September 20, 2021

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European Economic Area and European Union |  Abed Raja:

European Economic Area and European Union | Abed Raja:

Abid Raja believes that SP and SV pose a threat to EEA freedoms that we Norwegians take for granted. “Nonsense” and “incompletely uninformed”, SP and SV counters.


The battle for the European Economic Area became a hot spot in the election campaign. Surveys from Nupi show EEA support for the Norwegian population at 44 percent, while the Centeo survey shows a strong majority of 66 percent would keep the EEA agreement.

Both the Center Party (SP) and the Socialist Left (SV) want Norway to withdraw from the European Economic Area agreement and renegotiate a new agreement with the EU. Culture Minister Abid Raja (V) now warns that Norwegian exchange and travel students may lose a number of freedoms and rights if Norway withdraws from the EEA agreement.

The online newspaper meets Raja at the Law School in Oslo, where the minister himself has been a student for 20 years. He believes that passport-free travel through the Schengen area, the right to healthcare in EU countries, cheap roaming services on European holidays and the Erasmus exchange programme, are at risk of disappearing in the event of the EEA’s withdrawal.

Thus Raja believes that the EEA policy of the Socialist Party and the private sector is a direct threat to these freedoms.

– Stop the nonsense you’re doing. Raja tells Nettavisen that tampering with the EEA agreement is not only a danger to Norwegian jobs, exports and the Norwegian climate, but it actually threatens the future of Norwegian students and the freedoms of Norwegians when they travel in Europe.

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– Dirty tired of this

Neither SV nor Sp believes that any of the freedoms Norwegians enjoy through the current EEA agreement are in danger of ending up tempted to withdraw from the EEA.

– These are completely uninformed places. This is just a desperate party that invents straw men and scares pictures of others to get attention, SV Deputy Leader Torger Nag Felixsens tells Nettavisen.

Abid Raja can forget any hint that we will now burn all bridges to the European Union. This fits in with a number of lies that characterize Norwegian politics at the moment, and I’m really tired of it, says Fylkesnes.

– This is just nonsense on the part of Raja. He knows this is not true. We said we would replace the European Economic Area with a better agreement with the EU that still guarantees full access to student exchange, health care and other freedoms, and that also ensures greater control over industries that are important to Norway, says the Center Party’s financial center. Policy spokesperson, Sigbjørn Gjelsvik, tells the newspaper online.

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Coffee latte guys from big cities

Raja says that many Norwegian students may miss out on a unique opportunity for a well-funded study stay abroad if the Erasmus exchange program is abandoned.

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The Center Party wants only young coffee lattes from big cities who go abroad to study. I know a lot of young people in rural areas who would like to take a semester abroad. Raja says that SV and Sp are a direct threat to the agreements we have, and a direct threat to the welfare of the students, and refers to, among other things, the Erasmus scheme.

The Erasmus scheme ensures that students of Norwegian universities can study for two semesters for free at another university in Europe. The program also allocates for students €400 in monthly support in addition to regular student support from Lånekassen.

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Traveling, living or studying in Europe can be very expensive

Raja believed that exchange studies in Europe would be too expensive, and only for the few, if the generous Erasmus scheme was negotiated.

Traveling, living or studying in Europe can be very expensive, says Raja.

Jelsewicz says he can guarantee that Sp will never enter into an agreement with the EU that does not include the freedoms hope aims for.

It is in the common interest of both Norway and the European Union to conclude good agreements in areas such as education, research and health care. Gelsvik says there is no indication that the EU or Norway do not want to continue this cooperation.

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Switzerland, which is neither a member of the European Economic Area nor a member of the European Union, is included in the cooperation on the European Health Card. In the case of Erasmus, a number of countries outside the European Union and the European Economic Area, such as Turkey, were included in this cooperation. There are different solutions for different countries. He argues that the fact that the UK is not part of Erasmus is an independent choice made by the British.

Passport freedom in Europe

Raja says that traveling without a passport across Europe is a good thing that most people take for granted. He believes that no Norwegian wastes the time one would have to present a passport at every border crossing in Europe.

