"The government will continue its cooperation with the EU in the joint development of arms. This will strengthen Europe as a relevant and strategic player, including NATO cooperation. We also want to participate in the EU Defense Research and Development Program," the Norwegian government program for EU cooperation said.
"We have not discussed this among fellow party members, but I think it is advantageous for Norway to participate," Labor member of the parliamentary Foreign and Defense Committee Svein Roald Hansen told Aftenposten.
Ann Kristin Salbuvik of the Defense Ministry wrote in an email to Aftenposten that the decision on Norwegian participation will be taken in the fall.
While Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist expressed fears that such form of collaboration only would benefit major EU actors, and Denmark opted out of EU defense cooperation, Norway emerged as the only non-EU member likely to be involved. At present, Norway is participating in a pilot project, which ends in 2020. Furthermore, there is a broad consensus in Norway about cooperation with NATO being the pillar of the country's security. All in all, 19 of the 28 EU member states have signaled their interest in the EU project.
With a defense spending of 1.55 percent of its GDP, Norway is not among the worst countries in the alliance, but the road to NATO's spending goal of 2 percent is still long. While Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the common NATO goal a "solid commitment," she also said she could not give any assurances that Norway would take strides in this direction. She also emphasized there was no actual need for it. Solberg ventured that it was the quality of defense that mattered and argued that Norway was "far ahead" in this department. Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende indicated that Norway was closest to the US in terms of defense expenditure in relation to the population, Aftenposten reported.
"We have a large defense industry in Norway, which will most likely have a lot to learn from EU cooperation in this sector," EEA Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen said in May.
In 2016, Norwegian arms exports fell by 20 percent to NOK 1.9 billion ($220 million). Except for 2015, weapons exports have had a negative trend since 2009, when export values amounted to NOK 3.1 billion.