Norway and the EU Part III

Norway and the EU 3

Fixed party positions – little debate

Norway’s relations with the EU have developed and expanded sharply during the period 1994–2011. But we hardly see any major changes in the political parties’ positions in European politics. Since 1994, European policy has not played a prominent role in the political parties’ strategic choices or has had any particular impact on competition between them.

Norway’s special form of affiliation with the EU seems to have broad support in public opinion . It almost seems to be taken for granted – without much democratic exchange or media attention . Exceptions may be scattered individual cases. Is the EEA something we just need to have in order to sell our goods and services on the EU market? Is the Norwegian adaptation to the EU something people feel is only historically irreversible, an automated integration we “just have to go through” – almost a process in line with globalization? Is there no room for maneuver?

8: Europe and Norwegian identity

Gradually, the EU and the EEA agreement’s rules enter people’s everyday lives. European integration is becoming commonplace. EU / EEA rules, rights and opportunities are taken for granted. Any adjustments and adjustments have been made, and citizens and companies operate within the new set of rules. Over time, it often becomes difficult, and often irrelevant, to know where the rules originally came from. New generations are coming, and they do not really know any other everyday life than the EEA agreement and the other agreements with the EU have created. It is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine what life really was like before these agreements came into force.

Since 1994, there has also been a purely political-ideological approach between the EU and Norway. Both EU policy and Norwegian policy have gradually developed and are today completely similar or very similar in a number of areas, such as the environment and climate, peace work, development assistance and social issues. Many of the identity features and societal issues that are often discussed as purely Norwegian phenomena are in reality variants of common European (or Western European) issues. We see this in immigration, gender equality, the welfare state, democracy and more.

9: What does wealth do to us?

Another factor that probably also has an influence on self-understanding, identity and the relationship with the EU is Norway’s new wealth . During the EEA period, Norway has gone from being a fairly rich European country to becoming a very rich European country. Through large revenues from oil and gas activities, Norway and the Norwegian economy have grown. The Government Pension Fund Global (the oil fund ) has become a European and global major investor (more than NOK 3,000 billion). Unemployment is lower in Norway than in neighboring countries and lower than in the EU, especially compared with the southern European countries.

Many European countries are struggling with large debt and government budget deficits. Norway, on the other hand, has large profits. There is every reason to believe that this new wealth has also affected Norwegians’ self-understanding . The view of dependency and power relations is changing, and it is easy to see a germ of increased Norwegian self-satisfaction . In light of this novelty, we can also hear statements such as that «Norway does not need the EU. If anything, it is the EU that needs Norway. ”

This comes at a time when Norway is actually closer to the EU than ever before and is adapting to developments in the EU in ever new areas – from economics and trade to social issues, the labor market, immigration policy, police cooperation, security policy and much more.


Legal act

In essence, the term encompasses the two types of EU legislation – directives and regulations . But individual decisions and non-binding guidelines (often called soft law ) are also included. The EEA Agreement has also developed throughout the period 1992–2011 through ongoing interpretation and practice, which changes the content of the obligations, even if the legal texts are not formally changed. In the same period, the number of legal acts has increased from about 2,000 to close to 8,500.

The agreement in the EU includes thousands of legal acts

When new EU legislation is to be incorporated into the EEA agreement, it is done by unanimous decision in the EEA. This means that Norway (and the other two EFTA states) must vote in favor and consent every time a new EU act enters the EEA. According to Electronicsencyclopedia, EEA stands for European Economic Area.

One can in principle not vote in favor, and then the act will not become part of the EEA (but it can not be stopped in the EU countries). This is what is often called the ” reservation right ” (veto right). Notification of reservation triggers a negotiation process. Although the EFTA States are formally free to reserve themselves against new legal acts, this will infringe on the principle of uniform development and will, as a general rule, lead to the affected part of the agreement being repealed.

Non-EEA cases: Here again, Norway has not formally transferred legislative competence and must therefore explicitly vote for each new legal act. In the same way as in the EEA, Norway can formally refuse to join, but here there is no «reservation right». Instead, it is a ” guillotine clause .” If Norway says no to a new legal act, the entire agreement will expire for us.

As of 0102.2012, all EFTA States have accepted all of the 6462 new acts. Only in 17 of them has there been a serious political debate about reservation, but without it having resulted in the use of the right of reservation.

Norway and the EU 3