"The enlargement of the EU enjoys broad political support in Norway. It is a historic opportunity to create lasting peace, democracy and welfare in a united Europe," says the Norwegian EU ambassador, Bjørn T. Grydeland.
Grydeland took up his post in Brussels one year ago. Previous to that he was Secretary General of the Prime Minister's Office for ten years. The Prime Minister’s Office assists the Prime Minister in leading and co-ordinating the work of the whole government.
Mr. Ambassador, what are the main tasks of the Mission?
"We gather information about EU policy and convey Norway’s opinion on various issues to the EU. This is especially important in regard to new EU legislation for the internal market. Most of the EU legislation for the internal market will later be incorporated into the EEA Agreement and into Norwegian legislation".
What are the challenges facing Norway in its relations with the EU?
"Norway and our two EEA partners, Iceland and Liechtenstein, are small countries. At the same time, the EU is busy with demanding projects, such as the management of the Monetary Union and the enlargement of the EU. Hence, it is a challenge to attract the EU’s attention. I do not think it will be easier after enlargement. The enlargement will increase the imbalance between the EU and the EFTA EEA countries. After May 2004 the EU will consist of 25 countries, with a total of 450 million inhabitants. The three EFTA EEA countries have 4.8 million inhabitants.
Does Norway support the enlargement of the EU?
"Absolutely. Enlargement will be good for Norway, as it will be for the rest of Europe. The new members of the EU will also be part of the EEA co-operation. Enlargement of the internal market will lead to closer co-operation between Norway and the new member states in the areas now regulated by the EEA Agreement. The enlargement will expose Norwegian industry to stiffer competition, but expansion of the internal market will also open up new opportunities.
However, the enlargement is first and foremost a historic opportunity to ensure peace and stability on the European continent. The EU was formed mainly to ensure peace in Western Europe. History has proven the success of the EU project. Through increasingly extensive economic co-operation the member states have achieved remarkable economic growth, which in turn has ensured peace and stability in the region. In addition, the EU’s economic integration process has made the countries more and more dependent on each other, and therefore war in Western Europe is less likely than ever. By admitting the candidate countries the EU has an opportunity to prepare the ground for a similar development of East and Central Europe to that we have seen in West Europe the last 50 years. Norway is not a member of the EU. However, peace in Europe is as much in Norway’s interest as in the EU’s interest. Therefore, Norway fully supports enlargement of the EU to include the candidate countries."
Will Norway contribute to the enlargement of the EU?
"Yes. If we are to achieve long-term stability and economic development in Europe as a whole, the welfare gap along the former East-West divide must not be allowed to become fixed or to widen further. The challenge is to ensure that the ideological iron curtain that previously divided Europe is not replaced by a welfare divide that threatens economic and social stability on the continent. In the decade that has passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Norway has allocated over NOK 3 billion to Central and Eastern Europe in the form of assistance and support for measures to consolidate and promote democratic development, a socially oriented market economy and an improved environment. Moreover, as part of the EEA Enlargement Agreement, signed on 11 November 2003, Norway will contribute almost € 230 million to the reduction of economic and social disparities in the EEA area every year until 1 May 2009. Almost half of this amount will benefit Poland, by far the biggest of the 10 acceding countries. Norway will from 2004 onwards be one of the biggest net contributors of the 28 countries in the enlarged EEA."
How would you describe Norway’s relationship with the EU?
"We have an excellent relationship with the EU. No other country except Iceland has such extensive co-operation with the EU. We are part of the Internal Market and the Schengen co-operation. In addition, we have regular consultations with the EU on a number of foreign affairs matters."
Will Norway ever become member of the EU?
"It is the Norwegian people who will decide our future relations with the EU. The Mission is working on the basis of the last referendum, which was in 1994, and on the basis of the present agreements between Norway and the EU."