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Which countries do EU policies apply to?

Certain policy areas in Member States may be governed exclusively by legislation developed at an EU-level.

EU Member States

Policy made at the EU level generally applies to all 28 Member States of the EU, unless any have negotiated ‘opt outs’ or exemptions, which mean that they do not have to implement certain policies, or particular clauses in legislation. 

EU policy is implemented in Member States according to the type of policy proposal. For example, a Directive will give a set time period in which Member States integrate it into their own domestic legislation (a process called ‘transposition’) and apply it to their national law. A Regulation must be applied in its exact form in all Member States in a given time period, and typically forms part of national legislation once the Regulation has entered into force. Certain policy areas in Member States may be governed exclusively by legislation developed at an EU-level. For example, this will be the case for the UK when the Clinical Trials Regulation comes into force. 

Non-EU Countries

EU policy can also apply to non-EU countries, depending on the arrangements they have with the EU. For example, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), but not the EU. These countries participate and trade in the European Single Market, and sign up to some EU laws, those focused on the European Union principles of free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. These EEA countries contribute to the EU budget and are subject to EU jurisprudence applied through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Surveillance Authority. Some other countries, such as Switzerland or Turkey, also have bilateral agreements that commit them to implementing some EU laws. None of these countries has direct representation in the EU institutions.

Non-EU countries can also sign agreements with the EU to participate in specific programmes. These agreements may require compliance with relevant EU policies. For example, Associate Countries of Horizon 2020 must comply with specific EU regulations governing research conducted with animals. Research must also comply with any relevant domestic legislation in the country where it is being conducted. 

The size of the Horizon 2020 Budget and its strategic priorities are decided by the European Parliament, Commission and Council (through ordinary legislative procedure), at which non-EU countries are not represented.

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