Norway’s relationship with the EU - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 14 January 2013 | Standard notes SN06522

Amended 15 January 2013

Authors: Arabella Lang

Topic: EU enlargement, EU external relations, EU law and treaties, Europe, Western Europe

Norway is, in the words of a recent report, both outside and inside the EU. Through a series of agreements, the most important of which is the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, it is part of a free trade area with the EU, shares equal access to the EU internal market, and allows free movement with all 30 EEA states. It is part of the Schengen border-free area and related immigration and police cooperation. It collaborates with the EU over defence and security policy, fisheries and agriculture, and participates in dozens of EU agencies and programmes. As a result Norway has adopted three quarters of the EU’s rules and legislation.

But Norway has little say in any of this. Although it can attend and talk at various meetings, it does not generally have the right to make or amend proposals which affect it, or to vote on them. This democratic deficit is seen as the biggest problem with Norway’s position.

A recent official report and white paper on Norway’s relations with the EU argue that despite some problems, the current arrangements work well in practice, and are largely supported or accepted by the main political parties. Although Norway is putting more emphasis on trying to influence EU policy at its early stages, no major change of direction is likely.

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