While mourning Brexit and regretting the David Cameron government's fateful decision to hold a referendum in 2016, Bernt Hagtvet, a professor of political science at Bjørknes University College, Oslo, has argued now is the golden moment for Norway to join the European Union that he described as a “civilisational hedge against populist reaction and disdain of human rights”.
Describing Brexit as a “tragedy” that shouldn't have happened, Hagtvet stressed in an opinion piece in Aftenposten that never before has it been more important to get Norway involved in a binding cooperation in defence of the European civilisation “threatened by internal decay”. According to Hagtvet, Norway's EU membership will also end the problematic aspects of its European Economic Area affiliation, which many see as a costly adventure with no say.
Lamenting Brexit as “sad times”, Hagtvet noted that referendums remain a “foreign body” in a representative democracy, to be used only in extraordinary times, which was not the case in 2016. David Cameron's attempt to calm the Tories' Eurosceptic wing ended in a “disaster”, he noted.
Nevertheless, the EU has emerged “strengthened” from the Brexit negotiations, according to Hagtvet, as the “arrogant” Leave campaign met a “unified Brussels that negotiated smoothly and rationally”.
While listing the common anti-EU arguments, including bureaucracy, weak democratic legitimacy and huge economic gaps between member states, Hagvegt still described the EU as the only institution that can assert European interests against an “increasingly totalitarian and expansionary China”, “Putin's restorative and aggressive Panslavism”, and “a US that can no longer be trusted”.
“We will be able to form a Nordic bloc of 27 million people to deepen the Union's democratic roots, strengthen the European Parliament, and spread knowledge about the Nordic model”, Hagtvet mused.
Now that the UK, Norway's traditional ally, has “plunged itself into isolation”, Norway should more consciously associate itself with Germany, which he described as an important ally and Europe's most stable democracy.
“Let's face it: Only the EU has the strength to support a strong environmental policy. Only the EU can civilise capitalism through counterforces: properly taxing giant companies and protecting us from the invasion of private life through artificial intelligence and surveillance technology that will put Orwell's Big Brother to shame”, Hagtvet said.
Norway is currently the only Scandinavian nation to remain outside of the EU. Having said no to the EU in a 1994 national referendum, the Norwegians have consistently polled against joining the union in subsequent years. Despite this several political parties, including the governing Conservatives, are working to replace the current European Economic Area arrangement with full EU membership.