EU ties under pressure in run-up to Norway’s election

NordenBladet — Norway’s next government could have to review the country’s relations with the EU, as EU-critical parties are expected to gain ground in the general elections on 11 September. Both of the largest parties – the Conservatives, which currently rules Norway in a coalition government, and Labour, which hopes to take over – would like to continue with the current relationship format, based on the European Economic Area (EEA).

The EEA, which Norway joined in 1994, gives the country access to the EU single market. In exchange, it has to implement EU law, without having a say in its making.

A comprehensive review of the agreement in the form of a so-called Norwegian official report (NOU), commissioned by the Norwegian government and published in 2012, found that the EEA served Norway’s economic interests well, but worked in ways that weakened Norwegian democracy, by making the parliament irrelevant in the formulation and adoption of laws effective in the country.

Similar criticism is currently voiced by many small Norwegian parties, which are likely to enter government as coalition partners.

The most radical solutions are proposed by the agrarian Centre party, which is expected to score well in the vote – although more because of spearheading opposition to centralisation in Norway, as well as a pledge to reduce the country’s wolf population.

The party, which could enter a coalition government with Labour, wants to terminate the EEA agreement and replace it with a trade deal.

“We think the EEA transfers too much power from the Norwegian parliament, which can be ousted in elections, to a bureaucracy that cannot be ousted in elections,”the Centre party’s leader, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK in August.

Also the Conservatives, if they manage to stay on for another term, could be steered in a more EU-critical direction by their coalition partner, the anti-immigrant, libertarian Progress party.

The latter recently came out as an opponent to EU membership and is a long-time advocate for a renegotiation of the EEA agreement.

Notably, the party is opposed to “benefit exports”, where EU and EEA citizens living in Norway are eligible for child allowance, even if their families are living abroad.

“Millions of tax krone disappear out of the country every single year. We cannot be Europe’s social office,” party leader Siv Jensen told Norwegian press last month.

She also wants to introduce permanent controls on the border to Sweden, in a bid to reduce the number of asylum seekers.

Such talks come as a headache for the Conservatives and Labour, which are both in favour of EU membership but have tried not to stress it since the euro crisis, after which euroscepticism skyrocketed in the country.

 

 

Source: EU Observer

 


Tags assigned to this article:
electionsEUEuropean UnionNorwayNOUSiv Jensen

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