Despite Toying With 'Mini Brexit' Norway Not Expected to 'Jeopardise' Ties with EU Bloc
15:17 GMT 11.09.2021 (Updated: 13:59 GMT 05.08.2022)
Norway will hold elections on 13 September, that polls suggest the ruling Conservative Party is likely to lose to a Labour-led coalition, with many wondering whether this may impact its relationship with the EU.
As Norway is set to vote in parliamentary elections on Monday, the Scandinavian country's relationship with the European Union is not deemed to be heading for much dramatic change, despite predicted outcomes, reported AP.
Norway, while not a member of the EU, is closely linked to the bloc through a European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, granting it access to the common market. In turn, the country is required to adopt a majority of European directives.
Polls have suggested
the country is heading for a change of administration after eight years of a pro-European centre-right government led by the Conservative Party's Erna Solberg. The left-of-centre "red" bloc has been pulling ahead in polls by a good margin.
Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store, tipped to become Norway's next prime minister, will be entrusted with forming a "red-green" coalition. Norway's relationship with the European bloc has been called into question by both the Centre Party and the Socialist Left. The Labour Party's closest allies jointly pull in around 20 percent of voter support.
"The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting (Norway's Parliament), from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable", Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum argued in a recently televised debate.
The Centre Party has argued its case, hoping to replace the EEA with a plethora of individual trade and cooperation agreements. However, Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store appears to be unwilling to jeopardise ties with Norway's biggest trading partner.
"If I go to my wife and say 'Look, we've been married for years and things are pretty good, but now I want to look around to see if there are any other options out there'... Nobody (in Brussels) is going to pick up the phone and be willing to renegotiate the terms", parried Gahr Store in the same debate.
"If your wife were riding roughshod over you every day, maybe you would react", responded Slagsvold Vedum of the Centre Party.
Norwegian eurosceptics may have toyed with the notion of a "mini-Brexit" in the wake of Britain's departure from the bloc, but the challenges plaguing the UK-EU divorce
have hardly been encouraging, suggests the outlet.
"In Norway, we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a big country like Britain did not manage to win very much in its negotiations", Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, was cited as saying.
Norwegians rejected EU membership in two referendums, held in 1972 and 1994, with a majority supporting the current EEA agreement. Accordingly, the issue was shifted to the backburner during the election campaign as the Centre Party witnessed its support dwindle.
While Norway's relationship with the bloc will hinge on the distribution of seats in parliament post-election, little overall change is expected, according to analysts.
"The Labour Party will surely be firm about the need to maintain the EEA agreement… even if that means making concessions to the other parties in other areas", Johannes Bergh, a political scientist at the Institute for Social Research, was quoted as predicting. EU spokesman Peter Stano was cited as underscoring that the EEA agreement is "fundamental" for relations between the EU and its partners, such as Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. However, he refused to "speculate on possible election outcomes".