Around half of the politicians expected to be elected to the next Parliament (Storting) on September 9 would either like to see Norway join the European Union (EU) or go along with EU directives, according to a new survey conducted for the organization that continues to oppose EU membership, Nei til EU.
With Norway’s conservative parties running ahead of the socialist parties in public opinion polls, the anti-EU group said this week that it fears “an EU-servile” parliament. It’s urging its supporters to vote for the parties that oppose EU membership, not least the Center Party (Sp) and the Socialist Left (SV).
The survey covered nearly 400 candidates for parliament from 11 political parties, reported ABC Nyheter, and of the 169 politicians most likely to become MPs, 84 support EU membership and 64 oppose it. Another 21 were unsure or didn’t want to answer the question.
Norwegian voters have turned down EU membership twice, and overall public opposition to EU membership reached record levels during the height of the recent European debt and euro crises.The public has earlier held a different opinion than the majority of their elected representatives, not least when the Labour-led government promoted EU membership at the last referendum in 1994 but the public narrowly turned it down.
Broaching the subject again
Now, nearly 20 years later, some politicians have carefully begun calling for a reevaluation of EU membership and want to take up the issue once again. It was placed firmly on ice during the last eight years of the current Labour-led left-center government, because while Labour’s leaders support EU membership, its two government partners (SV and Sp) are firmly opposed. With no prospect of agreeing on the EU issue, the government simply ignored it.
With the Conservative Party (Høyre) expected to form a right-center government, EU membership may return to the agenda. Høyre seems poised to gain seats in Parliament and has traditionally wanted Norway to join the EU. The Progress Party, Norway’s third-largest and now a potential government partner for Høyre, has been non-committal, refusing to take a firm stand and letting its members make their own choices. While several now seem to be leaning against EU membership, their votes may be offset by Høyre’s added numbers.
The Nei til EU lobby is already gearing up to nip any pro-EU effort in the bud. “If voters don’t change their minds by Election Day, we can get a Storting that will lay down flatter for the EU than we’ve seen earlier,” the group announced on its website this week. “Høyre has never said ‘no’ to anything that comes from Brussels and the parties most critical to the EU are vulnerable.”
The group thus wants to actually bring up the EU question during the next few weeks of the election campaign, and spread candidates’ views to the districts, where EU opposition is strongest.