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EXPLAINED: Why Norway is still opposed to EU membership

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Why Norway is still opposed to EU membership
The majority in Norway are still against joining the EU. Pictured: Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (L) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. (Photo by Stephanie LECOCQ / POOL / AFP)

Norway has voted against joining the EU twice since 1974. The latest figures show the majority are still against joining the bloc. So why is this, and how has the debate changed recently?


Opposition to Norwegian membership in the EU is still strong, according to a new survey carried out by the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK

According to the survey, if a referendum were held today, 52 percent of those who responded said they would vote against membership of the European bloc. Only 27 would vote yes, and just over a fifth said that they likely wouldn't participate in the referendum. 

When only including those who told the survey that they would vote, 66.2 percent were against joining the EU, and 33.8 percent said they would be in favour of membership. 

Norway previously held referendums in 1972 and 1994, with the public voting down potential membership on both occasions.  


However, Norway is still involved with Europe via its European Economic Area Agreement membership. Its membership in the EEA means that Norway has access to the EU internal market. 

"The EEA Agreement appeared as an option that would enable Norway to benefit from free and equal access to the EU internal market, without having to surrender parts of its sovereignty to the EU," Lise Rye, Professor of Contemporary European History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has previously explained to The Local.

The argument of not wishing to cede sovereignty to the EU is still relevant to why Norway opposes full EU membership. 

"We believe that decisions concerning Norway should be taken in the Storting - not Brussels," Hans Andreas Limi, an MP for the Eurosceptic and right-wing party the Progress Party, said to NRK regarding the latest polling. 

The Progress Party, along with the Red Party (the party furthest to the left of Norway's political spectrum) and the agrarian Centre Party, are strongly opposed to EEA and EU membership. 

Norway's EEA membership means it must still comply with several European directives. Recent examples include future changes to holiday pay to comply with European regulations. Furthermore, Norway doesn't have a seat at the table where EEA legislation is adopted – meaning that it doesn't get a full say on rules that may become compulsory for the Scandinavian country. 

Another reason behind Norway's reluctance to join the EU is its vast wealth. The revenues generated by oil and gas mean that it can afford to remain outside of the EU, Lye previously explained. 

READ MORE: Why isn't Norway an EU member?

How has the EU debate changed recently? 

While many of the arguments for and against EU membership have remained roughly the same over the past four or five decades, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has sparked new debate over the EU bloc. 


Leader of the Conservative Party, Erna Solberg, says that in light of the war Norway's relationship with the EU has become more important. 

"Norway's place in Europe is at the table, together with our closest friends. Along with the other democracies," she said of potential European membership at the party's annual conference. 

Meanwhile, the party's spokesperson for foreign policy, Ine Eriksen Søreide, has said that the EU has become an increasingly important arena for security policy. 

Leader of the Centre Party, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, argues that NATO membership guarantees Norwegian security. 

"Our major security guarantee is NATO, and the Norwegian people's government is very keen not to join the EU," he told NRK. 

Limi told NRK that EU membership for security is unnecessary as two of the country's most important allies, the USA and the UK, are not EU members. 


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