EU support rises, but not in Norway

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Fully 60 percent of citizens in the European Union (EU) think their various homelands’ membership in the EU is “a good thing,” according to a new survey of public opinion. That’s the highest level in 25 years, but in Norway, the skeptics still prevail.

The EU flag seems to be flying higher within the EU itself, but still not in Norway. PHOTO: EU Commission

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend on how polling agency Kantar Public had recently questioned 27,601 citizens of the EU’s 28 member countries. The results are compiled in the EU’s twice-yearly Eurobarometer.

Only 13 percent think their countries’ EU member is “a bad thing.” The survey revealed that 67 percent believe their home county had benefited from EU membership, a level that also broke a record for being the highest since the question was first posed in 1983, 35 years ago. Support for the EU was highest in Luxembourg (85 percent), Ireland (81 percent) and Germany (79 percent), with even 76 percent of Danish citizens claiming their EU membership was a good thing. That’s the highest level of support for the EU in Denmark ever, even though Denmark has not adopted the euro and is known for strict immigration policy.

More solidarity
The numbers dash speculation and fears last year that discontent with the EU would rise and more countries would follow the UK in leaving the EU. Great Britain’s so-called Brexit process has instead proven difficult and may be delayed, while many British citizens living in and outside the UK are clamouring for another referendum on the issue in the hopes the process will be halted.

Major conflicts like US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of international agreements on climate change and Iran’s nuclear program, along with Trump’s various trade sanctions, have also helped bring the EU together. Aftenposten reported that there’s more resolve to make the EU stronger and able to take responsibility for its own defense, security and foreign policy. Most top officials in Norway, which has a long-standing trade deal of its own with the EU that requires it to follow most EU rules and regulations, also support a stronger EU at a time when the Trump Administration is generating doubt and uncertainty.

Norwegians still on their own
A majority of Norwegians, meanwhile, show no sign yet of wanting to join the EU. Norway is not included in the Eurobarometer since it’s not a member of the EU, but public opinion polls conducted regularly in Norway show consistently high resistance to joining. Aftenposten noted that only around 16 percent favoured joining the EU in a recent poll conducted by the bureau YouGov, with 68 percent answering that they’d vote “no” if a third referendum were to be held on EU membership.

The remaining 16 percent were undecided, but even if they all voted “yes,” the “no” side would still win.

EU advocates, including Norway’s ruling Conservative Party, can be consoled by a decline in those firmly opposed to joining the EU, who have amounted to more than 70 percent in previous polls. There’s also been a noticeable increase among Norwegian politicians stating that the EU needs to remain unified and strong given the international uncertainty and insecurity that’s arisen after Donald Trump was elected president of the US. Aftenposten noted that neither Trump, Brexit nor growth in the EU’s economy has nonetheless changed most Norwegians’ minds about EU membership.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund