Eurosceptic Norwegian politicians building a head of steam ahead of Monday’s national elections say they hope to challenge the ‘unaccountable 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, polling shows the ruling party has been hemorrhaging support over the past 12 months.
A left-green coalition of some form is expected to emerge victorious at national elections on Monday, with any partnership replying on the support of several Eurosceptic parties.
Now opposition parties gearing up for a serious challenge have slammed ‘unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels’ amid a backlash against the bloc ahead of next week’s elections.
‘The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting (Norway’s parliament), from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable,’ Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum explained.
Experts are now predicting Oslo’s relationship with the European Union could suffer as a result, as Norwegian Eurosceptics hope for their own ‘mini-Brexit’.
Opposition parties gearing up for a serious challenge have slammed ‘unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels’ amid a backlash against the bloc ahead of next week’s elections. Above: Trygve Slagsvold Vedum (middle) speaks alongside leadership rivals Erna Solberg and Jonas Gahr Store (left)
Brussels is said to be watching on in nervous anticipation as polls ahead of Norway’s elections suggest the country is considering a ‘mini-Brexit’. [File picture]
Norway isn’t a member of the European Union, but has been closely linked to the bloc since 1992 through its own European Economic Area agreement.
The deal provides the small Scandinavian country access to the common market in exchange for the adoption of most European directives – including the free movements of people, workers, and tariff-free trading.
While Norwegians have rejected EU membership twice, in referendums in 1972 and 1994, a majority are in favour 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 did not manage to win very much in its negotiations,’ said Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
But both the Centre Party and the Socialist Left – the Labour Party’s closest allies, which together have around 20 percent of voter support – have called for the current marriage of convenience to come to an end.
During the election campaign, the EU issue has gradually been pushed to the back burner as the Centre Party – which briefly led in the polls – has seen its support deflate.
Defending the interests of its rural base, the Centre Party wants to replace the EEA with trade and cooperation agreements.
However, Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store, who is expected to become the next prime minister, does not want to jeopardise the country’s ties to the EU, which is by far Norway’s biggest trading partner.
After eight years of a pro-European conservative government, led by Erna Solberg’s (above) Høyre, polling shows the ruling party has been hemorrhaging support over the past 12 months
Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store (pictured) said he does not want to ‘jeoparadise’ his country’s ties to 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 any other options out there”… Nobody is going to pick up the phone and be willing to renegotiate the terms’, he said in the same debate.
There is a possibility the parties unite on global issues, such as the fight against climate change, to bring Norway and the EU closer together.
‘Cooperation with the EU will very likely become stronger because of the climate issue’ which ‘could become a source of friction’ within the next coalition, Sverdrup suggested.
‘Even though the past 25 years have been a period of increasingly close cooperation, and though we can therefore expect that it will probably continue, there are still question marks’ surrounding 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, according to EU spokesman Peter Stano.
But when it comes to future relations the spokesman added: ‘We do not speculate on possible election outcomes nor do we comment on different party positions.’