What are the benefits of the EU for richer countries, besides the single market?


Could someone explain the rationale for countries like Sweden or Finland to join the EU if they could simply reap the economic benefits via alternative agreements like Norway and Switzerland do (EEA, EFTA)? This way ordinary citizens can take advantage of cheaper labor and goods without giving up their voting representation. So what else is there to be gained from the EU for richer countries?

EDIT: I see how joining the EU can be a political strategy to act as a counter-block to mega-powers like the US, Russia, or China but Sweden and Finland are (or at least have been) neutral countries.

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Swede living in Berlin here. The absolute best part of the EU is free movement across borders. I can just decide to live anywhere in the EU, work anywhere in the EU, and not have to do anything more bureaucratic than tell the government where I live. No applications, no visa, no work permit, no nothing.

Closer cooperation with the rest of Europe, participation in the governing bodies of the EU, access to the myriad development programs of the EU are a few examples. It is true that countries like Norway can reap most of the economic benefits of the EU through EEA membership while dodging membership fees, but they also have to put up with the effects of many EU decisions while having no say in them.

You also have to consider here the political dimension: those eea and efta members were let in largely because the other european states thought at the time that it would lead to further cooperation. While that has been true, they’re willing to let it continue, but if EU member states were to start to decide to pull out like the UK it’s unlikely they would be so accommodating