Labour party trumps the services directive through
Despite of the fierce opposition from the minority parties in Government (the Socialist Left (SV) and the Centre Party (SP)), Jens Stoltenberg (prime minister and leader of the Labour Party) today forced through a vote to adopt the disputed Services Directive. The Labour Party, with its ten ministers, outvoted the minority parties’ nine ministers, thus finishing the longest and hardest dispute of the current government.
The debate on the Services Directive reached its final climax today, more than two years after the whole debate finished in the rest of Europe. The Directive has been the object of fierce debate in some circles of Norwegian politics for the past years, but only on the national scene for the past few months as the pressure for decision has been drawing nigh.
Miscalculation from the No-side
The No to the EU movement in Norway has since 2006 had a “veto” to the Directive as their main campaign issue. They have systematically forwarded petitions and decisions in all the major labour unions, some political parties and different NGO’s of various sizes and political leanings. Their stated goal has been to push for a so-called “veto”, or a reservation, of the directive through the EEA-agreement. Despite their massive campaign, they miscalculated the politics of scale, namely the fact that the pro-European Labour Party, with a majority in the cabinet could just push it through if they wanted. But the No Movement was not alone in miscalculating the timing of the adoption of the directive. I predicted in my blog in June that the Government would stall it till after the election, and to then Labour push it through.
What now? A single party government with the Labour Party is more likely after elections
Both the Centre Party and the Socialist Left actively voted against the decision, and their defeat is a massive blow to their credibility as “No-to-the-EU-guarantors”, as many of their voters are against Norwegian membership to the EU. The Centre Party defines their existence on their opposition to the EU. I think this might be the start of the Labour Party’s plan to go after the election next year, instead of a continuation of a majority coalition government as there is today.
The advantages with a one-party minority government with Labour would be that they could apply for membership with the support of the conservative party Høyre. That is if they together have a majority of the seats in the parliament. With the wind of change in Icelandic politics towards a much more positive attitude of the prospect of membership in the EU, Norway might see itself forced to once again to debate the issue of membership. Norway member of the EU by 2011?
PS: Norway has never used the right to reserve, or veto, any legislation from the EU through the EEA agreement. Our political influence on EU legislation is minimal, but we still accept it all. The fax democracy lives on.