The Conservatives are the EEA guarantor against free fantasy
2. september 2021
(Originally published in VG 31.08.2021, authors translation)
Jan Brøgger, leader of Årstad Høyre and sits on the board of the European movement Western Norway.
Norwegian dreams of renegotiation, the right of veto, and maximum room for maneuver in the EEA agreement have no roots in reality. The Conservatives are the only guarantor of a risk-free EEA agreement that secures us now and after oil.
We are doing well on the edge of Europe, secured by the EEA agreement. On the edge, however, is also in the blind zone. Brussels has not turned its attention to Norway. On the fringes, dangerous misconceptions can develop over many years. This has happened in the UK and in Norway. We have a risky legal debt that led to the NAV scandal and many losses in the EFTA Court. The Center Party's and SV's notion of renegotiation is free imagination. The Labor Party's strategy for maximum room for maneuver is a dangerous game for the gallery.
The core of European cooperation is the internal market and the four freedoms. We can be at peace as long as we do not threaten this. But the moment we try to have our c and eat it too, the EEA agreement is in danger. We have already been the subject of a friendly intervention from our Swedish friends. "Renegotiation of the EEA agreement is free imagination," the Swedish MEP Karin Karlsbro told NTB this summer.
There are two parties in a negotiation, but this has been forgotten. What the EU institutions and politicians think and believe is completely absent in the Norwegian debate. The debate in Norway has similarities with that in the UK: uninformed, populist and made for voting. At the same time, the actual foreign policy relations are suffering. It is symptomatic that the Center Party called our Swedish friend Karlsbro's reality orientation a "Swedish joke."
Norway has a complicated relationship with the EEA Agreement and the EFTA Court. The four freedoms that protect us EEA citizens from national abuses of power fade and are transformed by Norwegian lawyers. ESA has pointed out the obvious: Norway does not take the four freedoms seriously. Tens of thousands of our dear EU citizens who obviously live in Norway were banned during the corona pandemic. Loss after loss in the EEA legal system over many years is little known. The question is whether the court's independence is threatened by camaraderie and political influence. In this way, we have already reached a maximum room for maneuver.
Only our invisibility in the EU protects us. If the EU discovers that our strategy is really to undermine the four freedoms and European unity for Norwegian gain, then the EEA agreement lives on borrowed time.
The British trade agreement with the EU after Brexit is thin soup. The agreement only covers goods, not services that make up 80% of a modern economy. Although there are no tariffs, new trade barriers are hurting the UK economy. People also vote with their feet. Right now, the UK lacks 100,000 truck drivers and 100,000 health workers because people do not want to go there. The store shelves are starting to be empty, and the hospital queues are very long. This is what the EEA opponents want for Norway.
Has someone forgotten to think three chess moves ahead? All Norwegian attempts at significant deviations from the four freedoms lead to failure. Renegotiation is stillborn. If we draw the veto card on issues that are important to the EU, we are in the same place. Veto on the energy package, and then veto on rail? We get the boot. There is no way to get the benefits of the single market, without the disadvantages. What is the EU going to do with an EEA parasite?
(This paragraph was left in the Norwegian print version, but still important:)[ Let's think about the next chess move if the EEA agreement disappears under our feet. Then we get a new upsetting referendum on EU membership, with a narrow Yes majority. In 1994, there was a 52% No majority (127,000 votes over). The urban population growth alone reduces this significantly. The yes county of Oslo has had 100,000 more inhabitants since 1994, while the no counties in the north have not had any growth. If you take the 1994 result and adjust for urban growth, the battle is for only 90,000 votes. In addition, there are immigrants. Immigrants with the right to vote now number 300,000, many from the EU and all positive to European rights. Four unbeatable things will give a Yes this time: A new international business community, urban growth, climate youth and immigrants. ]
The Center Party and SV can suddenly win the competition to lean the furthest out of the EEA window. Too much no to the EEA from a small noisy minority can turn into a yes majority. Because we are not going to have British conditions, with an EEA revolution from the flanks. Our jobs depend on stable conditions.
The future is a strong Norway in a strong Europe. Therefore, choose the EEA guarantor Conservative on election day.