Norway's relations with the EU and thus with Europe via the EEA agreement have become a growing theme in the election campaign. This is because the Center Party, with somewhat different support from the Red Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Green Party, is voting for the EEA agreement to be replaced by a trade agreement of unknown content and scope.
In the debate, it disappears how extensive Norway's cooperation with the EU is. The EEA agreement is both the umbrella over and the center of a comprehensive and growing institutional collaboration with the EU, which includes ever larger parts of society.
Salmon farming, aluminum, EU investments
But first a little about the EEA agreement and its significance. The core is that Norway in order to gain equal access to the EU's large market with about 440 million inhabitants has accepted the EU's pillars, which are the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers in the EU – and between Norway and the EU countries.
Norway has one of the world's most outgoing and open economies – almost 90 percent of our exports go to countries in Europe. Without comprehensive and growing trade with Europe and other countries, our welfare state will hardly be sustainable.
For business means EEA Agreement, with the support of the veterinary agreement with the EU, for example that salmon farmers on the island Lovund on Helgeland, or in Alta in Finnmark, send their salmon with trailers and rail without delaying intermediaries at customs stations in Europe directly to the major distribution markets in Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Paris and Madrid. The same goes for fresh and frozen white fish and herring. Last year, we exported seafood worth about NOK 100 billion, mainly to EU countries. However, the EEA agreement has restrictions when it comes to processing Norwegian fresh seafood such as smoked salmon or delicacy herring. It takes place in the Baltic states, Poland and Denmark. So what does the Center Party, the Red Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Green Party want to change for this product area?
Since 2014, Norwegian institutions have received about NOK 14 billion in research funding from the EU.
When it comes to industrial products such as aluminum, our factories are in full swing and exporting at record high prices to the European market. As a result of this development, Hydro's shares have risen by about 200 per cent in recent months. What do the EEA opponents want to have changed here?
With regard to services in both private and public sector, there is a mutually growing market from which large Norwegian companies such as Telenor also have great advantages. What is it in the EEA agreement that the Center Party, the Red Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Green Party believe is harmful to Norwegian services?
In terms of population, Norway is one of the world's largest investors thanks to the Government Pension Fund Global. We make big money, now more than a thousand billion kroner a year on the fund's investments. About 30 percent of these investments are in EU countries. Will the Center Party, Rødt, SV and Frp put obstacles in the way of the fund's great benefits of free flow of capital?
With regard to the EU's free labor market, there have long been problems for Norwegian workers and the Norwegian trade union movement. Social dumping and criminalization of the labor market are major challenges that must be solved, but it helps little for workers in Europe if we find a Norwegian solution if there is not at the same time a law that is rooted in the EU provides improvements.
25 EU institutions and 12 co-operation programs
In addition to the EEA agreement, Norway is a member of about 25 EU institutions that work for improved social conditions in a number of areas for all countries in the EU and the EEA. These include aviation, energy cooperation (ACER, which is an institutional tool to ensure the secure and ever-growing energy supply of all EU and EEA member states), banking cooperation, satellite navigation, medical cooperation (covid-19 and vaccine cooperation), information security cooperation and communication technology, police cooperation and 18 other areas of society. Which of these EU institutions in addition to ACER and the railway package are the Center Party, the Red Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Green Party want to report Norway out of?
The Center Party is in line with strong voices on the nationalist side in politics in all countries in Europe.
Norwegian partners also participate in at least 12 cooperation programs with the EU. This applies to extensive and ever-growing research and development collaboration with an increasing number of Norwegian participating institutions. Since 2014 alone, these institutions have received about NOK 14 billion in research funding from the EU. This applies to a growing student exchange between Norway and the EU countries, which for many years now includes thousands of students, and it includes a diverse cultural collaboration. Furthermore, it applies to cooperation on satellite monitoring and thus navigation in the air, on land and at sea, as well as eight other program areas. Which programs do the Center Party, the Red Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Green Party want to keep, and which ones do they think harm Norwegian interests and Norwegian society and therefore have to go away?
The ideological justifications of four parties
When reading the respective programs of the four parties, the ideological political rationale for no to the EEA and the EU is different.
FRP seems somewhat simplistic to think that the EU is a kind of international social democratic monster institution that hinders the free life of people, or more precisely the free life of rich people within an ethnic nation-state. The FRP is here in line with other right-wing radical parties in Europe and the Republicans in the United States.
The Center is in its program quite clear that it wants international cooperation between independent nation states. Thus, the EU becomes an abomination by definition. In its program, the Center Party wants to end Norway's cooperation with the EU as it takes place today. Here they are in line with strong voices on the nationalist side in the politics of all countries in Europe.
Red Like other European political parties on the far left, has a negative view of the EU as a hotbed of international big capital, and the party is strongly negative in its discussion of the way Norway cooperates with the EU.
SV differs from all other left-wing social democratic parties in Europe.
SV uses in its communication of EU policy the simple expression of the EEA as «import of right-wing politics from Brussels». SV differs from all other left-wing social democratic parties in Europe in its perception of the EU. The Danish sister party SF has a clearly positive attitude towards the EU. The Left Party in Sweden has gone from no to yes to the EU, and the other of SV's sister parties in Europe are positive.
The four parties have in common that they want to go to Brussels to pick raisins in the EU package. Then remember how other countries in and outside Europe look at us. When it comes to living standards, we are at the top of the world, and the national economy is solid. The EU countries have 440 million inhabitants, and only a minority of them have as good a standard of living as we Norwegians. Do the leaders of the Center Party, the Red Party, the Socialist People's Party and the Green Party really believe in their own promises of raisin picking in Brussels? Maybe, but their policies are not credible.
Labor Party and MDG
On the red-green side of the election campaign, the Labor Party is adamant that EEA co-operation and all other co-operation with the EU should continue. They have a partner in the Green Party. The MDGs have the same positive attitude towards European cooperation as all other green parties in Europe. There are many indications that the MDGs will have a group of 8 to 10 representatives in the new Storting, and this strengthens the Yes to Europe group on the red-green side. At the same time, the Labor Party must make a good choice to secure EEA relations with Europe.