Only one out of every three Norwegians now supports joining the EU, while a solid majority opposes EU membership. Southern Europe’s heavy debt and its effect on the euro clearly have boosted EU skepticism in a new public opinion poll.
The poll, conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), shows that only 32.3 percent of those questioned want Norway to join the EU. Fully 55 percent would vote “no” on EU membership if a referendum were held today.
Only 12.7 percent were undecided, meaning the “no” side would still have a majority. The anti-EU sentiment is up from April but down from March, when 56 percent opposed EU membership.
The news cheered Norway’s staunch anti-EU movement. “We’re seeing that more and more are skeptical about EU membership and thinking, ‘thank god’ we don’t have the euro in Norway,” Heming Olaussen, head of the organization Nei til EU (No to the EU), told NRK Tuesday morning.
Olaussen called it “logical” that “folks are reacting by being grateful Norway is not part of the European cooperation,” but feel “sympathy” for those who are losing their jobs.
Paal Frisvold, head of the group favouring EU membership (Europabevegelsen), countered Olaussen’s conclusion, by noting that the crisis plan agreed on Monday by the EU’s finance ministers highlights the strength of the EU, and shows how it’s created to tackle the kinds of crises Europe is now experiencing.
New pro-EU commission
Anti-EU sentiment has been rising in recent months, and Frisvold’s group has set up a new and diverse commission to tackle the trend. The commission is made up a variety of pro-EU persons from different backgrounds and political persuasions, to boost debate on the EU issue.
The commission is headed by Elisabeth Grieg, who recently finished her term as head of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, but also includes labour leaders, a top veteran diplomat and the head of Norway’s gay rights organization.
“The absence of an EU debate in Norway is frightening,” Grieg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) recently. “I just can’t understand Norway staying outside the EU in the future. Developments in the EU affect us enormously, in most sectors.”
The EU is widely viewed as the biggest market for Norwegian goods and services, not least its seafood, and other EU proponents claim Norway should have full representation in EU issues that also will affect Norway.
Olaussen said he didn’t fear the new EU offensive. “I won’t lose sleep over this initiative,” he told DN. He doesn’t think any new referendum on EU membership will be held any time soon, “at the end of the next parliamentary period, in 2017 at the earliest, or maybe never.”