In this edition of U talk we have a question from Simon, an Austrian student in his Erasmus year in Oslo, who asks: “Why is Norway not a member of the European Union?”
The answer comes from Rune Bjåstad, Minister Counsellor for Culture and Communication at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Paris.
“The reason is quite simple, the Norwegian people said, ‘no’ twice in referendums, each time by a narrow majority.
“The arguments for saying ‘no’ were that membership was a threat to the sovereignty of Norway, the fishing industries and agriculture would suffer, that membership would result in increased centralisation, and there would be less favourable conditions for equality and the welfare state. Fishing is extremely important to the Norwegian economy, especially for coastal areas. It is the second largest industry in our country, after oil.
“But we must immediately say that economically, Norway is already part of the EU Internal Market. The question may be a bit misleading: in fact, we are strongly integrated in the European Union, even if we are not members.
“Economically, we are equal with other member states, through the Agreement on the European Economic Area, the so-called EEA. Since 1994, Norway has participated fully in the Internal Market.
“We take part in several EU programs, such as the research program. Norwegian students are also involved in the Erasmus programme. We contribute financially to the programme.
“The Norwegian economy is strong, unemployment is low. Norwegians therefore see no economic argument in favour of EU membership.”
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