Politics For Members

ANALYSIS: Is Euroscepticism on the rise in Norway?

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected] • 18 Dec, 2022 Updated Sun 18 Dec 2022 07:35 CEST
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Only about one in four Norwegians want the country to join the European Union. Photo by Markus Spiske / Unsplash

After a record level of support for Norwegian European Union membership earlier this year, EU scepticism seems to be rising again. Why is that the case?

The mid-2022 surge in support for Norway's EU membership was short-lived. According to the latest poll that Sentio carried out for the newspaper Nationen and Klassekampen, only about one in four Norwegians want the country to join the EU.

The proportion of respondents who would vote against Norwegian EU membership if there was a referendum on the country's accession to the EU tomorrow now stands at 55.8 percent.

The proportion of those who would vote in favour of Norway's EU membership is 27.2 percent, a decrease of 8.1 percentage points from the previous poll.

Support is also decreasing for the European Economic Area (EEA). In the previous survey, 64.9 percent of respondents said they would support the EEA agreement if there were a referendum tomorrow. Half a year later, the support for the EEA fell to 58 percent.

So, what has changed in the last six months?

The impact of the energy crisis

As is the case in the rest of Europe, Norway has been hit hard by the energy and inflation crises.

Morten Harper, research manager in the interest organisation "No to EU"  (Nei til EU), told The Local that the energy crisis, in particular, led to a lot of Norwegians realising the downside of limited national sovereignty when it comes to energy imports and exports.

"Firstly, I think, for the large majority of people in Norway, it's important for Norway to stay outside of the EU because of democracy. In Norway, it's important to keep decision-making transparent and close to the population.

"Secondly, the coronavirus pandemic disrupted international trade and economic development, you can see a recession in several EU countries. To handle this, it's important to have broad policy mechanisms at one's disposal. Therefore, it's important for Norway to have its own currency and sovereign monetary policy, which is not linked to European economic policy.

"Thirdly, we see the impact of Norway being a part of the European internal energy market through the EEA agreement, it's a very contested issue. As you know, Norway is outside of the EU, but it's part of the EEA. Through this arrangement, it was decided that Norway should implement the EU's 3rd energy package, making it - in reality - linked to the EU's energy union.

"We've seen the effects of this in the last year, with a high increase in electricity prices in Norway. We've become more linked to the European energy market and its regulations, which has limited the possibility of restricting energy exports when needed, therefore making it difficult to keep lower electricity prices in Norway...

"I don't even have to say how important low energy prices are for industry and household. Norway is a cold country, and electricity is often used for heating in households. This has become an important issue since May, and high electricity prices have shown why national sovereignty on the issue is important," Harper told The Local.

Eurooptimists in it for the long game

However, the pro-European association Europabevegelsen is not concerned by the latest poll – it believes Eurooptimism will win out in the long term.

The general secretary at Europabevegelsen, Fredrik Mellem, told The Local that the political support for Norway's EU membership has grown in recent years.

"I don't think this is a correction. What happened in May (high support for EU accession) was a consequence of the war in Ukraine. Unfortunately, people get used even to wars…

"Still, the long-term trend in the last 11 years has been that the pro-European side is slowly growing, also in depth. Until two years ago, the pro-EU side was very narrow, politically speaking, consisting of the Labour Party (AP) and the Conservative Party (H).

"Over the last two years, we've seen support for EU accession from the Liberal Party (V), which changed its attitude, and the Green Party (MDG), which changed its position from 'no' to 'yes' last week," Mellem pointed out.

He added that there has been "lots of propaganda" against the EU in the public debate in Norway in relation to the ongoing energy crisis, especially when it comes to foreign energy cables.

On the other hand, No to EU's Harper points out that there has been a majority against Norway joining the European Union for more than a decade.

"Historically, for the last 12-13 years, we've had a majority of Norwegians against Norway joining the EU. So, in a sense, you could say that the resurgence of the 'no' vote in the polls is a return to normal - the last poll in May, when the 'no' side was weakened, and the 'yes' side made gains, was the odd one out. Now we're back to what we've seen in the past, a strong majority for 'no,' I think," Harper noted.

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Robin-Ivan Capar 2022/12/18 07:35

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