Parliament bows to EU finance rules

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Opponents were calling it the greatest relinquishment of Norwegian sovereignty since the country struck its market pact with the EU in 1994: An overwhelming majority in Parliament agreed on Monday to tie Norwegian regulation of banking, insurance, pensions and securities to the EU’s rules, and thus subject itself to more EU regulation.

More than 75 percent of Norway's Members of Parlliament agreed to tie Norway's financial authority to the EU's. PHOTO: Stortinget

Norway’s Parliament (Stortinget) is a busy place these days, in the rush to vote on proposals before the summer recess. On Monday, more than 75 percent of Norway’s Members of Parliament agreed to tie Norway’s financial authority to the EU’s. PHOTO: Stortinget

The measure needed approval from at least 75 percent of the Members of Parliament, because it effectively makes Norwegian regulations beholden to those of another entity (the EU) beyond national control, since Norway is not an EU member. The Norwegian Constitution demands at least a 75 percent majority in such cases, and got it on Monday.

Both government parties, the Conservatives and the Progress Party, won support from the Labour Party and the Liberals. The Christian Democrats, which otherwise has an agreement to support the minority government, opposed the measure as did the Socialist Left, the Greens and, most predictably, the Center Party, which has always been fiercely anti-EU and generally sees the EU as a threat to Norway’s national interests.

Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum fought the measure to the bitter end, as did 16 Norwegian social economists, who have claimed Norway was “giving away” its own financial control and undermining its own sovereignty in order to gain access to EU markets. Vedum accused his colleagues in the Parliament of failing to make a “real evaluation” of the decision, since just “one man” at the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) will determine whether Norway is in compliance with EU rules. Norway is a member of EFTA (the European Free Trade Association) along with Iceland and Liechtenstein and is the organ through which all three gain access to EU markets.

It’s not often that Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre and Progress Party leader Siv Jensen (who also serves as Norway’s finance minister) agree on financial policy, but this time they did. Labour MPs noted that Norway has expected to become part of the EU financial regulatory framework since it was created in 2010   to ward of more euro and finance crises like those that occurred in 2008. Labour held government power at that time and already saw the issue as relevant to Norway’s market agreement with the EU.

Top Conservative Party members argued that this is a situation when Norway could contribute towards forming EU financial regulatory policy, not just be subject to it.  Jensen herself claimed she was certain that the measure approved on Monday was in Norway’s best interests.

“The solution that’s been found means that most of the regulation of Norwegian financial insitutions will still be carried out by the Norwegian Finanstilsynet,” Jensen said, referring to the country’s regulatory authority. Jensen also claimed that any authority transferred to Brussels was extremely limited.

Norway’s anti-EU lobbying group Nei til EU was far from convinced, issuing a press release Monday afternoon claiming that the Parliament was defying two public referenda in Norway that rejected EU membership. The group also claimed that the measure was a means of getting around Norway’s Constitution and ran counter to popular public opinion.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund