On the initiative of the United Kingdom, the Stockholm convention, signed by the British, Norwegian, Danish, Swiss, Portuguese, Swedish and Austrian ministers on 20 November 1959, gave rise to the European Free Trade Association. Its goal was to create a free trade area for European countries that were not members of the European Economic Community (EEC) and to counterbalance the latter by grouping together countries that did not want to enter the EEC. Little by little, several members of EFTA joined the European community (for example, the United Kingdom in 1973, Sweden in 1995, etc.).
Three EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and the European Union formed the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994, thus extending EFTA's remit.
The EFTA now includes 4 states: Norway and Switzerland (the original members), Iceland (joined in 1970) and Liechtenstein (joined in 1991).
As well as the 3 states that are only members of the European Economic Area (all the EFTA members except Switzerland), the European Community and the 27 states of the European Union (EU) are also considered signatories of the free trade agreement.