Norway elections to spark new EU discussion
By Lisbeth Kirk
An election in Norway in two weeks time is likely not only to bring a new prime minister but may also spark a new round of EU discussions in the country.
After rejecting EU membership twice in referendums, the current Norwegian government - made up of pro-and anti-EU parties - agreed to freeze all talk on Norwegian EU membership.
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But prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik’s liberal-conservative coalition is set to be replaced by the Social Democrats and their leader Jens Stoltenberg in the election on 12 September, according to the latest opinion polls.
A new Social Democrat-lead government is likely to raise the issue again.
No-people to vote yes
The gap between the two political blocs in Norwegian politics is narrow ahead of the elections, but Mr Stoltenberg’s labour party is predicted to get into parliament with 55 MPs to form a new government.
Of these 55 MPs, 14 are critical about EU membership but only four of them have declared openly ahead of the elections that they would vote against fresh application for EU membership, according to Norwegian daily Nationen.
Most EU-critical labour candidates do not want to reveal their position as yet or say they would follow the party line, which will be fixed at a party conference.
In Spring, Mr Stoltenberg made it very clear that all factions have to follow the party line.
"’No-people’ will be bound by our party conference. If the party says yes, all ’no-people’ in the party will vote in favour of seeking EU membership", he said.
Drop in support after constitution rejection
Rich, oil-producing Norway was generally perceived in the EU as an easy and even attractive country to get on board. But the Norwegians themselves were always split on the issue and may turn down membership in a third referendum.
Norway's largest newspaper Verdens Gang recorded a new low in support in May for Norwegian EU membership, when just one third (35.5 percent) of Norwegians said they would like to join the EU, while 44.9 percent said they were opposed to the idea of membership.
The poll was conducted on 31 May - after the French but before the Dutch referendum on the EU constitution - and showed that 24.3 percent had gone from a yes to 'don't know' or 'no' since the previous poll.
Norway voted no to joining the EU in referendums in 1972 and 1994.