Norway: Pro-eu or a Separate Player
A great essay that captures all necessary points about Norway and its status in the face of EU.
Why is Norway not part of the European Union?
In 1972 and in 1994 Norway twice rejected the membership to the European Union. With a population of about 5 million people, Norway manages to be the second wealthiest and one of the healthiest countries of the world (”Report for Selected Countries and Subjects”). Its neighbors Denmark and Sweden long ago joined the European Union, and now are willing to join the Euro-zone, while Norway is still the odd man out. Even the prime minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg eagerly wants his country to join the EU, but he says that Norwegians prize their national identity and fear to lose it if they join the European Union. Not only that, but also it is Norway’s rich natural resources oil and gas, which allowed them to say “No” twice. How much longer can it remain isolated? Thus, the questions arise “But what if Iraq is allowed to export oil again? What if Russia brings its proposed large pipelines with cheap gas to Europe?” Only time is able to tell, but for now the essential question is “Why is Norway unwilling to join the European Union?” Maybe the answer is in that Norway is a rich country; its economy is one of the strongest in the world, its politics are stable and people are pleased with their social life. Or maybe the answer lies in that Norway desires to establish its own independent union with its neighbors named Nordic Federation. This paper will argue that Norway is determined to decline the EU’s offer because of the strong partisanship among the people, the great riches of the economy, and the best welfare system that people enjoy.
First of all, the question of the membership lays in the “Yes” and “No” Parties of Norway. There are parties that have been arguing over the Norwegian membership, whether it is a right decision to join. Eurosceptic (reluctant to join the European Union) parties emerged in the nineteenth century when contempt for the ruling governments of Norway was felt. According to Kjell Eliassen (political analyst for “Scandinavian Political Studies” journal): “Democracy in the nineteenth century meant not only rule by the people, but rule by Norwegian people as opposed to the central rule from Stockholm during the 1814-1905 Union.” This situation has been translated into current opposition to the central rule from Brussels, which emerged as the party line for the campaign in 1994 when Norway said “No” for the second time (Eliassen). Simple slogans like “Norway will lose its sovereignty and national identity” continue to influence people. Similarly, the Christian Democratic Party opposes the membership by declaring that becoming a member will lead to the loss of the national sovereignty. For instance, the anti – EU organization used silly propaganda before the 1994 referendum: “Norway would not be allowed to use her flag in the EU; they would take away Norwegian jobs and the EU would buy up Norwegian land and the Union would take away their oil and gas”. It was very simplistic, however it did influence people. More than 50% of people voted against EU membership in 1994. There is a strong fear of foreigners in the Norwegian psyche.
The second reason is that “No” voters state that economically Norway is able to survive without being the member. Norway has a highly developed economy, which is heavily based on natural resources: oil, gas, and fish. It possesses 2.5% of the world’s oil and gas (both onshore and offshore) (”Norway Energy Data”). The Economist Intelligence Unit from the Columbia International Affairs Online states that “This country is the third largest exporter of gas after Canada and Russia, and the third in exporting oil after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Euro critics state that European Union wants Norway to join the big club because it will provide the Union with sufficient amount of natural resources” (”Norway: Country Outlook”). Important to mention is that there are about 400 000 people who are employed in the energy field. This puts the unemployment rate in Norway at 4%, which is below average in the EU, even in Germany the unemployment rate is 8.8% or 3.687 million people. Furthermore, Norway has a great potential to be one of the significant oil and gas producers in the next decades. Experts predict that they will be exporting oil and gas for 150 years, and yet new preserves of the natural riches are found. There is no doubt that Norway is living the era of petroleum and will do so unless some crises strike or oil-substitution is found. Another aspect of the Norway’s economy is its fishing industry. “The North Sea provides Norway with abundant fish products. This makes Norway able to deliver fresh, high quality seafood to almost 500 million European consumers” (Pedersen). It is also true that the fishing industry is strongly dependent on state assistance for pricing of the goods and its development. Therefore, fishermen are worried that within the EU their state’s financial support would vanish.
