Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-768ffcd9cc-q6bj7 Total loading time: 0.349 Render date: 2022-12-02T10:02:19.721Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Norway’s European ‘Gag Rules’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 February 2010

John Erik Fossum
Affiliation:
ARENA, Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo, PO Box 1143, Blindern 0317 Oslo, Norway. E-mail: j.e.fossum@arena.uio.no

Abstract

As part of their conflict handling repertoire, political systems possess a range of mechanisms to suppress or avoid conflicts. A closer look across Europe would yield a broad tapestry of mechanisms for handling the thorny issue of European integration, with most governments and political systems relying on some version of conflict avoidance. In this picture, one should expect that a country such as Norway, which has rejected EU membership twice, has an active and vocal anti-membership organization, and where polls consistently show a ‘no’ majority, would stand out as the exception, in the sense that there would be no need for the Norwegian political system to take any measures to suppress the issue. But reality is more complex. Since the early 1990s, when Norway entered into the EEA agreement with the EU, Norway’s relationship to the EU has changed dramatically. Norway’s current arrangement with the EU is perhaps best labelled as ‘tight incorporation without formal membership’. This situation is managed through arrangements not to raise the EU membership issue. In this article, I rely on Stephen Holmes’s notion of ‘gag rules’, as a particular means of issue avoidance. This mechanism speaks of how actors seek to remove debate on a controversial issue that does not go away: it is a matter of stymieing debate on the issue but not stopping to deal with it. If anything, the lid on debate on EU membership helps the political system to keep alive an active process of Norwegian adaptation to the EU, with serious implications for Norwegian democracy.

Type
Norway and Europe
Copyright
Copyright © Academia Europaea 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Notes and References

