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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 14:40 GMT
EU tide turns in Norway, poll shows
EU member countries' flags at European Parliament
Norway is the only Scandinavian country outside the EU
More than 50% of Norwegians are now in favour of European Union membership for their country, a new opinion poll has suggested.


This is good news for those of us who want Norway to take its place in the EU

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen
In the first test of public opinion since 12 of the EU's 15 member states switched to the euro, 53% of those polled said they would vote "yes" in a referendum on joining the EU.

The poll of 1,000 people, carried out by the Opinion research firm for the Aftenposten newspaper, reverses the position of last spring, when 53% of those asked said they opposed membership.

The Norwegian public has twice rejected proposals to join the EU, most recently in 1994.

Plans on ice

It is the first time in 18 months that a poll has registered a majority in favour of EU membership.

Foreign Minister Jan Petersen said it was "good news for those of us who want Norway to take its place in the EU".

euros
The arrival of the euro is thought to have swung opinion
The introduction of the single currency and the EU's plans for expansion to include eastern European countries are said to have left Norwegians feeling increasingly isolated, as the only Scandinavian country outside the EU club.

"It's clear that the introduction of the euro may have a short-term effect. But opinion polls swing a lot," said Sigbjoern Gjelsvik from the "no" lobby.

Opposition to EU membership has focused on concerns about sovereignty and the possible drain on Norway's oil-generated wealth.

And there are no imminent plans to reconsider membership.

Although Mr Petersen's conservatives are in favour of Norway joining the EU, they share power with anti-EU parties and discussions on membership have been shelved for the lifetime of the coalition.

"I'm quite open about the fact that it is not possible to realise my dream about Europe today, and that means that I'm not going to stay in opposition until it is possible," he told BBC News Online in a recent interview.

He said he expected Norway to stay outside the EU for the "forseeable future".

See also:

16 Oct 01 | Europe
Norway far-right sets new course
11 Sep 01 | Europe
Norway poll sparks power struggle
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Norway
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