– When traveling through Europe, you can walk the queue of express European passports at the airport. In the queue “all passports” next door are Americans and Asians. This queue is long and there are few who serve it. Raja says I doubt people in counties would like to have a daily life as you need passport to travel to Denmark, Sweden and rest of Europe.

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– I think most Norwegians feel safe by carrying their Helfo blue card in their pocket when traveling in Europe. Raja says it guarantees Norwegian citizens the right to cover needed health care in another country in the European Economic Area on the same terms as nationals of the country of residence.

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And it’s not a good idea not to get a 25,000 kroner mobile bill when you come home from vacation, as it was before, he says, referring to the exorbitant roaming costs of a European holiday before introducing a flat rate across the EU.

Gelsvik points out that passport freedom is regulated by Schengen cooperation.

Switzerland is outside the European Economic Area and the European Union. However, many of us have traveled in and out of Switzerland multiple times without any problems, he says.

– But the important thing is that we have a national opportunity to monitor the borders. In recent years, we have strengthened border controls to Norway (refugee influx and epidemic, editor’s note), which actually conflict with Schengen, but has been accepted by the European Union. Then we had to legally ask the EU every time, Gelsvik says.

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Please: – All this will be lost

Raja says the EEA agreement also guarantees Norwegians cheaper goods and better consumer rights, promoting cultural exchange through support schemes, as well as pension and social security rights for Norwegians working in EU countries.

Freedom of movement and work through the European Economic Area Agreement gives Norwegians the freedom to travel and settle anywhere in Europe without having to drive with a visa or work permit. Raja says that the Ahrar Party is the guarantor of all these freedoms.

– All these benefits thanks to the European Economic Area Agreement. Sp and SV say they want to renegotiate the EEA agreement. Britain will do the same. Raja says they should have ended the agreement and were left with an agreement far worse than the one Norway has now.

The European Economic Area agreement is much better than the UK agreement. Nobody should think we will get a better deal than the UK has been able to negotiate. He says they are much stronger and bigger than us.

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– Which of the above-mentioned freedoms, in your opinion, will be lost in the event of the withdrawal of the European Economic Area, please?

– I think that all this will be lost if we terminate the EEA agreement. When we got to the old agreement, it was several EFTA countries that negotiated the agreement. Now there are only a few countries left such as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. These are not important and important countries for the European Union. It was a different power back then. He says we reached an agreement which was very favorable for Norway.

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Bad and temporary deal

Fylkesnes believes that there was widespread political agreement previously that the EEA agreement is essentially a bad and temporary agreement.

We said we wanted a better deal. Ten years ago, according to the Conservative Party and the Labor Party, the EEA agreement was the worst agreement one could have. Then they completely agreed. The EEA was never an agreement that was meant to last. The idea was that it was a transitional agreement because you were going to join the European Union, says Felixnes.

In the past, no country that entered into trade agreements with the European Union imitated the European Economic Area agreement. It is a very strong signal in and of itself. We’ve looked at other EU trade deals, such as with South Korea, where you get the same benefits, but without the democracy deficit. This is where we want to be, says SV Deputy Commander.

There is no reason to lose anything

Felixnes does not believe that the new negotiations with the European Union will lead to any loss of freedoms to which hope aspires.

– I see no reason to do that. Then I would like to refer to Scandinavian cooperation, which is much older and more integrated than European cooperation (Nordic Council of Ministers and Nordic Council, editor’s note). There we agreed on freedoms between countries that are completely independent of the European Economic Area. Scandinavian cooperation has been used as a model by the European Union. Those who think that liberties are flowing from Brussels did not understand what we are doing in the Nordic cooperation. But he says the knowledge may have passed through Raja’s house.

Facts about the European Economic Area Agreement

* The European Economic Area (EEA) is made up of the 27 member states of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

* The European Economic Area Agreement is the largest international agreement entered into by Norway. It was signed in 1992 and entered into force on January 1, 1994.

* The agreement gives the three EFTA countries access to the EU’s internal market on equal terms of competition and equal rules. The pillars are the free movement of goods, people, services and capital.

* The agreement obliges Norway to comply with EU rules for the internal market, but does not give Norway any formal influence on the design of the rules. Norway also cannot adopt rules that conflict with EU rules

* Fisheries and agriculture are exempt from the agreement, both in terms of policy and market access.