Meld. St. 5 (2012-2013)

The EEA Agreement and Norway’s other agreements with the EU

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1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose and scope

The Norwegian Government’s European policy is based on the Agreement on the European Economic Area (the EEA Agreement) and Norway’s other agreements with the EU. The EEA Agreement links Norway to the EU’s internal market and forms the foundation of Norway’s European policy. This White Paper will therefore not discuss other forms of association with the EU.

As set out in the Government’s policy platform, the Government will pursue an active European policy and will work proactively to safeguard Norwegian interests vis-à-vis the EU.

It is important for Norway that the EEA cooperation is effective, flexible and that it ensures mutual responsibility. Here, the word “effective” is used to mean that the EEA Agreement should ensure equal treatment and predictability for Norwegian actors, as well as the greatest possible degree of Norwegian participation in EU processes. The word “flexible” is used to mean that due account should be taken of the varying needs and interests of the parties to the Agreement in the ongoing EEA cooperation. The expression “mutual responsibility” is used to mean that both parties should follow up the Agreement in a correct and responsible way that secures the quality and efficiency of the cooperation.

Generally speaking, Norway benefits from the development of common rules and standards for the European market. In cases where the development of legislation is not compatible with Norwegian interests, the Government will use the opportunities and available options provided by the Agreement to safeguard Norway’s interests.

In this White Paper, the expression “available options” is used to describe the opportunities the Government has to influence how Norwegian companies and Norwegian citizens are affected by the EEA Agreement and other aspects of Norway’s cooperation with the EU. The expression is therefore used to describe both the opportunities the Norwegian authorities have to influence the content of EU legislation, and how, and to what extent, the legislation should be implemented at the national level. An awareness of the available options that exist at any given time is essential for the sound management of Norway’s agreements with the EU.

The main purpose of this White Paper is to promote the sound management of Norway’s agreements with the EU. It is crucial to ensure the proper follow-up of the agreements, including the best possible use of the options available to Norway. This is essential not least in the light of the far-reaching changes the EU has undergone in recent years, for example enlargements to include a number of new member states, treaty reforms, new modes of governance, and most recently changes as a result of the financial crisis in Europe.

In its European policy, the Government will focus its main efforts on areas of particular importance to Norway. In following up Norway’s agreements with the EU, the Government will promote openness and awareness-raising, and will give priority to enhancing knowledge and ensuring sound management.

At the beginning of 2010, the Government appointed a broad-based expert committee, the EEA Review Committee, to review Norway’s experience of the EEA Agreement and its other agreements with the EU. The aim was to obtain the best possible body of knowledge on Norway’s agreements and cooperation arrangements with the EU. The committee, chaired by Professor Fredrik Sejersted, presented its report on 17 January 2012 (Official Norwegian Report NOU 2012: 2 Outside and Inside: Norway’s agreements with the European Union). The report is far-reaching and thorough. It contributes to the establishment of a sound body of knowledge as a basis for further developing Norway’s European policy. The report’s main conclusions, final remarks and summaries of consultative comments are reproduced in the Appendix of this White Paper (in the Norwegian version only). Other organisations and actors have also helped to foster a broad debate by providing their own analyses of Norway’s links to the EU and possible alternatives to today’s form of association. These analyses are also discussed in the Appendix.

1.2 Norway’s cooperation with the EU

Norway and the EEA Agreement

When, in 1992, the required three-quarters majority of members of the Storting (Norwegian parliament) agreed to enter into the EEA Agreement, it was with a view to ensuring that Norway would be able to participate in the internal market that was being developed in the European Community (EC). In the view of the Storting, safeguarding Norwegian companies’ equal access to the Western European market was important for the Norwegian economy and value creation. The EEA Agreement established a dynamic and homogenous economic area that ensured this.

There are close links between Norway and the EU countries due to historical and cultural ties, geographical proximity, common values and a shared commitment to the rule of law and human rights. Norway has therefore also chosen to develop its cooperation and agreements with the EU in areas outside the framework of the EEA Agreement. This applies to judicial and police cooperation, questions relating to asylum and immigration policy, and foreign policy and security policy issues. To a great extent, Norway has taken the initiative to develop and strengthen its cooperation with the EU in these areas. Successive Norwegian governments have been guided by a common recognition of the need for transnational cooperation in order to address transnational problems, and have sought to further develop Norway’s cooperation with the EU in these areas, with broad support in the Storting.

The EEA Agreement has been in force for almost 19 years, and this period has mostly been one of stability and economic growth for Norway. The Agreement has remained an effective framework for economic relations between the countries in the EEA, at a time when there have been substantial changes in the EU cooperation, particularly the enlargements to include 12 new member states and changes to the founding treaties.

Figure 1.1 Map of the EU/EEA

Figure 1.1 Map of the EU/EEA

Europe is now dealing with the repercussions of the crisis that hit the global economy in 2008. Most European countries have felt the economic effects of the crisis, many have also been affected socially and politically. So far Norway has been spared the worst of the crisis in Europe. However, developments in the EU and in the countries in the EEA have important implications for Norwegian interests. It has therefore been natural for Norway to help reduce the effects of the current crises in European countries, for example by increasing its contribution to IMF funding schemes and by offering bilateral loans to neighbouring countries. The funding Norway provides under the EEA and Norway Grants and the contribution it makes as a long-term and reliable supplier of energy also have a positive impact on developments in Europe.

At a time when the EU and many of the EU countries are experiencing their worst crisis for many years, the internal market has proved to be a robust framework for trade and economic relations between the countries in the EEA. The current problems facing the EU and EU countries have not led to the destabilisation or break-up of the internal market.

The EEA, the EU and the Nordic countries

The EEA Agreement links the Nordic countries together in a common internal market. Within this framework, integration between the Nordic countries has been consolidated and further developed in important areas such as the reduction and removal of border barriers, labour mobility, welfare and employment, the environment, and foreign and security policy.

Today Nordic cooperation provides an important framework for coordinating Nordic efforts vis-à-vis the EU. At the same time, Nordic policy has become an increasingly important element of European policy for Norway and the other Nordic countries. Nordic cooperation has thus become an integral part of the European cooperation.

Cooperation between the Nordic countries on foreign and security policy has also been considerably strengthened, within the framework of the countries’ respective memberships of the EU and NATO. Cooperation on defence policy has entered a dynamic phase, as illustrated by the establishment of the Nordic Battle Group and the Nordic declaration of solidarity, in which the countries state their willingness to assist one another in the event of natural or man-made disasters, cyber attacks or terrorist attacks.

Security policy and foreign policy cooperation between the Nordic countries is part of a new trend towards closer regional cooperation in Europe. The EU and key EU countries are showing increasing interest in the High North. Both in the EU and NATO there is a growing interest in regional cooperation that includes both member states and non-member states. In the Nordic countries and in northern Europe this is illustrated not least by the fact that all the Nordic countries and the EU meet in the key, sub-regional cooperation forums: the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, the Council of Baltic Sea States, the Arctic Council and the Northern Dimension. Due to its history and broad set of common values, the Nordic cooperation is particularly well placed to play a role in further developing regional cooperation of this kind within a broader European framework.

1.3 The content of the White Paper

Chapter 2 provides a review of developments in the EU in recent years. Chapter 3 deals with Norway’s cooperation with the EU, including the EEA cooperation, the Schengen Agreement/other agreements in the area of justice and home affairs, and foreign and security policy. Chapter 4 is concerned with goals, principles and the implementation of the Government’s European policy, as set out in the Government’s policy platform and Report No. 23 (2005–2006) to the Storting on the implementation of European policy. Chapter 5 discusses the Government’s assessments of Norway’s opportunities and available options in the management of its agreements with the EU in the areas of the EEA, justice and home affairs and foreign and security policy, respectively. Chapter 6 covers the Government’s assessment of certain policy areas that will be given particular attention in Norway’s cooperation with the EU in the time ahead, both broad cross-cutting areas and more specific ones. Chapter 7 discusses how EU and EEA expertise can be enhanced in the public administration and in society as a whole, as well as ways of involving relevant stakeholders more closely in the development of European policy. Chapter 8 contains conclusions and final remarks.

The English version of the White Paper only includes chapter 1, chapter 5 (here chapter 2), chapter 6 (here chapter 3) and chapter 7 (here chapter 4).

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