EU and New Identity Crisis

They either want to be engaged with Pekin or Moscow”. After these harsh statements 40 years ago, Norway is now in EEC however, Norwegians are still discussing about being part of a collective European community, EU as an important annex of EEC. I think it would be relevant to bring a different interpretation of pros and cons of Norway’s membership to EU. I will not discuss Norwegian side but present the identity crisis in EU as a result of the pressure of global change.

As the world is being restructured and regime changes are taking place all around the globe, it is not easy to pretend that the EU, a regional integration regime, will remain intact. On the social level, the will of change within the EU is already important, but this will have yet to produce concrete results involving the EU’s political structures. Furthermore, there is also a powerful resistance to change from within the EU, and especially from some of its leaders. Along this, the EU nations’ will isolate themselves from the rest of the world is growing stronger.

Thanks to a common market and the Schengen zone, the EU lifted national borders within the union, reinforcing its external borders instead. Strengthening the external borders was maybe a good idea in the beginning, but this generates many problems today. What is more important is that the Europeans’ demand for isolation is growing as external threats become more palpable. The EU feels a stronger need to protect its internal market, its social composition, its human relationships, even its dress codes and lifestyles, while the world outside the EU tries to modify its own way of life. In other words, the EU is trying to preserve its “Europeanness” while the rest of the world is trying to stop being the “other.”

We can observe social change and resistance to existing regimes in many parts of the world. When these processes are bloody, people who fear being slaughtered try to find safer places. Thus, they try to reach territories that are close and secure, but they cannot find peace there either, as is the case with the Tunisians who migrated to Italy. Their lives were in danger in their own country, but in their new country they are nothing but unwanted refugees.

The ongoing human tragedy in North Africa is of course not only the EU’s problem. What is going on there is too important for the EU to deal with. However, the EU’s desire to isolate makes things harder for those who seek protection within the European continent. Two essential problems have emerged because of this new immigration wave: First, racist and xenophobic sociopolitical movements in Europe have become stronger; and second, this issue has become an important variable of relations between EU members.

It is perhaps possible to stop people before they reach the Italian peninsula, but stopping them at all costs will have political and economic consequences. Nevertheless, if they are all allowed to arrive, taking care of them will have equally important economic and political costs. No one should expect the cost to be shared equally, but Italy really has no option: If the EU is unwilling to see this issue as a common problem, Rome will make sure this matter becomes a problem for all Europeans. As you know, Italy has granted residence permits to some of the refugees, a measure allowing them to travel to all Schengen countries.

Italy’s stance on the refugee problem has sparked real tension between this country and France, as the latter had made the immigration problem a top priority for some time now. France has even decided to close the borders as it perfectly knew that these immigrants, most of whom speak French, will want to come to France rather than stay in Italy. This measure proves that France is unwilling to apply the Schengen Agreement when it comes to dealing with immigrants. The Italian government then declared that if that is the case, why not cancel the Schengen treaty altogether?

This bilateral disagreement will be resolved somehow. However, as long as the EU keeps building walls around it and refuses to adapt to the wind of change blowing just outside its borders, many other crises will follow. But it is hard to predict where Norway will stand when that time comes.


Norway’s Foreign Policy Fluctuating for the Sake of Powerful States?

NORWAY JOINED IN THE EU’S SANCTION AGAINST IRAN last month. Secretary of State, Gry Larsen Said the decision demonstrates Norway‘s support to the international community‘s positive efforts against nuclear programs.

Photo : YemeniteCamel | United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted on 9 June 2010 that Iran had failed to comply with previous Security Council resolutions concerning its nuclear program and imposed further sanctions on the country by twelve votes for the resolution, two against from Brazil and Turkey.

UN resolutions on embargoes offer a general frame for countries willing to impose economic sanctions on a particular country. However, countries may decide in dividually whether or not to apply measures. Norway had to decide whether to approve the sanction or continue its own policy by considering the financial activities of Norwegian companies in the country. Furthermore, there was a common view seeing sanctions against Iran and these efforts may make the peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis more difficult to achieve. Under these conditions, Norway made a choice and joined in the embargo.

When it is about sanctions and Iran, everyone fixes their eyes on the US. Then, people started to ask whether the US convinced Norway. The answer is yes but the convic tion is not the right word for the persuasion strategy of the Nor way’s close ally. Norway was literally blackmailed in a very precise way. The U.S. Congress first announced that they will sharpen the reaction to oil companies operating in Iran, and published the lists of 41 foreign companies including Denmark Haldor Topsoe and Swedish-Swiss ABB and Norwegian state-owned oil company Statoil. Then, House of Representatives and the Senate have voted to tighten sanctions against those companies on the list. After these concrete threats, the information officer of Statoil, Kjersti T. Morstøl said “There is nothing new regarding our activities in Iran since last summer, we informed you that we, given the current situation will not make new investments in the country”.

In the following days, the list was extended with The New York Times’ new report about 74 corporations that have done business both in Iran and with the United States government over the last decade, using corporate records filed with the Securities Exchange Commission, and company Websites. This new report included another Norwegian company, Aker having exported drilling equipment to the oil and gas sector in Iran. After a short time, the spokesman of the company said the company has no current business in Iran due to commercial and contractual reasons, and even though their investments in Iran are currently active, they do not have further plans for new investments.

In this particular case, Iran is on one end of the business relationship and Norway is on the other. The problem is that those who agree that sanctions must be imposed on Iran because this country does not respect international law are sometimes the same countries that violate the basic rules of international law. Thus, criticism on incon sistent foreign policy gains a ground For example, Amnesty International proposed that Norwegian authorities are too reluctant to criticize Russia, China and the United States for violations of human rights, while they are strongly against smaller countries. The story is not that simple, but there is an indisputable fact: the increasingly hard stance against Iran by the United States challenges Norway’s own policy on Iran and convinces the sceptics about Norway’s inconsistent foreign policies.

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