Norwegian lawmakers and bureaucrats obediently follow directives issued by the European Union (EU), now probably on controversial data storage rules as well, even though Norway isn’t an EU member. The latest example of obedience brought together arch-rivals Labour and the Conservatives, because of their leaders’ desires to avoid an EU veto.
The two parties made for strange political bedfellows on Monday, when the Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg and Labour veteran Martin Kolberg announced that they’d agreed on how Norway could follow a controversial EU directive on storage of electronic communications data (called the datalagringsdirektiv in Norwegian). Since Norway is a member of the EU’s economic area (EEA), it’s supposed to abide by many EU regulations and directives. The data directive, though, split Norway’s left-center coalition government, with Labour’s two coalition partners (the Socialist Left and the Center Party ) refusing to approve it and exercising their right to dissent.
That left Labour alone in its desire to push the directive through Parliament, where most all other parties opposed it because of concerns the directive would violate Norwegians’ fundamental right to free and private communication. Labour has promoted the EU’s arguments that the data storage directive would allow police to better fight crime and terrorism, and that it wouldn’t compromise privacy.
Facing the lack of a majority to win approval for the directive, and the prospect of Norway’s first EU veto ever, Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) huddled with the Conservatives (Høyre), which has a long history of support for the EU. Even though many Members of Parliament from the Conservatives also oppose to the EU directive, party leader Solberg agreed to negotiate with Labour. The result was Monday’s unusual political agreement between the parties that usually are political foes.
Solberg and some party fellows tried to put the best spin on the pact, claiming they pared down the amount of time Labour wanted for data storage (12 months) to the EU minimum of six months. The Conservatives claimed they also won on several other issues, regarding, for example, registration over who gains access to or examines stored electronic communications and assurance of monitoring control by regulatory agency Datatilsynet (which has opposed the directive on privacy grounds).
Opponents still maintain concerns that the directive will store all data on where, how and when Norwegians use their telephones, e-mail and the Internet. There’s still a chance some Conservative MPs will vote against the measure when it comes up in Parliament, even though Solberg believes they’ll be loyal to the party line. She’s acutely aware the issue is difficult for her party, and that it already has caused some members to defect.
The Labour-Conservative alliance suggests Norway once again will be obedient towards the EU and the EEA. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Tuesday that Norway is the second-most obedient of all 30 countries within the EEA after having implemented 99.8 percent of the EU’s laws and regulations. That’s up from 21st place just a few years ago, when Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre scolded Norwegian bureaucrats for implementing EU regulations too slowly.
Only Malta has a better record of encompassing EU laws and regulations than Norway, reported Aftenposten, while Italy reportedly was worst.