Today marks 50 years since the signing of the Stockholm Convention establishing EFTA, the European Free Trade Association. It was originally founded by seven European countries as an alternative to the European Economic Community (EEC, now the European Union), which had been established three years earlier. The founding members were Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The EFTA Convention went into effect on 3 May 1960. Iceland became a member of EFTA ten years later, on 1 March 1970. In addition to Iceland, Norway and Switzerland are still members of EFTA, and Liechtenstein joined the Association in 1991. Other EFTA countries have joined the European Union.
Iceland's membership to EFTA has been a cornerstone in Iceland's foreign policy for decades and has exercised a positive influence on the Icelandic economy. Main milestones include the conclusion of bilateral free trade agreements with the EEC in 1972, the abolition of custom duties and other trade barriers in the seventies between Iceland and member states of EFTA and the EEC, the entry into force of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement in 1994 and the conclusion of free trade agreements around the world, of which 16 are now in force. Of these, the largest partner countries are Canada, Egypt, Mexico and South-Korea. Free trade negotiations are underway with several other countries including India and the Ukraine. Such talks usually cover trade in goods and services, investments and intellectual property.
Iceland took over the Chairmanship of EFTA on 1 January 2010 for the next six months period. EFTA'a Annual Summer Ministerial Meeting will be held in Reykjavik on 24-25 June, which will also commemorate the Association's 50th Anniversary.