Only 25 percent of Norwegians now favour joining the European Union (EU), according to the latest public opinion poll on EU membership. Supporters blame bad publicity over European debt levels, and think EU fans will rise again.
“Given the economic problems in Europe, it’s easy to understand these numbers,” said Nikolai Astrup, who heads an EU panel for his political party, the Conservatives, which wants Norway to finally join the EU. “We need to be better at getting other perspectives into the Norwegian debate.”
The latest public opinion poll, conducted by research firm Sentio for newspapers Klassekampen and Nationen, showed that opposition to the EU continues to grow. Fully 65 percent of Norwegians questioned said they would vote against joining the EU if a new referendum was held today.
Just over 10 percent said they weren’t sure what was best for Norway, while only 24.9 percent said they vote in favour of joining the EU.
The leader of the anti-EU organization, Nei til EU, told Nationen that he was quite pleased with the poll results. Heming Olaussen said that far more Europeans are also critical about the EU system, and he claimed it’s no longer “uniquely Norwegian” to be against EU membership.
Paal Frisvold, who heads the pro-EU group Europabevegelsen that keeps trying to get Norwegians to look favourably on EU membership, also said he could understand the opposition given the effects of the finance crisis. Neither he nor Astrup, however, intend to give up their promotion of the EU.
“We’re already a part of the EU’s inner market, and our economic situation is just as influenced by problems in Europe as it would be if we were members,” Astrup told Klassekampen.
Meanwhile, the government urges international cooperation
Norway’s left-center government coalition has refused to take up the EU issue because its parties are split on the issue themselves. The government just this week, though, hosted a conference in Oslo on the need to tackle unemployment in the wake of the finance crisis. It was attended by, among others, the prime ministers of both Spain and Greece, the EU countries hardest hit by economic problems.
“Cooperation, cooperation, cooperation,” intoned Norwegian Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen, who claimed that “tight international cooperation” is the key to getting out of the crisis.
Johnsen’s Labour Party fellow and boss, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of Labour both favour joining the EU.