Most Norwegians are still anti-EU

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Even though Norway’s popular incumbent prime minister is seen as favouring membership in the European Union (EU), a new public opinion poll shows that most of his countrymen have no desire to join. A majority would vote “no” if a referendum on the issue was held today.

The poll, conducted by research firm Respons and released Sunday by its sponsor, newspaper Aftenposten , indicated that 58 percent of Norwegians eligible to vote are opposed to EU membership, while 42 percent are in favour.

The “no” side seems to have slipped, though, from 62 percent opposed in a similar poll in May, while other recent public opinion polls also have showed fewer opposed to EU membership. The last time a vote was held on the issue was in 1994, when 52 percent voted “no.”

Since then, Norwegian politicians have been reluctant to bring up the EU issue again and it was all but left out of the new platform announced by Norway’s re-elected coalition government. That’s because while some leaders of the Labour Party (including Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg) favour EU membership, Labour’s two coalition partners are firmly opposed. In order for the coalition to survive, the EU issue has been put on ice.

Iceland’s decision to seek EU membership following its severe economic problems was seen as a threat to Norway’s “no” vote, and members of the party most adamantly opposed to EU membership, the Center Party, even traveled to Iceland in a vain attempt to halt the application. Now it seems Iceland’s application hasn’t swayed opinion here, even though it means Iceland will likely leave the little group made up of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein that has had an agreement allowing access to the EU market.

Norway was even left out of the celebrations surrounding the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, because Norway isn’t part of the EU fellowship.

Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre) remains the only one to clearly have a pro-EU majority. Men seem more willing to join the EU than women, while residents of southern Norway also seem more EU-friendly than residents of northern Norway, according to the Respons poll.