By a referendum on Sunday 24th September, 1972, the people of Norway rejected membership of the European Common Market.
By a referendum on Sunday 24th September, 1972, the people of Norway rejected membership of the European Common Market. The decision of the majority of the people, however, was not in accord with the ideas of the businessmen and politicians of Norway. They foresaw many economic difficulties ahead if Norway was excluded from the E.E.C., and their attitude was perhaps best summed up by the resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr. Trygve Bratteli, shortly after the referendum results were announced.
Since last year the new Norwegian government under Mr. Lars Korwald has been trying to obtain special relationship status with the E.E.C., in the hope that it will soften the economic blow of exclusion. The latest move in these attempts has been the visit to Brussels on Sunday (21 Jan.) by Norwegian Trade Minister Mr. Hallevard Eika.
During his visit, Mr. Eika discussed with officials the possibilities of a special E.E.C.-Norwegian trade agreement. The agreement would involve preferential tariffs for Norwegian aluminium, ferro-alloy and paper products, and easier a cess for Norwegian fish exports to the Community's member-states. Mr. Eika spoke in particular to the E.E.C.'s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sir Christopher Soames.
Diplomatic observers in Brussels reported that the bargaining was tough for the Norwegian delegation.
The Community's Commission of Ministers failed to agree on a common policy towards Norway at a meeting in Brussels on January 15th. Mr. Eika is now canvassing for support during a tour of E.E.C. member-states before a similar meeting in Brussels on February 5th.
The Norwegians did at least apply for E.E.C. membership, and they hope that this will bear some weight with the Commission of Ministers. However, even member-countries are experiencing difficulty in getting their requests for preferential tariffs accepted.
SYNOPSIS: In Oslo last September, campaigning against Norway's entry into the European Economic Community reached a climax on the eve of a referendum to decide the issue. Arguments against entry were persuasive, and the Norwegians voted against joining. The politicians and businessmen of Norway were dismayed.
They foresaw many economic difficulties ahead as a result of the decision, and they set about trying to arrange special relationship status between them and the E.E.C. in an attempt to soften the blow of exclusion. The latest move in these attempts has been the visit to the Economic Community's capital of Brussels on Sunday of a delegation led by Norway's Trade Minister, Mr. Hallevard Eika.
During his brief stay in Brussels, Mr. Eika discussed with several Community officials the possibilities of a special trade agreement. The agreement would cover special reduced tariff rates for Norwegian aluminium, wood and agricultural products.
In particular, Mr. Eika talked with the E.E.C.'s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sir Christopher Soames. Despite the cordiality, diplomatic observers reported that bargaining was tough, and the meeting did nothing to raise Norway's hopes. Mr. Eika left Brussels shortly afterwards to canvass for Norwegian support during a tour of E.E.C. member-countries.
At home in Norway, industry and agriculture may well suffer if Mr. Eika is unsuccessful. Already, the months since the decision against entry have brought bad news--steadily rising costs, shrinking profit margins, stagnant domestic demand, and even redundancies.
Three-quarters of Norway's fishing, for example, is done from small one-and two-man boats. If tariffs on Norway's fish products are not greatly reduced by the hoped-for trade agreement, redundancies in the industry could soar.
The bacon industry too would suffer. Norway is a member of Efta--the Free Trade Association linking the Scandinavian countries with Britain--and it's bacon exports have always been assured. On April the first these links will be severed by E.E.C. rules, and Norwegian milk, other dairy products and bacon, will face large tariff barriers. The future of Norway's agriculture and other industries depends to a large extent now not only on the initiative of its farmers and businessmen, but also on the decisions of an Economic Community the Norwegians did not want.