Norway–European Union relations
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Norway is not a member state of the European Union (EU), but is closely associated with the Union through its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA), in the context of being a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member.
Norway's trade is dominated by the EU and Norway is the EU's 4th most important import partner. Norway to EU trade amounted to €91.85 billion in 2008, primarily energy supplies (only 14.1% is manufactured products). The EU's exports to Norway amounted to €43.58 billion, primarily manufactured products.
European Economic Area
The EEA agreement grants Norway access to the EU's single market while the country is to adopt most EU legislation related to that market. Additionally, Norway is a part of the Schengen Area, and has been granted participation rights (save voting rights) in several of the Union's programmes, bodies and initiatives. These include the European Defence Agency, the Nordic Battle Group, Frontex, Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Whether or not the country should apply for full membership has been one of the most dominant and divisive issues in modern Norwegian political debate.
- See also Norwegian European Communities membership referendum, 1972
- See also Norwegian European Union membership referendum, 1994
In 1962, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland applied for membership in the European Economic Community (EEC). When France rebuffed UK's application the next year, accession negotiations with Norway and the other countries were also suspended, because of strong economic ties between them. This happened again in 1967.
Norway completed its negotiations for the terms to govern a Norwegian membership in the EEC on 22 January 1972. Following an overwhelming parliamentary majority in favour of joining the EEC in early 1972, the government decided to put the question to a popular referendum, scheduled for September 24 and 25. The result was that 53.5% voted against membership and 46.5% for it. The Norwegian Labour Party government led by Trygve Bratteli resigned over the outcome of the referendum, and a coalition government led by Lars Korvald took over.
Norway entered into a trade agreement with the community following the outcome of the referendum. That trade agreement remained in force until Norway joined the European Economic Area in 1994.
On 28 November 1994, yet another referendum was held, narrowing the margin but yielding the same result: 52.2% opposed membership and 47.8% in favour, with a turn-out of 88.6%. There are currently no plans to file another application.
As of 2009, Norway has chosen to opt into EU projects and its total financial contribution linked to the EEA agreement consists of contributions related to the participation in these projects (Schengen Agreement, Europol, EU Drug Monitoring Centre, Frontex, the European Defence Agency and the Union's battlegroups) and part made available to development projects for reducing social and economic disparities in the EU (EEA and Norway Grants). EEA EFTA states fund their participation in programmes and agencies by an amount corresponding to the relative size of their gross domestic product (GDP) compared to the GDP of the whole EEA. The EEA EFTA participation is hence on an equal footing with EU member states. The total EEA EFTA commitment amounts to 2.4% of the overall EU programme budget. In 2008 Norway’s contribution was €188 million. Throughout the programme period 2007—2013, the Norwegian contribution will increase substantially in parallel with the development of the EU programme budget, from €130 million in 2007 to €290 million in 2013. For the EEA and Norway Grants from 2004 to 2009, Norway provided almost €1.3 billion.
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Politics and government of
Because these positions to a great extent cut across ideological boundaries, various political parties have dealt with the issue in different ways. The Centre Party has maintained the most principled stand against membership, and though parties such as the Conservative Party and the Labour Party support membership in their platform, they allow for a minority to oppose it. Most dramatically, the Liberal Party split over the issue in 1972 at the famed party conference in Røros and did not reunite until 1989.
The EU membership crosses the traditional left-right axis in Norwegian politics. Since the Labour Party lost its dominance in Norwegian politics, all governments have been a coalition of several political parties. Because the EU membership issue almost certainly would break up any conceivable government coalition (except maybe a rainbow coalition of Labour and the Conservatives), no government has raised the subject and no opposition party has stated any desire to do so either.
Disagreements on this issue have been known to create divisiveness within families and local communities. Although there is a general pattern that urban communities favour membership and rural communities do not, there have been vocal minorities in every area of Norway.
Complicating the matter has been that a great variety of political and emotional factors have been raised in the debate. Radical socialists oppose membership because of an opposition to conservative economic and political forces that concern them within Europe; opponents on the right are concerned about an infringement on Norwegian culture; and others are opposed in principle to compromising Norwegian sovereignty.
Many observers[who?] felt that the Centre Party misread the situation when they interpreted the narrow majority against membership in 1994 as an endorsement of the party's general platform. Party politics continue to be confounded by this issue, and most governments tend to avoid it.
Norwegian political parties' positions
Currently, parties supporting or opposing EU membership are to be found in both right-wing and left-wing coalitions: as a result, most governments contain pro- and anti-EU elements. To avoid a new debate on EU, anti-EU parties usually require "suicide paragraphs" in government-coalition agreements, meaning that if some party in the coalition officially begins a new debate on EU, the government will fall. This has been true for both the previous centre-right Bondevik government and the current centre-left Stoltenberg government. The last general elections (2009) saw an increase in support for the two pro-European parties: the Labour Party (Government) and the Conservative Party (opposition), whereas the Eurosceptical parties (both in the governing coalition and in the opposition) stagnated. The following table shows the different parliamentary parties' stance on EU-membership, sorted by their approval rating in the latest election (separated only by government and opposition parties):
|Group||Party||Pos.||Main argument as stated on party websites|
|Government||Labour Party||Yes||"Cooperation; influence in EU decisions."|
|Socialist Left Party||No||"Lack of democracy; too much focus on liberal trade."|
|Centre Party||No||"EU does not reduce economic differences,
and does not strengthen democracy"
|Opposition||Progress Party||?||Will stay neutral; pledges to respect any referendum result|
|Conservative Party||Yes||"Peace; stability; solidarity; influence"|
|Christian Democratic Party||No||"EEA is good enough, independence"|
|Liberal Party||?||Pledges to respect any referendum result; "Not time for EU-debate"|
The average of opinion polls shows that besides a period of favoring EU-membership around the years 2003-2004, with the greatest support for EU-membership exploding around late 2002/early 2003 with 60-65% favoring membership for some months, the "No"-side has generally been in the lead for the last years. From 2005 onwards, the eurosceptics have also enjoyed a steady increase in support, with, on average, over 60% not wanting EU-membership in the latest polls. One polling firm in April 2009 also stated that it had now seen a "No" majority for 50 months in a row. The Financial crisis of 2007-2010, which Norway went through relatively well, has strengthened the "No"-side.
In 2010, according to Aftenposten, opposition against the European Union had not been as strong in Norway since 1993, based on poll figures. In July 2010, polls showed that most voters of even the Conservative Party, traditionally the most EU-supportive party in Norway, were also against Norwegian membership. Thus, the majority of voters for all parties were opposed to Norwegian membership at that time.
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- Mission of Norway to the EU (English)
- www.jasiden.no – The European Movement in Norway (Norwegian)
- www.europeiskungdom.no – European Youth in Norway (Norwegian)
- www.neitileu.no – The eurosceptics (Norwegian)
- www.umeu.no – Youth against the EU (Norwegian)