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EUROPEAN UNION

Peace group brands EU Nobel win ‘unlawful’

Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union is "unlawful" since it is not a "champion of peace" as defined by the will of founder Alfred Nobel, the International Peace Bureau said on Monday.

Peace group brands EU Nobel win 'unlawful'
File photo: Rock Cohen

In an open letter to Sweden's Nobel Foundation, the organization asked that this year's eight million kroner-prize ($1.19 million) be withheld, a demand that was immediately rejected by the Norwegian committee tasked with selecting the peace laureate.

"The European Union … clearly is not one of 'the champions of peace' Alfred Nobel had in mind and described in his will," the peace federation wrote.

The Swedish industrialist and philanthropist, who died in 1896, said in his testament that the award should go to the "person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

The International Peace Bureau noted that the EU "is not seeking to realize a demilitarization of international relations", and that its members "condone security based on military force and have waged wars rather than insisting on the need for alternative approaches."

The Geneva-based peace network, which has more than 300 member organizations and was itself the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910, accused the committee of having "redefined" the prize, which now also recognizes environmentalists and anti-poverty campaigners.

The only Nobel Prize given out in Norway was on October 12th awarded to a crisis-stricken EU for its "advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe."

The award will be presented to the EU on December 10th, which is the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.

In Oslo, the influential secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee brushed off the criticisms.

"These viewpoints have been presented several times, they are well known and won't impact the evolution of the prize," Geir Lundestad told AFP.

He added that the award "will indeed be handed out" at the Oslo ceremony, where it will be jointly collected by European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy.

The criticisms by the International Peace Bureau echo those of its former vice president, Norwegian lawyer Fredrik Heffermehl, author of the book "Nobel's Will", who unsuccessfully lobbied the Swedish foundation charged with overseeing the awards over the issue.

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EUROPEAN UNION

Norway flirts with the idea of a ‘mini Brexit’ in election campaign

On paper, Norway's election on Monday looks like it could cool Oslo's relationship with the European Union but analysts say that appearances may be deceiving.

Norway flirts with the idea of a 'mini Brexit' in election campaign
The Centre Party's leader Slagsvold Vedum has called for Norway's relationship with the European Union to be renegotiated. Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB / AFP

After eight years of a pro-European centre-right government, polls suggest the Scandinavian country is headed for a change of administration.

A left-green coalition in some shape or form is expected to emerge victorious, with the main opposition Labour Party relying on the backing of several eurosceptic parties to obtain a majority in parliament.

In its remote corner of Europe, Norway is not a member of the EU but it is closely linked to the bloc through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement.

The deal gives Norway access to the common market in exchange for the adoption of most European directives.

Both the Centre Party and the Socialist Left — the Labour Party’s closest allies, which together have around 20 percent of voter support — have called for the marriage of convenience to be dissolved.

“The problem with the agreement we have today is that we gradually transfer more and more power from the Storting (Norway’s parliament), from Norwegian lawmakers to the bureaucrats in Brussels who are not accountable,” Centre Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said in a recent televised debate.

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Defending the interests of its rural base, the Centre Party wants to replace the EEA with trade and cooperation agreements.

However, Labour leader Jonas Gahr Store, who is expected to become the next prime minister, does not want to jeopardise the country’s ties to the EU, by far Norway’s biggest trading partner.

“If I go to my wife and say ‘Look, we’ve been married for years and things are pretty good, but now I want to look around to see if there are any other options out there’… Nobody (in Brussels) is going to pick up the phone” and be willing to renegotiate the terms, Gahr Store said in the same debate.

Running with the same metaphor, Slagsvold Vedum snapped back: “If your wife were riding roughshod over you every day, maybe you would react.”

EU a ‘tough negotiating partner’

Initially, Brexit gave Norwegian eurosceptics a whiff of hope. But the difficulties in untangling British-EU ties put a damper on things.

“In Norway, we saw that the EU is a very tough negotiating partner and even a big country like Britain did not manage to win very much in its negotiations,” said Ulf Sverdrup, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

While Norwegians have rejected EU membership twice, in referendums in 1972 and 1994, a majority are in favour of the current EEA agreement.

During the election campaign, the EU issue has gradually been pushed to the back burner as the Centre Party — which briefly led in the polls — has seen its support deflate.

The nature of Norway’s relationship to the bloc will depend on the distribution of seats in parliament, but experts generally agree that little is likely to change.

“The Labour Party will surely be firm about the need to maintain the EEA agreement,” said Johannes Bergh, political scientist at the Institute for Social Research, “even if that means making concessions to the other parties in other areas”.

Closer cooperation over climate?

It’s possible that common issues, like the fight against climate change, could in fact bring Norway and the EU even closer.

“Cooperation with the EU will very likely become stronger because of the climate issue” which “could become a source of friction” within the next coalition, Sverdrup suggested.

“Even though the past 25 years have been a period of increasingly close cooperation, and though we can therefore expect that it will probably continue, there are still question marks” surrounding Norway’s future ties to the EU, he said.

These likely include the inclusion and strength of eurosceptics within the future government as well as the ability of coalition partners to agree on all EU-related issues.

Meanwhile, Brussels is looking on cautiously. The EEA agreement is “fundamental” for relations between the EU and its
partners Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, according to EU spokesman Peter Stano.

But when it comes to the rest, “we do not speculate on possible election outcomes nor do we comment on different party positions.”

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