Ambiguous Interests. Norway and the West-European Market Formations 1959-62

This paper takes as object of study a defining period of Norway's relations to the EU, from 1959, when EFTA was established, to 1962, when Britain's first application for EC membership was vetoed by de Gaulle. It is argued here that EFTA represented an ideal solution for Norway in downplaying political tensions and cleavages in Norway. The option of EC membership, meanwhile, did not acquire any similar policy consensus.

ARENA Working Paper 25/1998 (html)

Hans Otto Frøland

Why underlying question of this paper could be summarised as follows: Why have West European nation-states accepted a partial surrender of sovereignty to a supranational organisation and thus, legally, committed themselves to future policy harmonisation? The question is implicitly influenced by Alan Milward`s vigorous attack on teleological explanations of European political integration. The West European states, he argues, have not been functional prisoners of interdependence; decisions whether to integrate or not were a result of political choice, and generally reflected the nature of national policies. Detailed historical research has led him to conclude that West-European integration in the 1950s was «... the creation of the European nation-states themselves for their own purposes, an act of national will». The empirical basis for Milward`s encompassing theory is basically collected among nation-states which decided to integrate. Norway, on the other hand, does not figure on that list. Nevertheless, by means of Milward`s conceptual framework, I shall elaborate on Norwegian policy towards the West-European market formations from around 1959, when EFTA was negotiated, until de Gaulle vetoed a British entry into the EEC in January 1963. I suggest that EFTA was the ideal solution for Norway as this was an international framework in which ambiguities and contradictions in national policies could be maintained. These ambiguities basically reflected socio-political cleavages within Norwegian society. The decision by Britain and Denmark in 1961 to apply for membership negotiations with EEC put Norway in an awkward situation as the treaties of Rome would imply a far more profound encroachment upon the socio-political balance than the Stockholm convention. Should Norway join the EEC along with Britain and Denmark, and thus allow for future surrender of sovereignty and policy harmonisation, and on which conditions? A new national policy choice never materialized in this period, nor was a national will superseding the EFTA-solution established.

Tags: history, EFTA, national interest, Norway
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM