“It was a surprise to read about this in the newspaper. I’m disappointed,” said János Herman, the EU’s ambassador to Norway.
“This is a clear breach of the intention of the agreement that came into force in January this year,” he told newspaper Aftenposten.
Herman was referring to Article 19 of a European Economic Area (EEA) agreement renegotiated two years ago.
The treaty requires both parties to work towards a continual liberalization of trade in agricultural products.
“This treaty was negotiated in good faith. In our view, the change the Norwegian government is laying out here runs counter to the intention of the agreement,” said Herman.
The EU has contacted the Norwegian authorities to request all the details of the mulled changes. Both parties have an obligation to consult one another if difficulties arise in implementing the agreement.
“If they really go ahead with this… yes, there will be reactions. I don’t know what the reactions will be, but we are taking this seriously,” said Herman.
EU members Sweden and Denmark both took a dim view of Norway’s plans to sidestep the agreement and instead hike import duties on meat and cheese.
“The aim [of the agreement] is the abolition of tariffs and we have to move in that direction. Norway is going in the opposite direction,” Magnus Kindbom, secretary of state at the Swedish agriculture ministry, told newspaper Nationen.
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Denmark’s trade minister, Pia Olsen Dyhr, expressed similar concerns, arguing that the move would have major consequences for Norway and the rest of Europe.
“It’s going to be expensive for all of us,” she told Nationen.
“It will be expensive for European meat and cheese producers, and it will expensive for Norwegian consumers, who get less to choose from.”