With anti-Brussels lawmakers gaining traction ahead of today’s national elections, a new wave of euroskepticism could be unleashed in Norway.
The country heads to the polls today, and one of the primary discussion issues will be the country’s relationship with the European Union, as well as the future of oil and climate change. More than four million people will be eligible to vote this morning, despite recent surveys showing the ruling pro-European conservative government losing ground. A left-green alliance is projected to win, with any leadership agreement relying on support from eurosceptic parties.
Any Labour-led coalition will be supported by the Centre Party, the Socialist Left, and the Red Party.
The three parties have all expressed their views on Brussels and urged for a rethinking of Norway’s relationship with the EU.
Eurosceptics in Norway are aiming to stage their own “mini-Brexit.”
Experts now believe that Oslo’s relationship with the EU will worsen as a result of the growing chance that they will be able to sway the next government.
“The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting, from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable.” said Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, head of the Centre Party.
Despite the fact that Norway is not a member of the EU, it maintains tight ties with the group under the European Economic Area Agreement.
The agreement gives the Scandinavian country access to the EU’s single market in exchange for adhering to the bloc’s regulations, which include free movement of people and employees as well as tariff-free trade.
Norwegians had previously voted no in referendums on EU membership in 1972 and 1994.
Despite this, the current EEA arrangements are supported by a majority of voters.
“In Norway, we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a bid country like Britain did not manage to win very much in its negotiations.” said Ulf Sverdrup, head of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
Jonas Gahr Store, the Labour Party’s leader, is expected to be tasked with establishing a government, which could include the Centre Party and the Socialist Left.
Both have urged for Norway’s ties with the EU to be terminated immediately.
Oslo’s payments to Brussels’ coffers have been slashed, according to the Centre Party.
Between 2014 and 2021, Norway paid the EU £2.3 billion.
Mr Store, who is a strong supporter of Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is anticipated to speak out in favour of keeping ties with Brussels intact.
“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 is going to pick up the phone and will be willing to renegotiate terms.” he stated in a recent discussion. Nobody is going to pick up the phone and agree to rework the terms.”
Instead, Mr. Sverdrup suggests that Norway enhance its cooperation with Brussels on matters such as climate change.
“Cooperation with the EU will very likely become stronger because of the climate issue.” he said.
He went on to say that this could cause “friction” in the next government coalition in Oslo.
“Even if the past 25 years have been a period of more close cooperation, and we may thus anticipate it to continue,” he remarked, “there are still questions.”
The EEA agreement is “essential” for relations between the EU, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, according to a spokesman for the European Commission.
“We neither speculate on prospective election outcomes nor comment on different party positions,” he continued.