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Scepticism over joining EU remains strong in Norway

IANS | Last Updated: Monday, May 5, 2014 - 22:48

Oslo: More Norwegians are against seeking European Union (EU) membership today than several decades ago, making the prospect of Norway joining the 28-member bloc look even dimmer, media reported Monday.

A new opinion poll shows that 70 percent Norwegians are against joining the EU, Xinhua reported citing the Norwegian news agency NTB.

Only 20.2 percent of the respondents in the poll, which was carried out by the agency Sentio for Norwegian-language newspapers Klassekampen and Nationen, were in favour of Norway joining the EU.

"The Norwegian resistance to (joining) the EU is strong and ongoing," said Heming Olaussen, leader of Nei til EU, a 26,000-strong Norwegian political group spearheading a "Say no to EU" movement.

"The idea that we would give up Norway to a United States of Europe? I think that idea is completely inedible to 90 percent of the Norwegian population," said Olaussen.

Norway has said no to joining the EU in two closely fought referendums, the first in 1972 and the last in 1994.

The result in 1994 was close with 52.2 percent of no votes and 47.8 percent of yes votes when the turnout was a massive 89 percent.

Since 1994, Norway has steadily aligned itself with the EU in economic and political matters, mainly through its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA is an agreement that facilitates trade between EU member countries and the four non-EU countries -- namely Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

Norway`s close alignment with the EU means the country effectively is a "member" of the EU without voting rights, said Jan Erik Grindheim, head of Norway`s pro-EU organisation Europabevegelsen or the Europe Movement.

The organisation currently has 3,000 members, down from a high of 9,000 as the pro-EU debate raged in the early 1990s.

Norway`s pro-European movement would like to remedy the situation by joining the EU. "It`s time for a new debate. We want the government to raise the issue," said Grindheim.

For Norwegian political parties, the issue of EU membership has been hot since the 1994 referendum and it is also a source of anxiety for the successive coalition governments struggling to rule together.
The No to EU movement would like to solve the problem by raising a debate about Norway`s membership in the EEA.
"It depends on how the EU develops. If it continues in a supranational direction, I think Norway will never join the EU," said Olaussen.

First Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 - 22:48
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