Countries of the EU and EEA

Here is a simple guide to some of the terms used when talking about European countries, the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EAA).

European Union countries

The European Union (EU) is made up of these 28 member states:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

European Economic Area (EEA)

The European Economic Area (EEA) began in 1994 and allowed participating countries to trade in the European Single Market without having to join the EU.

There are 31 participating countries. These include the 28 EU member states plus:

  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway

Switzerland also has an agreement with the EEA, which gives Swiss citizens the same right to trade in the European Single Market.

EEA and Swiss citizens have rights of free movement under EU law.

EEA and Swiss nationals have rights to help when homelessness when in work, out of work or if they have a permanent right to reside.

Family members of EEA and Swiss nationals may also have rights to help when homelessness even if they are from outside the EU.

Accession states

This is a term for the latest countries to join the EU. The process of joining the EU is known as accession. There have been three separate accessions to the EU since 2004.

Citizens of new EU countries normally have restrictions placed on their rights to live and work in other EU member states for up to 7 years.

A8 nations

The eight countries that joined the EU on 1st May 2004 are:

  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia.

Many A8 nationals had restrictions on their rights to work, claim benefits and access social housing during their accession period. These restrictions ended on 1 May 2011.

Cyprus and Malta also joined the European Union (EU) on 1st May 2004, but their citizens had full EU rights of free movement from that date.

A2 nations

The two countries that joined the EU on 1 January 2007 are:

  • Bulgaria
  • Romania

Many A2 nationals had restrictions on their rights to work, claim benefits and access social housing during their accession period. These restrictions ended on 1 January 2014.


Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013 and are still within their accession period.

Many Croatians are subject to restrictions in terms of working for an employer in the UK for the first 12 months although there are no restrictions on self-employment.

Find out more about Croatian nationals rights to homelessness assistance when in work or out of work.

Last updated 08 Apr 2016 | © Shelter

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