What is the European Economic Area?

The European Economic Area is an area of free trade and free movement of peoples made up of the member states of the EU, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Switzerland has an agreement that extends the single market to include it, though it is not part of the EEA. 

This means that EU citizens have the right:

  • To live and work in another EU/EEA country
  • To move money between countries of the EU/EEA
  • To sell and buy goods in other EU/EEA countries
  • To receive and provide services in other EU/EEA countries

These are known as the ‘4 freedoms’.

Member of the EU must follow European Law and must conform to the rules and standards that have been agreed between member states through treaties, legislation and directives.

Learn more about people’s free movement

Illustration of EEA member states and cooperating countries

EU Policies: Institutions

The EU has many institutions, but the most important are the institutions that can make laws that affect member states and citizens.

  • The European Parliament is the directly elected law-making body of the EU.
  • The Council of the European Union represents the governments of the member states.
  • The European Commission is the executive of the EU. It is responsible for proposing new legislation and making sure that member states follow EU law.
  • The Court of Justice of the European Union interprets EU law and settles legal disputes. Decisions of the CJEU are binding on member states.
  • The European Council makes decision about the policy direction of the EU, but does not have the power to pass laws.

The two main DGs in charge of education are Directorate-General for Education and Culture (DG EAC) and Directorate-General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL).

EU Policies: Migration

EU policies in relation to migration, forced migration, the asylum system and related areas is set out by the Migration and Home Affairs.

Study and Research in Higher Education for non-EU nationals comes under the Legal Migration and Integration Section.

The EU applies common rules of admission for non-EU nationals who request admission to an EU State to carry out studies leading to a higher education qualification (students). These common rules relate to the conditions of entry and residence of non-EU nationals for the purposes of:

  • Research
  • Studies
  • Training
  • Voluntary Service
  • Pupil Exchange
  • Schemes
  • Educational Projects and Au Pairing

Further information on policies which relate to refugees and migrants in higher education can be found here.