Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer has kindly translated Mr. Jagland’s piece. The translator includes this note:
Have a look at this op-ed authored by Thorbjørn Jagland, former Norwegian Labour Prime Minister, now current Secretary General of the Council of Europe and Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee. It was published a couple of days ago, and gives us an insight into the totalitarian mentality of diehard EU fanatics.
Pay particular attention to the last half of the op-ed, which I’ve highlighted. It’s truly scary stuff.
The translated op-ed from Nye Meninger:
Our freedom of action can be used
By Thorbjørn Jagland
Instead of complaining about Norway’s EEA [European Economic Area] membership, opponents of this agreement should muster some courage and imagination and actually start using the freedoms that this agreement gives us.
Stein Ørnhøi wrote an opinion piece in Dagsavisen (29/12-2011) about Norwegian EEA membership. He suggested that Norway should terminate it, and replace it with a free trade agreement, which he claims would give us more freedom. He also claimed that proponents of the EEA Agreement have exaggerated the dangers of using the reservation clause.
I can agree with him on the subject of the reservation clause. But it amazes me how certain members of the Left are opposing an agreement which has given us a stable framework, although admittedly we’ve had to swallow a couple of camels in the process, and we might have to swallow a couple of more in the future. There are no guarantees that our freedoms will improve by stepping out of the EEA agreement. More often than not it’s those on the outside who desperately wish to show that they’re on the inside.
Instead of complaining about the EEA agreement, they should mobilize some courage and imagination and actually start using the freedoms that it gives us.
One example: It strikes me from my vantage point that Norway is one of the few countries in Europe where the absence of a social housing policy is almost complete. The Left’s policy on this issue has been to lambaste the Willoch Government’s liberalization of the housing market in the 1980s. But in all honesty this liberalization had to take place. The housing market was dominated by misleading prices and money under the table. What was missing was the absence of incentives to introduce a better housing policy, but one can hardly blame Kåre Willoch for this. He stepped down as Prime minister in 1986.
When I was growing up, most people believed that steady employment and education were the most important factors in combating poverty. I still believe that this is the case today. In order to combat poverty a good social housing policy has to be present.
The EEA agreement has never prevented the Norwegian Parliament from combating poverty or adopting a fair social housing policy. The EEA agreement has never required Norway to maintain a tax system which favors those who have property and those who wish to invest (or to overinvest) in the housing market at the expense of those who are renting.
Another thing that worries me about Ørnhøi’s demand for the termination of the EEA-agreement is the total and utter disregard for the consequences of such a drastic step. To put it another way: in the current political climate in Europe he can expect the support of the nationalist right to break up not only the vast open European market which Norway is part of through our EEA membership, but also the euro and the entire EU cooperation.
This will be the starting point of a renationalizing process of politics in a wide range of areas, including human rights policies. Politicians would then be able to emulate the behavior of Prime Minister Orban in Hungary when he answered the critics of the new Hungarian constitution: “Nobody has the right to tell us which laws we adopt.”
Yes, we do. This is precisely why we built the new Europe after the war: the obligation and the right to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. European countries accepted the commitments stipulated in the European Convention on Human Rights which requires us to do so. A court was even established in order that citizens could take their own countries to court. The European nations are collectively responsible for ensuring that the verdicts are upheld.
The single market of which Norway is a part through the EEA agreement, is an expression of the same: mutual rights and obligations.
I see an alarming trend across the continent at the moment: more and more people are talking about taking back the decision-making processes from the EU. Ørnhøi’s wish may come true, but perhaps not in the way he had intended, namely that other countries, and not just Norway, will start to demand to govern themselves.
In an age when Wilders, the True Finns and Le Pen’s daughter appear in the shadows, it’s simply too dangerous to jeopardize what is built through agreements and legislation. [emphasis added]