Should Norway join the EU?

Photos: Pixabay

Photos: Pixabay

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

Norway votes against EU membership
Many people, even Europeans, are surprised to learn that Norway is not a member of the European Union. The Norwegian people have voted against joining in two referendums. They would most likely vote against membership if a referendum were held today.

In early 1972 a majority in Norway’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to join the European Economic Community (known as the Common Market). In the popular referendum held in September of that year, however, 53.5% voted against membership while 46.5% voted for it.

In November 1992 Norway’s Labor government applied for EU (formerly the EEC) membership and reached an agreement with the EU on the membership conditions in March 1994. A referendum was held in November 1994 and a record 89.04% of the Norwegian electorate turned out to vote. The result was 52.18% against and 47.82% in favor, roughly the same as in 1972.

Both referendums showed the country quite evenly split, although in both cases the slim majority voted against membership. In all of the polls taken between 2003 and 2014, a majority never favored membership. In fact, in a poll conducted by Sentio in September 2014, the opposition was stronger than ever: 70.5% were against membership.

Although Norway is not an EU member, it does belong to the European Economic Area (EEA), which is made up of the EU countries plus Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. These countries are all part of the EU’s single market. For more information, read the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ White Paper, “The EEA Agreement and Norway’s other agreements with the EU,” at

Should Norway join the EU? Norwegians Respond
I asked a few Norwegian family and friends how they would vote if a referendum were held today

Tormod Holte—Norway
In the 1994 referendum, I voted in favor of EU membership because I was concerned that Norway would otherwise have no say in matters important to us, be unable to influence decisions being made centrally in Europe, that we would not get sufficient access to the EU’s inner market, and that trade, businesses, and our economy would suffer.

However, it later turned out that this was solved through bilateral agreements, even though we pay substantial fees each year through our association with the EEC. Since Norway has natural resources (e.g. oil, natural gas, and fish) that the EU countries need, I think they probably need us more than we need them. With the latest turmoil and financial instability within the union, there seems to be a growing opposition and skepticism in several member countries, and I think Norway is better off outside this mess. Today I would probably vote against EU membership.

Elin Olsen—Norway
No! Norway should not join the EU. I do not want my country to be completely dictated to by people who live over 500 miles away, who have never been to Norway, who do not know the culture and the settlement patterns, and regard Norway as a peripheral outpost that one need not take into account.

Today a farmer in Trøndelag can choose (at least partly) what kind of corn he will grow in his field. If Norway were a member of the EU, he would be required to cultivate specific grains and would lose the freedom of choice he has today.

Norway is in the EEC and Schengen, so the country must still follow many rules and directives from the EU. Ironically, although Norway is not an EU member, it is the country that best follows EU rules!

Paul Frøise—Norway
Our industry would have export advantages. But we would also lose national support, especially for the districts.

The Union would destroy the small Norwegian farm, and the market would overflow with cheap European farm products. But I would almost certainly continue to buy food produced in Norway anyway because Norwegian food is cleaner and has fewer additives like penicillin and preservatives.

My vote would be no.

Terje Dehli—Norway
Norway is currently in the curious position that, although we are not a member of the EU, we have to abide by almost all of the rules, but without being represented or entitled to a vote.

If we became a member, we would probably pay more for the membership than we got back in various support programs. Norway would probably be wide open to EU citizens eager to enjoy our generous welfare and social programs. I hope Norway stays out.

Should Norway join the EU? Non-Norwegian Europeans Respond
I also asked some non-Norwegian European friends their opinion about Norwegian membership.

Mette Levasseur—Denmark

1) The EU financial system is a mess. Too many irresponsible countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain benefited from the great credit ratings earned by Germany and other northern European countries and made irresponsible investments dragging down the entire EU zone.

2) Norway has oil and has invested the proceeds in a very responsible manner. Even with decreasing world market oil prices, Norway is still self-sufficient and not the victim of OPEC manipulations.

3) The open borders within the EU Zone have proven to be a serious liability and security concern during the ongoing migration (humanitarian) crisis. The open borders have increased the flow of “economic migrants”—not true asylum seekers—and the risk of terrorism.

Gerald Seider—Germany
In 2015 we had too many unsolved problems and places where the EU lacked solidarity—the near bankruptcy in Greece; the EU’s struggle to find a common opinion and response on the war in Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia; the coping with refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Africa; and finally, the fiscal and financial situation of the EU.

More and more countries want to take advantage of the EU but are not willing to share problems. Norway should stay out of the EU and watch what happens.

Adriano Meloni—Italy
Norway should stay as far away from the EU as possible. Being part of a vastly inefficient bureaucracy where all the sly countries try to suck money out of you for their own interests is not a smart road to follow.

John Persenda—France
When you see the disastrous political situation of the EU and the impossibility of having a common policy, one wonders what the EU is, unless the war that has just been declared against ISIS will give it a sense of unity for the first time.

I am sad that the EU is not the great country it should be, due to changing political positions, but let’s hope it will be. Therefore, I think it is sad that a country like Norway is not in the EU; it is a part of Europe culturally, politically, and historically.

Norbert Fuegenschuh—Austria
If it joined, Norway—as one of Europe’s richest countries—would lose a very comfortable position.

Norway has very high salaries and wages. The result would more than likely be a general lowering of the payment level at home.
A new reason for not joining now is the current refugee situation. Not being a member gives the country more flexibility in dealing with the situation.

Norway’s current position is a good one; to become a full member of the EU would mean giving up control in some fields.

Jose Benoliel—Portugal
Norway, as well as all the other Europeans countries, should be in the European Union. All Europeans must unite to assert and defend the principles of civilization common to them, as do Americans under the flag of the United States.

In addition, economically isolated European countries do not have sufficient size to compete with the major powers that are China, the USA, and the Russian Federation, as well as Japan, India, or Brazil.

Carlos, Jr.—Spain
Norway is one of the richest countries in the world. Its GDP is larger than any country of the EU. It has petroleum, gas, minerals, etc., in great quantities. Life expectancy is among the highest in the world. Its welfare state functions very well. It’s one of the safest countries in the world.

Norway has had a Social Democrat tradition for many years, and it functions very well for them. The leaders in Europe, on the other hand, are now from the Conservative parties, like Mrs. Merkel in Germany; these are the countries that make the rules, i.e. dictate the norms.

Why would Norway want to join the EU?

Egils Veverbrants—Latvia
Norway should join the EU because it is in Europe and has the same problems and concerns. Having oil should not influence this decision—if it does, Norway should join OPEC.

The four Norwegians in my sample oppose EU membership and probably reflect the views of most Norwegians. The non-Europeans are split. Those who focus on the welfare of Norway feel that EU membership at this time would be to its detriment. Those who think Norway should join are focused more on the health of the EU and believe that Norway’s membership would strengthen the union.
It seems quite obvious that Norway will not hold another referendum any time soon.

This article originally appeared in the March 18, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.