1. In 1972, 53.5% voted against membership and 46.5% voted for, and in 1994 52.2% voted against, whereas 47.8% voted in favour.Google Scholar
2. A brief overview includes the following, which encompasses all of the EU’s three pillars: through the EEA Agreement 5000 legal provisions have been incorporated into Norwegian law since 1994. In addition, Norway participates in 35 different EU programmes (such as research and development, culture etc.) and a host of EU bureaus. Norway is also a member of the Schengen Agreement; it is attached to the Dublin network; Norway has a cooperation agreement with Europol and Eurojust; and has negotiated a parallel agreement to the European Arrest Warrant (see F. B. Finstad (2008) Norges tilknytning til EUs justis- og innenrikspolitikk, for an overview of these). Within security and defence Norway takes part in the EU’s civilian and military crisis management, including the EU Battle groups (for an overview see H. Sjursen (2008) Fra bremsekloss til medløper: Norge i EUs utenriks- og sikkerhetspolitikk [From brake to participant: Norway in the EU’s foreign and security policy]. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 4, 323–335). Source: http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/norway/index_en.htm.Google Scholar
3.Archer, C. (2005) Norway outside the European Union – Norway and European Integration from 1994 to 2004 (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
4.Claes, D. H. (2003) EØS-avtalen – En husmannskontrakt? [The EEA Agreement – A sharecropper’s agreement?]. Horisont, 3, 7987. Available at: http://www.nho.no/files/177139.pdf.Google Scholar
5.Sejersted, F. (2008) Om Norges rettslige integrasjon i EU [On Norway’s legal integration in the EU]. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 4, 313322.Google Scholar
6. Politicians have also depicted the agreement in these terms. Åslaug Haga (SP) and Olav Akselsen (DNA) both referred to the EEA agreement as a ‘sharecropper’s arrangement’, in a parliamentary debate. See: http://www.stortinget.no/cgi-wift/wiftldles?doc=/usr/www/stortinget/stid/2002/s021114-01.html&emne=nato&sesjon=*&ting=stidn%2Bstidg%2Botidn%2Botidg%2Bltidn%2Bltidg&. In his commentary on the EEA Agreement and the EEA Law, Ole Gjems Onstad has noted that ‘In slogan form one might denote the EEA Agreement a form of voluntary colonization or vasallage.’ (O. G. Onstad (2000) EØS-Avtalen og EØS-Loven med kommentarer [The EEA Agreement and the EEA Law with comments] (Oslo: Gyldendal) p. 7 – author’s translation).Google Scholar
7.Bjørklund, T. (2005) Hundre år med folkeavstemninger [A hundred years with popular referenda] (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget).Google Scholar
8.Oskarson, M. and Ringdal, K. (1998) The arguments. In: Jenssen, A. T., Personen, P., Giljam, M. (eds) To Join or Not to Join (Oslo: Scandinavian University Press).Google Scholar
9. One exception is the new EU Services Directive which has been opposed by LO, the main employee association. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:376:0036:0068:EN:PDF.Google Scholar
10.Sverdrup, U. I. (2000) Ambiguity and adaptation – Europeanisation of administrative institutions as loosely coupled processes. PhD-dissertation, University of Oslo.Google Scholar
11.Claes, D. H. and Tranøy, B. S. (eds) (1999) Utenfor, annerledes og suveren? Norway under the EEA Agreement [Outside, different and sovereign? Norway with the EEA Agreement] (Oslo: Fagbokforlaget).Google Scholar
12.Bjørklund, T. (1997) Old and new patterns: the ‘No’ majority in the 1972 and 1994 EC/EU referendums in Norway. Acta Sociologica, 40, 143159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
13.Bjørklund, T. (2001) Hvor godt egnet er ‘skillelinjemodellen’ til å forklare norske velgeres partivalg i tidsrommet 1945–1997 [How appropriate is the Cleavage Model in Explaining Norwegian Voting Behaviour from 1945–1997?]. Tidsskrift for samfunnsforskning, 42(1), 3163.Google Scholar
14.Valen, H. (1999) EU-saken post festum [The EU issue post festum]. In: Aardal, B., Narud, H. M. and Berglund, F. (eds) Velgere i 90-årene (Oslo: NKS Forlaget).Google Scholar
15.Onstad, O. G. (2000) EØS-Avtalen og EØS-Loven med kommentarer [The EEA Agreement and the EEA Law with comments] (Oslo: Gyldendal).Google Scholar
16.Østerud, Ø. (2005) Introduction: the peculiarities of Norway. West European Politics, 28(4), 705720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
17.Blichner, L. (2008) Fem mulige grunner til å akseptere EØS-avtalen [Five possible reasons for accepting the EEA Agreement]. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 4, 358367.Google Scholar
18.Eriksen, E. O. (2008) EØS og Norges demokratiske underskudd [The EEA and Norway’s democratic deficit]. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 4, 368379.Google Scholar
19. The term initially entered the political vocabulary in the 1840s in the US when supporters of slavery sought to keep the issue off the public agenda. Holmes, Stephen (1995) Passions and Constraint (Chicago: Chicago University Press) has rendered it a useful vehicle for studying political phenomena.Google Scholar
20. Other analysts have picked up on this notion. See J. D. Rowe (1994) A constitutional alternative to the ABA’s gag rules on judicial campaign speech, Texas Law Review, 73, 597–628; Bellamy, R. and Castiglione, D. (1997) Review article: constitutionalism and democracy – political theory and the American constitution. British Journal of Political Science, 27, 595618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
21. The EEA includes Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, but not Switzerland.Google Scholar
