Modern Scandinavia and the European Union

Since the Euro Dollar became widely used in the European Union in 2002, you may have wondered what the European Union is really all about. And if you’re of Scandinavian descent you might also have been wondering why Norway has so stubbornly refused membership into the Union for almost 30 years, even after its Scandinavian neighbors all eventually joined.

The idea of a united Europe came to life in the 1950s by a French businessman named Jean Monnet. To prevent the outbreak of future wars he suggested gathering European coal and steel production under a common authority. On May 9, 1950 French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman announced a plan (the Schuman Declaration) that would begin the process of doing just that. Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands were the first countries to accept the proposal and sign the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) Treaty in Paris on April 18, 1951.

After failing to pursue integration in military and political fields, European leaders decided to continue unification of Europe in the economic arena only. In June, 1955 the pursuit of a common market was begun. Two treaties established the European Economic Community (EEC) and a European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC, or Euratom). These 3 treaties (ECSC, Euratom, and the EEC) became known as the European Community.

As of 1995 fifteen countries had joined the European Union. They are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Denmark, Ireland and the U.K. joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986. Austria, Finland, and Sweden joined in 1995. Norway had signed an accession treaty in 1994, but Norwegian voters narrowly rejected membership in a referendum.

Why did Norway reject referenda to join the EU in both 1972 and in 1994? The issues were much the same both times. Among other factors, the main issues dealt with agriculture, regional policy, fisheries, offshore oil and gas, and sovereignty. Most of the “no” votes came from the rural and northern sections of the country and the coastal fishing towns, while the “yes” votes came mostly from urban areas (particularly around Oslo). Also, more women than men voted “no.” In 1994 there was a record 88.8 percent voter turnout. 52.3 percent voted “no.”

Recently, in Norway there has been talk once again of holding a referendum to join the EU. Some feel that Norway will be left behind by not being able to participate in decision-making that will affect all of Europe and Scandinavia. Others still feel it is too early yet for a “yes” vote to get through. Some are still concerned about loss of control in fisheries and other areas vital to the Norwegian economy and way of life. Aftenposten newspaper has recently conducted polls that suggest the “no“ camp is losing votes to the other side, however, and Norwegian voters may soon be headed to the polls again.

The official EU site can be found here.