Poll shows unrest over EU trade deal

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Norway’s trade deal with the European Union (EU), called the EØS avtalen, but there was no big celebration. Instead, a new poll shows that nearly half the Norwegian population wants to put the deal up for a vote, and possibly alter or scrap it.

The Brexit process may shed new light on what sort of trade deal can be possible with the EU. A new poll indicates that Norwegians aren’t fully satisfied with the deal they have now. PHOTO: EU Commission

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported on Tuesday that the poll, conducted by research bureau Sentio for the anti-EU organization Nei til EU in Norway, showed that 47 percent of Norwegians want to have their say on the EU trade deal. Only 20 percent did not want to put the EØS-avtalen up for a vote, while 33 percent were unsure.

Interest in actually joining the EU remains very low in Norway, and the Conservative Party is currently the only political party that wants Norway to join the EU. Most of the main parties agree that Norway’s trade deal with the EU is very important, since it provides access to the EU’s inner market, but it’s always been controversial. That’s because it calls for Norway to pay large amounts for that access and to comply with EU regulations, even though Norway has no voice at the EU itself.

Commentator Kjetil Wiedswang wrote in newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday that only now can Norway possibly find new options to the “pay, obey and no say” deal it currently has with the EU. Great Britain’s negotiations with the EU over its pending exit from the union may provide Norway with new alternatives, not least if Great Britain makes demands or requests that Norway didn’t dare to make back in 1992.

At that time it was a young Jonas Gahr Støre, working in then-Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland’s office and speaking fluent French that impressed then-EU Commission President Jacques Delors, who was part of the Norwegian team landing the EØS (EEA, European Economic Area) deal. Now Støre hopes to become prime minister himsel and he still defends Norway’s EU deal. It has provided Norwegian exporters with direct access to the EU market and that’s been a gold mine for products like oil, gas and seafood producers. A major evaluation of the EØS/EEA Pact in 2012 indicated it’s been an economic success.

The Conservatives’ government partner, the Progress Party, wants, however, to renegotiate parts of it, with the issue due to be discussed at the party’s annual national meeting this weekend. That’s causing problems for the government minister in charge of EU issues, Frank Bakke-Jensen. He calls it “hopeless and irresponsible” to demand changes in the trade pact now.

“The agreement guarantees Norwegian companies, workers and students equal rights as other Europeans in a fellowship of 500 million people,” Bakke-Jensen told Dagsavisen. “It is not in our plans to hold a referendum on the EØS-avtalen.” He noted, moreover, that acceptance of the trade deal hammered out in 1992 was approved under democratic rules and with 75 percent support in Parliament.

The Brexit process, however, can yield a clearer picture of what Norway might have achieved if it had chosen another form of ties to the EU. “After a quarter-century with EØS, it will be interesting to get some answers,” Wiedswang wrote.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • richard albert

    “The agreement guarantees Norwegian companies, workers and students equal rights as other Europeans in a fellowship of 500 million people,”

    Which will still equal zero. That was the biggest driver for Brexit. The arrogant, unresponsive, dictatorial attitude and modus operandi of Brussels.

    • frenk

      Leaving the EU will be a disaster for the UK…Norway should have joined at its first opportunity – today Norwegian’s have a high quality of live but living standards must be some of the lowest in Europe…

      • richard albert

        When Carolus Linnæus coined the term ‘Homo Sapiens’, he must have had his tongue firmly pressed to his cheek. At least he avoided ‘Homo Rationalis’. This isn’t about economics. Mexico possibly would have been better off under poor old Maximilian, but we will never know: he issued the so-called Black Decree (a little gratuitous background related to Cinco de Mayo) and when the French scarpered, they shot him. George III of Great Britain and Lord North completely misunderstood the North American colonies and fankled it. London and Manchester at the time were bigger, poorer, more unsanitary, and drunker than colonial cities. It wasn’t about current economics. Colonials could by-and-large afford the taxes, but their very existence, and the perception that given one more inch, the Crown would demand a mile. That, and some other totally unnecessary, outrageous impositions drove them to a wage war they should have lost.
        Does Brexit make economic sense? frenk is probably correct. Did the economics of the Versailles treaty any make sense whatsoever in way, shape, or form? But neither did Neville Chamberlain’s equally catastrophic “Peace for Our Time”.

        I do not like thee, Dr Fell,
        The reason why – I cannot tell.
        But this I know, and know full well;
        I do not like thee, Dr fell.

        • Chamberlain made that statement in 1938. Had Britain entered into a war with Germany then we should have lost, not least because the RAF had made it crystal clear to Chamberlain about our “shocking state of unpreparedness in the air”. But the Munich crisis did have an upside: it caused Britain to shift priority from bombers to fighter defence. Even then the Battle of Britain was a close run thing.

  • richard albert

    I think you have a solution-in-the-making. First, we get a copy of Don Frump’s plan to seal off Mexico. Then we modify it to fit the somewhat more challenging terrain. We pull down all enticements:
    Then we can guarantee full employment to all refugees as minders; or – simply outsource ot to.. the… Swedes!