With the European Union mired in an enduring debt crisis, polls have shown that Norwegians are increasingly keen to extricate themselves from an agreement that has bound them to the EU’s internal market since 1994.
Navarsete, whose party is a junior partner in the country’s red-green coalition government, believes the time has come for a change in policy.
“The EEA agreement has been a sacred cow in Norwegian politics. Powerful forces within the parties and the bureaucracy have managed to keep a lid on the EEA debate,” she said.
“It has been considered laughable to be opposed, but the picture has changed radically in recent times. Now, for the first time since we got the EEA agreement, the scene is set for a real popular mobilization against the EEA.”
Navarsete, currently Norway's Minister of Local Government, said she hoped for the growth of a grass-roots movement that would gradually help push through a Norwegian rejection of the pact.
The Centre Party leader said she would be open to the issue being decided either by a referendum or a parliamentary resolution.
She added that her party would petition the government to examine alternatives to the EEA agreement if the red-green coalition is returned to power after the 2013 general election.
“People are starting to realize that they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes,” said Navarsete.
The European Economic Area comprises all 27 EU member states, along with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.