However, since its independence in 1905, Norway has worked towards building a strong economic base for its economy, although farmers and farming, too, continue to be strong identities in the nationalistic perception of Norwegians, its fishing industry, oil production and other natural resources. Norway’s fishing industry is strong, although the country has some concerns about pollution and environmental issues, they’re not strong or serious enough to adversely impact Norway’s fishing economy.
First Attempts to Join the EC
At its inception, in 1948, the European Union was known as has the European Community, the EC; that a fully integrated Norway would mean economic enlargement for the EU. It offered attractive benefits to the European nations, and initially those benefits were comprised of a unified security system and economic incentives. One of the most appealing benefits for Norway, certainly appealing to Norway’s farmers, is a subsidized farm plan that would generate income for Norway’s farmers who are impacted by the geographical region and the climate conditions, two factors that keep Norway’s farmers at an otherwise low economic level of contribution to Norway’s overall economy
The laws that govern the EU’s subsidy programs are complex, and while they may at first appear as an incentive to Norwegian farmers, the rules governing subsidies are based on the WTO rules, and “provides for the imposition of duties when subsidized imports cause or threaten to cause material injury to the Community industry producing goods like the imported ones and the imposition of such duties would be in the Community interest (Henry, Hyett, and Macleod, 1996, 281). Based on that language, Norway’s farmers would enjoy some measure of economic protection and benefit should Norway fully integrate. It is this kind of incentive that has turned some Norwegians in favor of full integration.
In 1950 when the European Union was evolving from a concept into an organization, the Norwegian government was not adverse to the idea of being a member, but rejected the idea of surrendering its economic and political decision making powers to a European body that might not look out for Norway’s best interest (Gsthol, 2002, p. 46).
Norway and the EFTA
As has already been mentioned, from its inception the EC/EU represented the potential for economic success and power by pulling together its member nation-state’s economic resources that, together, would make Europe the most formidable market economy in the world. Unfortunately, for nations like Norway, the quid pro quo of what Norway would bring to the table vs. The return on that contribution, versus the potential loss in non-economic areas, was too great for Norway to consider either its fishing industry or natural resources, or worth surrendering its political autonomy.
EFTA, European Free Trade Association, is the response of the European nations that did not immediately join the EU/EC. The effort to unify the European countries initially divided, rather than unify Europeans in perspectives as regards the EC/EU (Gsthol, 2002, 2). Perhaps even to some extent to cause unification of the divided through the employment of certain economic measures that, if successful, could negatively impact the economies of the countries who resisted the philosophy of the EC/EU, the EC went for the long-term economic position of favoring “supranational customs union with the long-term objective of a political union (Gsthol, 2002, 2). Those countries that resisted the EC, again, consisting of Great Britain, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland; responded with EFTA, European Free Trade Association (Gsthol, 2002, 2). It was their goal that EFTA would keep open the European markets to free trade, perhaps ignoring the EC/EU objectives and goals (Gsthol, 2002, 2). However, it was just the following year that Great Britain, Norway and Denmark (and Ireland) joined the EC (Gsthol, 2002, 2). This does not mean that they “fully integrated,” only that they applied to be members (Gsthol, 2002, 2). Their application was vetoed by France, who vetoed the EFTA countries the second time they applied too (Gsthol, 2002, 2). It was only after the resignation of DeGaulle that the EFTA countries were admitted, but by that particular point in time Norway responded to its country’s adverse reaction to the notion of joining, and did not reapply to join the EC (Gsthol, 2002, 2). By 1984, the EC and EFTA countries had entered into free trade agreements (FTAs), which proved successful and served to bind those EFTA countries, whose membership had increased, with the EC, if not in a formal manner, at least with respect to certain economic measures as governed by the FTAs (Gsthol, 2002, 2).
The relationship between the EFTA countries and the EC was and is complex in nature and continues to be subject to evolving and updated referendums and agreements. Short of the individual agreements, and short of EFTA in the legalese in which it is described, EFTA served to bind those countries with the EC in a way that kept them in negotiations and working toward what might become full integration into the EU. Especially since much of the EU economic and trade policy that has emerged from it have been policies and agreements that are friendly and fair to the non-integrated countries, encouraging continued trade and, thusly, continued negotiations of those country’s relationships with and within the EU.
However, friendly as the EU’s economic policies may be, and perhaps they are designed to keep the relationship between the EU and those non-EU countries open and in forward progress mode, the EU has continued to issue policies that have limited even further than ever before the sovereignty of individual nation-states (Gsthol, 2002, 3).
The 1980’s: Conservative Governments Rule Norway
It was during the 1980s that the EU’s foreign and security policies evolved to a more attractive level such as was needed to attract Norway’s conservative government leadership (Gsthol, 2002, 157). However, the WEU was revived and earned the support of Greece and Portugal, and Portugal, like Norway, had held out against committed integration into the EC/EU; and Greece, too, became a supporting nation of the WEU (Gsthol, 2002, 157). Unfortunately, there arose disagreements between the United States and its NATO partners (Gsthol, 2002, 157). The disagreements between the U.S. And its NATO allies only bolstered their leaning towards their own European neighbors, who, as Europeans, interests would be more in line with Norway’s own. As Norway pursued relationships with its European neighbors, it became apparent that the only way to pursue relations and to build relationships that would be politically and economically advantageous would be for Norway to become a member of the EC (Gsthol, 2002, 157).
A second try to join the EC, now called EU
In 1994, the referendum for full integration into the EU went before the Norwegian people; they voted no. The prevailing mood of the people during the 1994 election was one of nationalism, and lack of confidence in the EU’s leadership abilities on a world scale. In 1994, the EU had made little impact as a unified body on world political policy or decision processes on global or even on a European level. This may be because the EU was still evolving, and continues to do so, although clearly today the EU is no longer in its infancy.
Reasons for the “No”-decision
If we listen closely to the message of Knut Vollebaek, he suggests that the status quo with the European Union is to the satisfaction of Norwegians. “Despite not being a member,” Vollebaek says, “Norway has developed extensive links with the European Union, which accounts for approximately 75% of Norwegian trade (Vollebaek, 2003, 1). After all, Norwegians have benefited from trade agreements between itself and the EU in ways that even member states have not; without making any sacrifices for that benefit. If Norway joined the EU, they would have to surrender sovereignty over its fishing waters to the control of the EU (Gstohl, 2002, 130). Efforts were made to resolve this problem, and the EU made concessions that would have allowed Norway to maintain control over its waters during a 10-year transitional period (Gstohl, 2002, 135). Had Norway fully integrated in 1972, by the 1980s it would have been required to surrender its control over its fishing waters to other member states of the EU (Gstohl, 2002, 135). As might be expected, Norway’s fishermen rejected any idea of losing control over their fishing waters (Gstohl, 2002, 135).
In 1994, Norway’s fishing industry, farm industry, and its trade unions – in a departure from its 1972 position of pro-EU, all held together in a voting bloc that opposed full integration into the EU (Gstohl, 2002, 197). With the question of full integration on its election agenda, some 88% of Norwegian citizens turned out for the vote; 52.2% of them voting against full integration with the EU (Gstohl, 2002, 197).
Also, primary Norwegian exports like steel and aluminum
Norway’s future: is it likely to join?
The future for Norway becoming fully integrated into the EU is…