Eurosceptic Norwegian politicians gathering steam ahead of Monday’s national elections say they hope to challenge the ‘irresponsible bureaucrats in Brussels’ as the country prepares for the prospect of a ‘mini-Brexit’.
After eight years of a pro-European conservative government led by Erna Solberg’s Høyre, polls show the ruling party has gained support over the past 12 months.
A left-green coalition of one form or another is expected to take victory in Monday’s national elections, with each partnership responding to the support of several Eurosceptic parties.
Now opposition parties preparing for a serious challenge have criticized the ‘unexplained bureaucrats in Brussels’ amid backlash against the bloc ahead of next week’s elections.
“The problem with the agreement we have today is that we are gradually transferring more and more power from the Storting (the Norwegian parliament), from Norwegian legislators to the bureaucrats in Brussels who bear no responsibility,” explains Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum.
Experts are now predicting that Oslo’s relationship with the European Union could suffer as Norwegian eurosceptics hope for their own ‘mini-Brexit’.
Opposition parties gearing up for a serious challenge have crushed “inexplicable bureaucrats in Brussels” amid backlash against the bloc ahead of next week’s elections. Above: Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (center) speaking alongside leadership rivals Erna Solberg and Jonas Gahr Store (left)
Brussels is said to watch nervously as polls ahead of the Norwegian election suggest the country is considering a ‘mini-Brexit’. [File picture]
Norway is not a member of the European Union, but has been closely linked to the bloc since 1992 through its own agreement on the European Economic Area.
The deal gives the small Scandinavian country access to the common market in exchange for the adoption of most European directives – including the free movement of people, workers and tariff-free trade.
While Norwegians have twice rejected EU membership, in referendums in 1972 and 1994, a majority is in favor of the current EEA agreement.
“In Norway we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a big country like Britain failed to gain much in its negotiations,” said Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
But both the Center Party and the Socialist Left – the Labor Party’s closest allies, who together support about 20 percent of voters – have called for an end to the current marriage of convenience.
During the election campaign, the EU issue has gradually been put on the back burner as the Center Party – which briefly led the polls – has seen its support dwindle.
The Center Party defends the interests of its national base and wants to replace the EEA with trade and cooperation agreements.
But Labor leader Jonas Gahr Store, who is expected to become the next prime minister, does not want to jeopardize the country’s ties with the EU, which is by far Norway’s largest trading partner.
After eight years of a pro-European conservative government led by Erna Solberg’s (above) Høyre, polls show the ruling party has gained support over the past 12 months
Labor leader Jonas Gahr Store (pictured) said he doesn’t want to jeopardize his country’s ties with the EU
“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 other options’… No one will pick up the phone and be prepared to renegotiate the terms,” he said in the same debate.
It is possible that the parties will unite on global issues, such as the fight against climate change, to bring Norway and the EU closer together.
“Cooperation with the EU is very likely to become stronger because of the climate problem” which “could become a source of friction” within the next coalition, Sverdrup suggested.
“While the past 25 years has been a period of increasingly close cooperation, and while we can therefore expect it to likely continue, there are still question marks” around Norway’s future ties to the EU, he said.
The EEA agreement is ‘fundamental’ for relations between the EU and its partners Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, said EU spokesman Peter Stano.
But when it comes to future relations, the spokesperson added: “We do not speculate on possible election results, nor do we comment on different party positions.”