Article | Last updated: 13/12/2014 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Norway is part of Europe, not just geographically, but also in historical, financial and cultural terms. What happens in Europe is of great importance to us. The EU is Norway’s most important trading partner, and EU policy has an impact on many sectors of Norwegian society. The Government therefore intends Norway to pursue an active European policy with a view to helping to create a Europe where solidarity and security prevail.
Norway has been a member of the European Free Trade Association (Efta) since 1960, but it is one of the few countries in Central and Western Europe that has chosen to remain outside the European Union (EU). A majority of the Norwegian population voted against EU membership in two referendums in 1972 and 1994. Norway cooperates closely with the EU, despite the fact that it is not an EU member.
Norway’s various cooperation arrangements with the EU facilitate a high level of economic integration and political cooperation with the EU and its member states. Illustrative of the close relations between Norway and the EU is the fact that around 80 % of Norway’s total exports are to the EU, and around 70 % of Norway’s imports come from the EU.
The economic situation and developments in the euro area are therefore significant for Norway. The EU has implemented extensive measures to stabilise the difficult economic trend of recent years, but the situation in the euro area remains very uncertain. The high levels of unemployment caused by the crisis in Europe give serious cause for concern; in many countries unemployment rates are rising. This is having grave consequences for individual citizens and European societies alike. The Government is following developments with particular vigilance.
The most important agreement between Norway and the EU is the EEA Agreement, which was entered into between the EU and Efta in 1992, with a view to creating a single internal market, a European Economic Area (EEA). It extends the EU’s internal market to the three EEA Efta states Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein (following a referendum, Switzerland chose not to join the EEA). Through the EEA Agreement, Norway has also undertaken to introduce EU legislation that is of importance for the functioning of the internal market. Read more about the EEA Agreement here.
Norway also takes part in the Schengen cooperation, which involves establishing joint external border controls and eliminating systematic checks on persons at the internal borders within the Schengen area. Read more about the Schengen Agreement here.
Norway also cooperates closely with the EU in the area of foreign and security policy. Read more about this cooperation here.