Veto – to be or not to be for Norway in the EEA
Gordon Brown and the Parliament decided last month that there would not a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, temporarily stopping the never-ending debate on the British membership of the EU. In Norway, the opposite thing is happening and the debate on Europe seems to have reached a new “high”. An historical alliance has been struck between the yes and no side. They all want the government to veto the “Data Retention Directive“, adopted by the EU 15th of March 2006, now under consideration by the members of the EEA-agreement.
What does a “veto” really mean? It requires all the other EEA states to agree. In this case that means the powerful European states; Iceland and Lichtenstein. Ok, lets say that they agree to “veto” this directive, what will happen then? The EU then has the right, as agreed in the EEA-agreement, to implement counter measures as they find appropriate.
What are the motivations for the Yes and No-side to join in a common alliance? The ultimate goal of the No-side is to get rid of the EEA-agreement. They deem it as inherently undemocratic as Norway has no democratic influence over rules and directives of the internal market. What kind of agreement they want instead is rather unclear though. They believe that a first step towards a new agreement goes through a veto in the EEA.
On the yes side, the motivation appears to be to call the governments’ bluff; that a “veto” is virtually impossible because the EEA is too important for Norwegian commerce and trade. There also sincere opposition to the directive as well, but the Yes-movement believe our influence on the directive would have been much bigger as members of the EU.
It is assumed that a “veto” could lead to a full-scale conflict with the EU. During the 14 years of the EEA-agreements existence, and more than 6000 directives and regulations later, no Norwegian government (even those composed only of “No parties”) has ever tried to practice a “veto”.
It is also important to bear in mind that the EEA-agreement is up to revision next year, so I am willing to bet my underwear that the Norwegian government once again will show its subordination to the EU and accept the “data retention directive”, despite the historic alliance of yes and no-sides in Norway. The economic and political cost of a dispute with the EU would be too much to bear for a country whose export to the EU amount up to 70 % and import at around 80 %.
To read more about the Norwegian Relations to the EU, check out some of these sites and articles:
- The Official site of the Norwegian Government on the Norwegian relations to Europe
- “Norway: Insider AND outsider” by Svein S. Andersen, ARENA
- “Will Norway and Iceland finally make into the EU?” by Dick Leonard, European Voice
- Norway, the EEA and Neo-liberal globalism, by Dag Harald Claes and John Erik Fossum, ARENA