European Economic Community (EEC). In the 1970s, the other EFTA States signed bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with the EEC. In 2016, a majority of British voters voted to leave the EU, making the United Kingdom (UK) the first country to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, according to which an EU member state can leave the EU. This vote was preceded by negotiations between the UK and the EU for greater internal differentiation. The ongoing negotiations will most likely lead to another form of differentiated external integration, as the UK will most likely try to gain some form of access to the EU`s internal market. The challenge is therefore once again – as in the relations between the EFTA states and the EU – to find an agreement that guarantees the decision-making autonomy of both the EU and the UK, while preserving the integrity of the EU legal order and the four freedoms of the EU`s internal market. 1960 / 1961 / 1966 / 1970 / 1972 / 1977 / 1979 / 1984 / 1985 / 1986 / 1989 / 1991 / 1992 / 1994 / 1995 / 2000 / 2001 / 2003 / 2004 / 2005 / 2007 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2013 / 2014 On 12 January 1960, the European Free Trade Association Treaty was initiated in the Golden Room of Stockholm City Hall.  It was thus established the gradual abolition of customs duties on industrial products, without affecting agricultural or fishery products. . .