The third primary reason is that mainly “No” voters were old people, women, farmers and fishermen who lacked knowledge about the European Union and its functions. This is due to the anti-EU movement, which agitated the less aware masses of Norway using mottos like: “We are not against Europe. We are against Norwegian membership in the European Union”. The president of this movement Kristen Nygaard (who passed away in 2002) in 1996 clearly made the statement that Norway will not and should not join the EU. He said:
“If we joined the EU, all the EU laws, regulations and court rulings, the ‘acquis communautaire’, would have had preference before decisions in the Norwegian parliament, all Norwegian laws and even our constitution. This is a massive loss of sovereignty and independence. In addition the laws applying in the EU are discussed and voted in the Union Council, the only law generating institution in the Western world discussing and voting on laws in secrecy. We are not allowed to know how our representatives argued and how they voted” (Melby).
Furthermore, “No” vote is mostly because ordinary Norwegians do not want to share all the riches they possess, especially those farmers and fishermen who receive great welfare benefits from the government. Most people, who oppose Norwegian membership in the European Union, are retired older generation. They are more than satisfied with the government, the healthcare is absolutely fine, and they get as much money as they have worked for. While pensioners say no to the membership, younger generation see the membership as a good thing. They want to experience privileges that come along with the membership, such as job in the EU. Those who are in favor of joining see flowing sets of employment for young people. They see it as a realistic way of improving their job opportunities. Yet, the situation worsened when French and Dutch voters rejected the European Union Constitution in May 2005. Further analysis of Norwegian behavior states that the deeper symbol of why “No” vote was felt by each Norwegian is because of their national identity. They have pride in it, which is why they see themselves as more of Nordic people than European. They state that the European Union is for Europeans, while they themselves do not feel any attachment.
Proponents of the membership like Jens Stoltenberg, the leader of Norway Labor Party also known as the Social Democratic Party, believe that Norway’s future is the European Union’s future. He states that if Norway does not join the European Union, it is going to isolate itself from the rest of the Europe in this era of expansion and change. Stoltenberg has been in politics long enough to foresee what is unfavorable and what is beneficial for Norway. But of course, with his predictions Norway is not going to join the EU unless the country’s Labor Party persuades the people that membership is going to bring benefit for the prosperity of the country. The Labor Party says that as a European country Norway belongs to the European Union and that Norway’s economy would take great advantage of the membership such as increase in trade and competition. Besides, an advantage to Norway would be joining the EU agreements to have a stronger voice in European issues. One of these arrangements is the European Economic Area treaty (EEA), which was instituted in 1994, and which Norway is part of (”European Economic Area”). This treaty incorporates a range of policies such as environmental policy, consumer protection, company law, research and technological development, education that economically contribute to the well-being of a state. This meant that here in the last referendum of 1994 “No” votes clearly shaped policy largely because Norwegian preferences differed considerably from those of the EU and the EEA agreements at a time (Eliassen). Yet, now Norway does not have any objections towards this agreement because it seems to have interests in cooperating economically with the European Union and its members throughout the vast corporate networks. One more important agreement that further integrates the EU and Norway is the Schengen Agreement, which allows Norwegians to move freely to other parts of Europe, and vice versa Europeans do not have passport check on the Norwegian borders (”The Schengen Area and Cooperation”). As a result of this agreement, Norway establishes links through cooperation with Europol and Eurojust. For the above mentioned reasons, it is a viable to explore Norway in terms of its connection to the European Union since each agreement brings in more from the EU interference with Norway’s sovereignty. Consequently Europol has ability and permission to look on the criminal situation in the country, while Eurojust is able to fight the cross-border crimes on the territorial borders of Norway (Deflem). Therefore, more and more Norway and the EU become interdependent for one another’s security, which creates a need for Norway to acquire membership in the EU. There are also several reasons why European Union thinks that membership is going to be profitable to both sides. First of all, Norway is a member of the NATO. Consequently, people who are in favor of the EU membership say that Norway would have a stronger voice and position in the NATO if it was part of the European Union. The membership would also give economic security in case Norway depletes its natural resources fast. What happens then? Yes, it is rich in oil and gas but where is the guarantee that those riches are going to be saved up for many decades from now on? If Norway is in the European Union and energy sources are used up, the European Union is going to stabilize its situation by providing loans and bailout packages to support its economy.
To conclude, economically there is no need for Norway to join the European Union. It has got its oil and gas, in the North Sea along with the 200 mile water territory; there is also the Barents Sea which has undiscovered deposits of oil and gas. The undiscovered natural riches are as big as the state Texas. It can provide Norway and the export countries to be supplied with enough supply of oil and gas for years to come. The exported fish is not only provided to the Norwegians, but also 80% of it goes to the European markets. It definitely makes Norway the most desired country to join the Union. However, Norwegians do not see any further benefits from joining the “big club.” Norway might get isolated from being the odd one out. Nonetheless, Norway does have relations with the Union; they cooperate on mutual level, but on the Norwegian side that is enough for them. The minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway Mr. Jonas Gahr Store addressing at Europe Conference in 2006 said:
“We should look for opportunities rather than just focusing on the problems in our relations with the EU. The EU affects every part of our society, and every part of our society should be aware of its importance. We are not interested in pursuing a proactive European policy just for the sake of cooperation, but because we have a vision for the way Norway should develop and for Norway’s role in Europe” (Store).
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how Norway, isolated oil-rich country at the top of Europe, and its relationship with the vast EU neighbor, develops. Moreover, rejection and further reluctance to integrate could be explained through the theory of forming Nordic Federation. There are rumors of Norway along with Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland making up federation just like the one in Switzerland (Wetterberg). The idea is fresh, so it is not clear whether it will emerge into something bigger. Only time can tell whether it was a correct decision for Norway to go in an independent way. For now, it is only certain that Norway does not want to share its riches with other not so developed countries like Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and many others, and at the same time Norway cannot go against its people’s will by simply agreeing to join the EU.
Deflem, Mathieu. 2006. “Europol and the Policing of International Terrorism: Counter-Terrorism in a Global Perspective.” Justice Quarterly 23(3):336-359. <http://www.cas.sc.edu/socy/faculty/deflem/zeuroterror.htm>.
Eliassen, Kjell. “Ever Closer Cooperation? The Limits of the ‘Norwegian Method’ of European Integration – Eliassen – 2003 – Scandinavian Political Studies.” Wiley Online Library. 12 May 2003. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9477.00082/abstract>.
“European Economic Area.” The Norwegian Mission to the EU. 24 Aug. 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://www.eu-norway.org/about/eeaforside/>.
Melby, Grethe. “Skrevet I Stein. En Net.art Arkeologi. Museet for Samtidskunst. Oslo, Norge. 22 Mars – 25 Mai.” Www.liveart.org. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <http://www.liveart.org/net.art/melbyeng.htm>.
“Norway: Country Outlook.” CIAO: Columbia International Affairs Online. 10 Jan. 2007. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://www.ciaonet.org/atlas/NO/Economy/Outlook/20070110_3835.html>.
“Norway Energy Data.” U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA – Independent Statistics and Analysis. 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/Norway/Oil.html>.
Pedersen, Helga. “Norwegian Fisheries and Aquaculture: Meeting the Challenges.” Fishfarmer Magazine. 22 Oct. 2007. Web. 16 Nov. 2010. <http://www.fishfarmer-magazine.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/1303/Norwegian_fisheries_and_aquaculture:_Meeting_the_challenges.html>.
“Report for Selected Countries and Subjects.” IMF — International Monetary Fund Home Page. Oct. 2008. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2008/02/weodata/weorept.aspx?>.
Store, Jonas G. “The Enlarging EU – Challenges and Opportunities for Norway.” MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. 02 Feb. 2006. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/ud/Whats-new/Speeches-and-articles/speeches_foreign/2006/the-enlarging-eu–challenges-and-opportu.html?id=420739>.
“The Schengen Area and Cooperation.” EUROPA – The Official Website of the European Union. Aug. 2008. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/l33020_en.htm>.
Wetterberg, Gunnar. “The United Nordic Federation.” EUobserver. 03 Nov. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2010. <http://euobserver.com/7/31188>.