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To Join or Not to Join?


(Editor's Note Denmark holds a referendum today on whether or not to endorse the government's intention to join the European Economic Community on January 1. Last week the Norwegian public voted "No on the same question. Bob Dickerman a research fellow at the CFIA discusses the Norwegians vote against its longtime Establishment)

NEARLY A DECADE AGO, virtually the entire Norwegian Parliament voted in support of the Labor Government's intention to apply for full membership in the European Economic Community. Four years ago the only Norwegian party hostile to joining the EFC lost its representation in the Parliament. Two years ago, a governing coalition of all non socialist parties was negotiating for membership. It was succeeded by a socialist government pledged to membership.

Then on September 24 and 25 the Norwegian electorate, by 53.9 per cent to 46.1 per cent, voted against membership The Labor Government announced it would resign. Neither it nor the Conservative party--the two composing 103 of the Parliament's 150 members--would participate in an anti-EEC government.

In one of the world's more representative and democratic nations, representative government had failed by a wide margin to represent the popular will. And this on the most important issue Norway has faced since 1948.

What happened?

First, Norway's establishment--the Social Democratic organized labor, industrial, business and civil service figures who have governed and administered Norway well for the entire post-war era--grossly over-rated its capacity to draw the electorate behind it.

Second, the various anxiety provoked by the "supranational" alliance in Brussels drew together parts of the electorate which share views on virtually no other external nor domestic perspectives.

Thirdly, even the most representative organs have a built-in lag. Common Market membership was not a widely discussed issue in the 1969 Parliamentary elections: it has been examined and debated to the point of absurdity this year. Neither was membership a major issue when the nationwide Confederation of Norwegian Labor endorsed its pro-Market leadership as recently as early this year.

There is perplexity in Norway this week. The anti-Market view taken by 53.9 per cent of the electorate is represented by less than one-third of the Parliament. Parliamentary elections do not occur again until September 1973. The Constitutional system provides no way for the Parliament to change in composition in response to such a shift in the electorate's views: both pro-Market parties and politicians, for reasons both of principle and stubbornness are unwilling to lead in the direction they have opposed, but the public has chosen.

Even if the anti-Marketeers composed a near majority of the Parliament, which they do not, they share virtually no other consensus. Among the most active in the opposition campaign were the young leftists--neo-Maoists--many of whom profess to see Norway eventually as an Albanian-type armed camp under attack and seige by the anti-popular forces of East and West. But among the most sympathetic voters were elderly Christians of quite different views. Combined with them, and providing the largest part of the majority vote, were the farmers and fishermen and family members of "outskirt Norway" whose quite substantial living standards are possible only under the type of governmental protection and subsidization which, it was feared. European-wide arrangements made in Brussels would preclude.

It was this latter group which the leadership of organized labor, as recently as a few months ago, was confident of bringing into the fold. The Norwegian worker in the past has invariably sided with the leaderships of the Labor Party and the Confederation of Labor. In the Common Market case, in spite of the most intense education campaign in the history of either, the effort failed.

PRO-MARKETEERS HAD TO defend decision making in Brussels to an electorate already more than skeptical about decision-making as far away from the grass-roots as Oslo. They had to defend an administrative structure in Brussels which decidedly is not democratic. They were compromised again and again by the interpretations in Norway of such routine EC dynamics as the jousting over this autumn's summit meeting and M. Pompidou's statement a week before the Norwegian referendum advocating the eventual membership of totalitarian Spain in the Market.

Eventually pro-marketeers had to ask support on the grounds that events outside of Norway made declining to enter unthinkable. European development would go on on without Norway. Stagnation was inevitable. Without the economic growth obtainable only by membership, precisely the subsidies and welfare programs which currently give the average Norwegian a better living standard than most in the Six could no longer be financed. Isolation, drifting, exclusion, possibly lessened external commitment to Norwegian defense, they say, would invariably result.

Anti-marketeers, starting a year or so ago, with almost none of the bases of power which traditionally have been vital in Norwegian politics, nevertheless obtained the offensive. Aligned against them were the entire Labor Party and Conservative press, virtually the entire commercial and industrial establishment, the Government itself and much of the Opposition, and such formidable advocates within the Common Market as the Norwegian-speaking chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt.

Opposition started with the small farmers. Their futures were the most vulnerable in any rational, free market agricultural scheme. Through complex and expensive interventions, Norway makes possible profitable, one-family farming in climate and terrain as far north as 300 miles above the Artic Circle. Northern Norway--that area nearly twice the size of Denmark lying above the Arctic Circle voted nine to one against membership this week.

The second center of opposition developed in Norway's small communities elsewhere. Over half the Norwegian population lives in communities of less than 2500 persons. Life is good in such communities: Norwegian migration in the past two decades has been to such communities from the farms and hamlets, rather than to large centers. This has been a consequence of policy as much as of demography neither urban nor rural Norwegians wish to see the type of migration from farm to city which the Common Agricultural Policy is foreing on the Continent.

The third major group opposing membership consisted of the environmentalists, the ideological left, those favoring regional cooperation with Sweden and the rest of the Nordic grouping over cooperation with the Continent, and those stressing nationalism pure and simple. All opposed bigness, technocracy and decisions being made about Norway by non-Norwegians, decisions that heretofore had been made in democratic form being made by bureaucrats and technicians.

The issue split the Christian Peoples Party and Liberal Party down the middle, it enormously enhanced the stature of former (1965-71) Prime Minister Per Borten--whose own government had, albeit hesitantly, negotiated conditions of EC membership it provided the far-left Young Turks in the labor movement with support against the leadership of much of the rank and file.

HAS A NEW NORWEGIAN coalition developed? The far left certainly hopes so it would like to see the momentum continue to the extent that Norway withdraw its NATO membership standing then either alone or within a closer partnership with Sweden Others in the anti-EEC coalition most certainly do not wish to see this happen Ideally, they wish access to the Common Market no less advantageous for Norway's industrial exports than would have been possible as a Member, but with firm Norwegian control of agricultural trade and with no concessions whatsoever to the Treaty of Rome.

But for the coming weeks--and indeed for the coming year--Norway may be, in effect, leaderless. Certainly the legitimacy of those in leadership positions will be questioned. If the anti-Marketeers actually form a Government (resigning Prime Minister Brattell will ask that his Center Party predecessor, Mr. Borten, make the attempt), that Government will represent considerably less than one-third of the Parliament. But no other alternative seems possible if neither Labor nor the Conservatives are prepared to refute their prereferendum positions and pledges.

Danes vote in their own referendum on Market membership today. Already the "Europe of the Ten" hailed with fanfare in Brussels in the winter is reduced to nine. After Monday the number could be eight. And negative popular votes in both Denmark and Norway would certainly increase pressure on the British government to submit its own membership policy to the voters. The weeks between now and the January 1 date for formal accession of the new members may be more eventful than had been anticipated.

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