23. Author’s translation. The following statement is reflective of how this provision was portrayed in the media: (In author’s translation) ‘The government will neither prepare nor send any application for EU membership during this Storting, not even if Iceland were to introduce negotiations with the EU.’ http://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/2002/03/20/320270.html.Google Scholar
24.Regjeringen (2001) Politisk grunnlag for en Samarbeidsregjering Utgått av Høyre, Kristelig Folkeparti, Venstre. Sem Erklæringen [Political platform for a Cooperation Government composed of the Conservatives, the Christian People’s Party and the Liberals]. Available at: http://www.krf.no/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/KRF/POLITIKK/POL_DOK/SEM_ERKLAERING.PDF.Google Scholar
26. Consider the following news headline: ‘Cowardly of Petersen [then foreign minister] to put a lid on EU debate’ (author’s translation). NTBtext 03.01.2002.Google Scholar
28.Regjeringen (2005) Plattform for regjeringssamarbeidet mellom Arbeiderpartiet, Sosialistisk Venstreparti og Senterpartiet 2005–09. Soria Moria Erklæringen [Platform for governmental cooperation between the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party 2005–09]. Available at: http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/kilde/smk/rap/2005/0001/ddd/pdfv/260512-regjeringsplatform.pdf.Google Scholar
30. Henry Valen notes that the EU membership issue has contributed to activate structural cleavage lines that were important to the early stages in the development of Norwegian political parties (Ref. 14, p. 106). Bjørklund (Ref. 13) argues that the rejuvenation of the original cleavage model is overstated; new and more salient dimensions were gender (more women than men voted no) and the rise of public sector employees (more of them voted no). The underlying factor is defence of the welfare state. Thus, Labour as its main protagonist, ‘was defeated [in the EU referendum] by its own success’ (Ref. 12, p. 158).Google Scholar
31.Heidar, K. (2005) Norwegian parties and the party system: Steadfast and changing. West European Politics, 28(4), 807833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
32. Labour was split during the 1972 referendum process, with party cadre leaving the party. It was also deeply divided in 1994 but did not split then (Ref. 29).Google Scholar
33. Many appear to move from yes to no. Sjøli reported on 15 September 2008 in the daily newspaper Klassekampen that there is now a no majority within the FrP elite.Google Scholar
34.Fremskrittspartiet (2005) FrPs Prinsipp og Handlingsprogram 2005–9 [The Progress Party’s Principle and Action Program]. Available at: http://www.frp.no/filestore/Program_FrP.pdfGoogle Scholar
35.Høyre (2005) Nye muligheter Høyres Stortingsvalgsprogram 2005–2009. [New possibilities – the Conservatives] Available at: http://www6.nrk.no/nyheter/val2005/partiprogram/hogre.pdfGoogle Scholar
36.Det Norske Arbeiderparti (2005) Ny solidaritet – Arbeiderpartiets program 2005–2009’ [New solidarity – the Labour Party’s program 2005–2009]. Available at: http://www.dna.no/dna.no/Arbeiderpartiets-politikk/PartiprogramGoogle Scholar
37.Venstre (2005) Mer Frihet. Mer Ansvar. Et sosialliberalt progam for stortingsperioden 2005–9 [More Freedom. More Responsibility. A social-liberal program for the Storting Period 2005–9]. Available at: http://www.venstre.no/files/organisasjon/organisasjon/stvprogram2005.pdf.Google Scholar
38.Senterpartiet (2005) Prinsipp- og handlingsprogram, 2005–2009 [Principle and Action Program 2005–2009]. Available at: http://www.senterpartiet.no/category4589.htmlGoogle Scholar
39. This was an issue prior to the 1994 popular referendum when the Centre Party and the Socialist People’s Party indicated that they might not respect a small yes majority in the popular referendum. Cf. Bergens Tidende 17.11.1994, p. 8. Norsk Telegrambyrå (NTBtekst) also reports on January 8, 2008 that the Centre Party still asserts that the Storting should ‘interpret’ a referendum majority, not automatically defer to it.Google Scholar
40.SV (2005) Ulike mennesker. Like muligheter. SVs arbeidsprogram 2005–2009 [Different people. Equal opportunities. Socialist Left Party Working Program 2005–2009]. Available at: http://www.dagbladet.no/valg2005/partiprogram/sv.pdf.Google Scholar
41.Rødt (2006) Arbeidsprogram 2006–2008 [Working Program 2006–2008]. Available at: http://roedt.no/program/arbeidsprogram/euGoogle Scholar
42. In 1994, 65% of Norwegian exports went to the EU. Including Sweden and Finland (joined the EU in 1994), the share increases to 77%. For imports the figures for 1994 are 49 and 67%, respectively. Source: Statistical Yearbook 1995, Table 286.Google Scholar
43. An opinion survey conducted by Sentio Research Norge found that a majority of the population supports the EEA Agreement (62.1% of men and 53.5% of women). Cited in Bergens Tidende 21 April 2008, p. 8.Google Scholar
44. The Centre Party is the most explicit here: ‘Through the referenda in 1972 and 1994 a majority of the Norwegian people said no to EU membership. The Centre Party will defend this position and will work to prevent a new membership application being sent to the EU.’ Source: Senterpartiets prinsipp- og handlingsprogram 2005–2009; author’s translation.Google Scholar
45.Finstad, F. B. (2008) Norges tilknytning til EUs justis- og innenrikspolitikk [Norway’s association with the EU’s policy on justice and internal affairs]. Nytt Norsk Tidsskrift, 4, 336347.Google Scholar
9
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Norway’s European ‘Gag Rules’
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Norway’s European ‘Gag Rules’
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Norway’s European ‘Gag Rules’
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *