Poll finds 70% of oil-rich Norwegians against EU membership

Aug. 29, 2013 at 9:37 AM
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OSLO, Norway, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A new poll finds more than two-thirds of Norwegians opposed to the country's membership in the European Union.

Sentio market research, which conducted the survey, found that opposition to EU membership is consistent across all age-groups, regions and education levels, reporting that seven out of ten Norwegians would vote no in any referendum on the country joining the EU.

The findings could have significant impact on the general election scheduled to be held on September 9, The Local newspaper reported on Monday.

Høyre, a conservative party and the country's largest opposition group and likely to dominate the general election , still officially supports applying for membership and maintains that EU membership will not come on the agenda should it accede to power following the election. Making the post-election picture murky, the leadership's position is supported by less than a third of their own party members, and just 19.2 percent of the wider population, according to the pollsters.

Norwegians first voted against joining the European Union in a referendum held three decades ago in 1972, when 46.5 percent voted in favor and 53.5 percent against EU membership. A second referendum, held in 1994, saw 47.8 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of EU membership and 52.2 percent voting against.

According to the latest surveys, Høyre leader Erna Solberg, is set to cruise to victory in the election, which means that she could become Norway's second female prime minister in the wake of Gro Harlem Brundtland, who took power in 1981, 1986-89 and 1990-96.

Downplaying the issue, Høyre parliamentary representative Torbjorn Røe Isaksen told reporters, "EU membership will not be an important topic in the next term. It's no news that a majority of Hoyre voters are against EU membership. It has been like this for years. But Hoyre's views are decided during the party congress, and there we still have a Norwegian pro-EU membership majority. "

Norway and Iceland are the only Scandinavian nations outside the EU. While Sweden and Denmark are EU members, Finland remains the sole Nordic country which is both a member of the EU and its euro currency zone. Norwegian EU membership would allow Brussels potential access to the country's massive oil royalty reserves, something that most Norwegians voters are clearly loathe to see.

Unlike Britain, Norway carefully shepherded its North Sea oil revenues into its sovereign wealth fund, the Statens pensjonsfond – Utland, SPU ("Government Pension Fund – Global") currently worth around $750 billion. Such fiscal caution has allowed Norway to corral roughly .75 percent of world equity, an impressive stake in the global economy from a nation of 5 million. Analysts believe that Utland, SPU is the largest owner of stock in Europe.

As a result, Norwegians now enjoy the fourth highest gross domestic product per-capita in the world, with Norway ranking as the second wealthiest country in the world in monetary value, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation and net external creditor of debt, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Export revenues from oil and gas have risen to almost 50 percent of total exports and constitute more than 20 percent of the GDP. Norway is the world's fifth largest oil exporter and third largest natural gas exporter, but it is not a member of OPEC.

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