Theater of Cruelty

The continent we are part of

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.
EUROPA / It is not the magazine's intention to dwell on Norway's affiliation with the EU. On the contrary. The exercise is inspired by the ongoing process in all EU countries with conferences and studies on the role and direction of EU co-operation. Is it possible to change the EU?


Key topics are how Europe and the EU will tackle the challenges in areas such as health, environment, climate, digitalisation, migration pressure, tax and security. Moreover, how can EU cooperation help restore and promote the credibility of democracy in Europe and the rest of the world?

Neither the previous nor the current Norwegian government has responded to the EU's call, although the origins of the conference can be traced all the way back to French President Emmanuel Macron's speech in the Sorbonne in 2017 – and later Ursula von der Leyen's mandate to gain a majority in the European Parliament.

No other Norwegian environment, such as the Arena Center for European Research, NUPI or others, has initiated Norwegian reflections. The discussion about Europe's future, which has not taken place since the conference on the EU's constitution in 2001, in which Norwegian members of the Storting participated, takes place entirely without Norway. This is what MODERN TIMES's editor wanted Truls Lie and I do something with. And thanks to the support of Fritt ord we have been able to publish this booklet with contributions from 25 leading actors within a wide range of society.

The EU's structure and bureaucracy

Regardless of our own relationship with the EU and Norway's affiliation, we must now take a closer look at which and what kind of EU we want. Or rather, what kind of Europe do we want: How should it be governed? And what should European countries cooperate and not cooperate on? Because even though Norway is not a member of the EU, we are part of Europe and to some extent connected to the EU through the EEA. That is why we asked forty people we consider to be opinion leaders, i.e. prominent actors within professional fields that are more or less covered by EU cooperation's policy, regulations and function.

We received contributions from 25, which are partially reproduced in this magazine. An impressive effort for which we are very grateful. It has required a lot of time and reflection to put down on paper what everyone wants with European cooperation. For the contributors show that there is both breadth and interest in Europe's choice of path. Especially after Russias invasion of Ukraine This opens up a completely new era in Europe. Other leading academics and social actors responded in this way: "This is broader than what I usually work on", or "I have thought a bit and think that I am not the right person to answer this. I simply know far too little about the questions you ask”; "this is probably far outside my core competence"; and "I do not have a qualified point of view on what the EU should deprioritise […], nor on security policy cooperation in Europe or on how closely integrated the EU project should be".

The consequences of Norway's lack of political participation in the EU have clearly led to the erosion of knowledge and commitment to how Europe is governed. The EU has in many ways become a Norwegian political "blind spot" – the word also used as the title of Professor Finn Arnesen's NAV commission. The contributors to this magazine nevertheless show the opposite: There are still many people committed to Europe out there.

At the same time, Europe is not everything. But it is now even the continent we are a part of. A Norwegian Europe must begin by including the history of European integration and the construction of the EU in both primary and secondary school. Linn Stalsberg says it best when she writes: "Answering questions about the EU is like appearing for an oral exam and not understanding any of the questions, even though you are sure you read the entire syllabus. Even for those of us politically interested, the EU's structure, bureaucracy, mandate and methods are a sauce of ambiguities." She is absolutely right. Because although knowledge of all forms of international cooperation is most often reserved for the country's upper echelons, for example all Belgian schoolchildren learn several times during the 12-year compulsory schooling about the EU's origins, institutions, enlargements and member states . Many EU countries' curricula even include the EFTA countries and the EEA.

In addition, we have a Norwegian "Brexit phenomenon" in that many simply do not want to say anything about European cooperation for fear of having to stand up for their position on Norwegian membership – since it is still perceived as
divisive and painful.

A better integrated Europe

This magazine's 25 articles from recognized personalities in various fields give us a good picture of the complexity of EU cooperation, such as the relationship between national sovereignty and European sovereignty, and areas that require and do not require intensified cooperation. Those interested in Europe will hopefully read it with both interest and pleasure. A consistent response is the need for a more united and better integrated Europe, whether it concerns climate measures, respect for human rights, protection against and handling of big tech or security and defense policy. As Erik Solheim writes: "The answer to almost all important questions for Norway in the coming decades is more Europe."

The EU's democratic deficit and the bureaucracy's unbearable power.

Something many respondents are concerned about: How can the EU become more democratic? How can most people gain a greater understanding of the EU's complex decision-making mechanisms? Iver B. Neumann points to the need to give the European Commission greater authority to propose new measures, while Mathilde Fasting is keen to strengthen the European Parliament's legislative role in areas where member states still have veto rights.


One proposal that may receive greater attention during the conference i Strasbourg in May on the EU's future, is a possible change in the EU's decision-making process: The problem with the current system is the Commission's monopoly on proposing new policies and regulations, which many would say shows the EU's democratic deficit and the intolerable power of the bureaucracy. The founders thought it was an advantage that the representatives from each country in the EU Council of Ministers and all representatives of the European Parliament did not have the right of initiative, as is the case in the two chambers of the American Congress. Today, many claim that each country's right of veto in foreign and security policy matters is no longer only a problem for Europe, but for the whole world, since it implies that Chinese and Russian economic interests will be able to divide and paralyze Europe's position on matters of Syria, Ukraine or the Middle East when Europe is unable to reach an agreement when the major conflicts arise. Requirement for unanimity also limits the EU's ability to deal with its own member states' violations of the EU constitution's principles of the rule of law, as we see in Poland and Hungary. We see the same in connection with migration policy, where a lack of solidarity between the EU countries, and otherwise also the Schengen country Norway, contributes to a paralyzed policy in an area that Sylo Taraku writes is the EU's biggest challenge.

Only when the EU countries manage to get rid of yesterday's right of veto can Europe assume the role of power factor alongside the US, China and Russia and assert its values ​​in an increasingly competitive and unpredictable world. It will also be in Norway's interest.

The results of the conferences on the future of Europe will be presented in May in Strasbourg, under the auspices of the French presidency.

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Being in the opposing position

ŽIŽEK: Despite the fact that he has been a public intellectual for at least 30 years, there has never before been such a multifaceted and nuanced discussion of Slavoj Žižek's thinking as the one we see in the current anthology. But does Žižek recognize the revolutionary potential of desire?

Doesn't the ground hurt, brother?

ANIMALS: Ethically speaking, we are way overtime with our treatment of the non-human animals. Many of these have emotions such as fear, pity and sadness. We shouldn't eat animals, but what if we get sick from not doing so?

Personal and impressionistic war pictures

NORWEGIAN GAME FILM: 83-year-old Knut Erik Jensen is back with Longing for the present. A film that does not fit neatly into the ranks of modern Norwegian blockbusters about the Second World War.

Criticism as a role-playing game?

LITERATURE: The informal contexts where one could try and fail without having to stand up for every careless word have shrunk. In Eirik Vassenden's 229-page book about the critic, there are no fewer than 317 question marks. We also ask: Do literary scholars necessarily have any advantage when it comes to human knowledge, life experience or social understanding?

The Other – as a suffering being?

PHILOSOPHY: Wolfram Eilenberger describes here the struggle four philosophers – Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, Ayn Rand and Simone Weil fought to become independent people. The book succeeds well in putting them in context with the current events they got involved in and at the same time tried to get out of.

To bring thinking as close to life as possible

NIETZSCHE: Once it was faith in a God or a political party, today it is faith in work, consumption and the economy – that is, myself. According to Gilles Deleuze, what can one learn from Nietzsche?

The nature/human web

ANTHROPOCEN: The combined effects of our environmental impact have become a force on a par with volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, ice ages, floods and droughts. Can the 'anthropocene' as a concept, time phase and reality be interpreted at the intersection between (natural) science and politics today?

The animals in our world of fables and symbols

NATURE:How the world has looked from the animals' point of view – how mammals, reptiles, insects, birds and fish have reacted to us – has been absent from our imaginary world. When nature seemed threatening, it had to be fought.

I was completely out of the world

Essay: The author Hanne Ramsdal tells here what it means to be put out of action – and come back again. A concussion leads, among other things, to the brain not being able to dampen impressions and emotions.

Silently disciplining research

PRIORITIES: Many who question the legitimacy of the US wars seem to be pressured by research and media institutions. An example here is the Institute for Peace Research (PRIO), which has had researchers who have historically been critical of any war of aggression – who have hardly belonged to the close friends of nuclear weapons.

Is Spain a terrorist state?

SPAIN: The country receives sharp international criticism for the police and the Civil Guard's extensive use of torture, which is never prosecuted. Regime rebels are imprisoned for trifles. European accusations and objections are ignored.

Is there any reason to rejoice over the coronary vaccine?

COVID-19: There is no real skepticism from the public sector about the coronary vaccine – vaccination is recommended, and the people are positive about the vaccine. But is the embrace of the vaccine based on an informed decision or a blind hope for a normal everyday life?

The military commanders wanted to annihilate the Soviet Union and China, but Kennedy stood in the way

Military: We focus on American Strategic Military Thinking (SAC) from 1950 to the present. Will the economic war be supplemented by a biological war?


Bjørnboe: In this essay, Jens Bjørneboe's eldest daughter reflects on a lesser – known psychological side of her father.

Arrested and put on smooth cell for Y block

Y-Block: Five protesters were led away yesterday, including Ellen de Vibe, former director of the Oslo Planning and Building Agency. At the same time, the Y interior ended up in containers.

A forgiven, refined and anointed basket boy

Pliers: The financial industry takes control of the Norwegian public.

Michael Moore's new film: Critical to alternative energy

EnvironmentFor many, green energy solutions are just a new way to make money, says director Jeff Gibbs.

The pandemic will create a new world order

Mike Davis: According to activist and historian Mike Davis, wild reservoirs, like bats, contain up to 400 types of coronavirus that are just waiting to spread to other animals and humans.

The shaman and the Norwegian engineer

cohesion: The expectation of a paradise free of modern progress became the opposite, but most of all, Newtopia is about two very different men who support and help each other when life is at its most brutal.

Skinless exposure

Anorexia: shameless uses Lene Marie Fossen's own tortured body as a canvas for grief, pain and longing in her series of self portraits – relevant both in the documentary self Portrait and in the exhibition Gatekeeper.