Norway and Europe

Norway’s culture and politics, and its social and business activities, have always had close links with the rest of Europe. Norwegian foreign policy has long aimed to promote international cooperation and stability, both in Europe and in the rest of the world. In the second half of the 1940s, Norway was among the founders of the UN, the OSCE, NATO and the Council of Europe.

The Norwegian population has twice voted against membership of the EU, in referendums held in 1972 and 1994. Nevertheless, Norway cooperates closely with the EU in most areas. Although opinion is divided on the question of EU membership, there is general agreement among Norwegian politicians that Norway should be an active and constructive cooperation partner in Europe.

Norway’s most important link with the EU is the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), which came into force in 1994. The EEA Agreement enables Norway and the other EEA countries to participate in the EU internal market. It ensures that, in the areas covered by the EEA Agreement, Norwegian and EU businesses and nationals are treated identically throughout the EEA. As part of EEA cooperation, Norway is involved in the drafting of, and is bound by, EU legislation in areas relevant to the internal market, such as transport and the environment. Norway also takes part in EU programmes in many areas, including the cultural and research arenas, regional policy cooperation, and education. The EEA Agreement does not cover the EU customs union, its common trade policy with third countries, or fisheries and agricultural policy.

Norway also cooperates extensively with the EU on justice and home affairs policy. Under the Schengen agreement, Norwegian nationals enjoy border-control free travel within the Schengen area. However, Norway, along with the other Schengen states, still maintains controls at borders with non-Schengen countries.
Norway often shares the EU’s views and interests in relation to international policy matters, and therefore cooperates closely with the EU on foreign and security policy. Through the EEA Agreement, Norway maintains a regular political dialogue with the EU on international issues. In addition, Norway supports the EU’s foreign policy declarations in many areas.

As regards security and defence policy, Norway is contributing civil and military personnel to the EU-led crisis management operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia. The Norwegian Government gives considerable financial assistance to various initiatives aimed at northwestern Russia and countries in the Western Balkans.

When the EU and EEA were expanded in May 2004, two financial mechanisms were set up: an EEA mechanism, and a separate Norwegian mechanism. Norway has committed to contributing over NOK 9 billion through these mechanisms (known as the EEA financial mechanisms) in the period 2004 to 2009, as part of the effort to promote economic and social cohesion in the EU’s 10 new member states, as well as in Greece, Portugal, and Spain.
The priority areas under the financial mechanisms are the environment, sustainable development, cultural heritage, human resources, health and childcare, regional development, and Schengen/the justice sector. The EEA funds are also intended to strengthen general cooperation between Norway and recipient countries and, more specifically, enable Norwegian actors to build networks and find cooperation partners in these countries.

European cooperation is under continual development, becoming both broader and deeper. This presents new challenges for Norway’s European policy, but also creates new opportunities. The geographical enlargement of the EU also means a corresponding enlargement of the EEA. The EEA countries have provided economic support for the development of less fortunate EU countries ever since the EEA Agreement came into force, and Norway has also provided bilateral economic and technical support to EU candidate countries. In this way, Norway is contributing to the economic and social development of Europe.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs   |   Share on your network   |   print