Norway is unlikely to join the EU in the near future, but will seek increased cooperation on energy and climate goals as well as a closer alignment of its currency with the euro in the years to come, Norwegian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Elisabeth Walaas told EURACTIV.cz in an interview.
There is currently no prospect of Norway joining the EU as the issue is simply “not on the political agenda,” Walaas said. Nor is it likely to be in the coming years, she added. Most Norwegians want their country “to stay as a close working partner of the EU,” but “neither politicians nor the public see it as particularly necessary […] to join tomorrow,” she explained. In the meantime, membership of the European Economic Area “is accepted as the present contractual relationship between the EU and Norway”, she said.
Despite the “very sound” financial situation in the country, Walaas called for the krone to be tied to an agreement with the euro because Norway’s economy is “very exposed to euro-dependent economies”.
Although euro-zone membership “is not on the political agenda,” if Norway were to join the EU, then it would join the single currency too, she said. But adopting the euro “is not a viable prospect” while the country remains outside the Union, she added.
As regards work that Norway and the EU can carry out jointly, Walaas said addressing climate change is the “biggest challenge of our time”. Yet, she added that it can also bring “viable economic benefits for companies” so long as global measures to combat it must are considered as opportunities for industry rather than obstacles.
Many of the objectives of Norway’s climate change policy “are in line with the European Union,” Walaas explained. She said that Norway expects to overshoot its Kyoto Protocol commitments for 2012 “by more than ten percent”. Moreover, the country is aiming to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% by 2020 and wants to be carbon neutral by 2030, she declared.
At a summit in Brussels, EU leaders last week endorsed ambitious climate change goals put forward in spring 2007, including binding commitments to reduce the bloc’s CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, while increasing the share of renewable sources in the Union’s energy mix by 20% by the same date.
Walaas identified investing in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, fighting deforestation and pushing for a CO2 trading scheme as the three main ways in which Norway hopes to contribute to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
But she warned that the post-2012 climate regime “cannot be for Europe alone” and must involve the US, China, India and Brazil in order to be successful.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian government is “counting on close cooperation with the EU” in developing CCS technology, and has committed five billion Norwegian kroner (€628m) to combating deforestation, “cooperating closely with countries like Brazil”. Developing global CO2 quota-based trading system based on the EU regime is the “most promising instrument” for reducing emissions, she said.