Norway and Europe may have a unique relationship in comparison to other countries which are tied to the European Union. With the upcoming referendum in the United Kingdom taking place this Thursday, many may consider the success of Norway and the relationship between the Scandinavian country and its continental counterparts. Norway is far from an European Union member state, however they are part of the European Economic Area which means the country takes part in the EU internal market. Norway is also a part of the Schengen Agreement and cooperate with the European Union on foreign and security policy matters. Through this agreement, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are equal partners in the EU internal market and on the same terms as the other European Union states. This includes having access to the internal market’s four freedoms: the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.
Norway considered joining the European Community in 1972 and joined the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994. The EEA agreement covers most aspects of its relations with the European Union including the EU single market, EU agencies and programmes, social and economic cohesion and regular political dialogue on foreign policy issues. According to an official document by the Norwegian government, they intend on cooperating closely with the EU and participating actively in ongoing political processes in Europe. The EEA agreement ensures Norway enjoys the benefits of free movement and gives Norwegian business access to a ‘domestic market’ consisting of 31 countries with a population of 500 million. Common European rules ensure Norway competes on the same terms as firms from other EU countries, in attempts to safeguard Norwegian jobs and welfare. The EEA agreement may also be beneficial as it includes rules for consumer protection and common environmental rules, as well as providing the opportunity for Norwegians to live, work and study in other EU countries without needing a visa.
Norway may be a prosperous country, as the country is the world’s third largest exporter of gas and tenth largest exporter of oil. Norway is the EU’s second largest supplier of energy products (after Russia) including crude petroleum, natural gas and gas liquids. Norway is also one of the world’s largest exporters of fish, with around 60 per cent of total Norwegian seafood exports go to the EU. Over the next few years, Norway aims to continue representing the Norwegian government in Brussels and promote the government’s policies and positions. It also aims to safeguard Norwegian interests in negotiations with the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the Council of the European Union. Furthermore, the country’s government aims to increase awareness of Norway’s close ties with the EU, in particular Norway’s participation in the internal market.
As one of the world’s largest producers of hydropower, there is extensive power trade between Norway and the neighboring Nordic countries, as well as with continental Europe. In terms of politics, the EEA agreement provides a main platform for political cooperation and is monitored closely. There are regular meetings between the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs with European leaders such as the President of the European Council or the President of the European Commission to discuss issues of current interest. Although the EEA agreement is the mainstay of Norway’s political cooperation with the EU, Norway has chosen to collaborate with its European partners in more areas than those covered by the agreement. This may help Norway promote its interests and contribute to the overall positive development of the EU.
How might Norway’s EU arrangements be of particular appeal to the United Kingdom?