Morten Hansen: Norway, motorcycles and the EU
Our friend Morten Hansen represents BMF’s Norwegian cousin NMCU in FEMA. Anna Zee spoke to him about Norway and the EU.
Is Norway not a member of the EU largely because it does not wish to participate in the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies?
The two major political parties in Norway, conservatives and social democrats, constitute nearly 60% of the seats in Parliament. Both parties are hugely in favour of Norway joining the EU as a full member. Despite this fact, the people of Norway voted ‘no’ in the two referendums held on joining (EEC in 1972 and the EU in 1994).
The main reason was that the Norwegians did not want to give up sovereignty. We have to keep in mind that when the first referendum was held in 1972, it was only 68 years since Norway got out of the union with Sweden and became a sovereign state. In 1973 Norway got its first free-trade agreement with the EEC. In 1986 came the EU inner market, and in 1989 the EEA was established, as an economic cooperation between the EU and EFTA (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). Norway signed the EEA treaty in 1992. The EEA treaty gives Norway access to the EU inner market. In return, Norway has to pay a substantial fee and accept all regulations regarding the inner market.
The EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) will hit hard if Norway does not immediately comply with new EU directives and regulations. This makes Norway ‘more Catholic than the pope’. And all of this without having any seats or votes in the European Parliament or the Council of Ministers!
Does Norway have an internal motorcycle industry?
No, there are no longer manufacturers of PTWs in Norway. There used to be a company called Tempo, but now it only imports foreign bikes. There is also no motorcycle accessories industry.
Do all imports relating to motorcycles comply with EU regulations?
Yes. The only exemption from EU type approval is national approval of small series and amateur-built motorcycles, and these vehicles cannot legally be exported.
Finland and Denmark have heavy taxes on new vehicles, how about Norway?
The vehicle tax in Norway is heavy. The tax on motorcycles constitutes up to 45% of the sales price.
Is there any aspect of motorcycle riding which is different from the EU in general (other than climatic conditions)?
Yes, just as there are between other EU member states. For example: in Norway, motorcyclists don’t pay road tolls and we can ride in bus lanes. Also, motorcycles are not registered by speed cameras. In areas not covered by EU inner market legislation Norway does what she wants.
Do you have any idea what difference it would make if Norway were not part of the EEA?
On the negative side, Norway would have to re-negotiate a separate trade agreement with the EU. That would be hard, but not impossible. Norway is a huge producer of energy and fish, products the EU market needs, and that would probably help.
We have, however, learned by experience that the EU punishes opponents and non-compliers hard, whenever possible. Greece is one obviously, but Norway also felt the
EU’s dissatisfaction after twice rejecting EU membership.
On the positive side, we could say no to crap directives, for example those regulating the labour market in favour of the capital owners at the expense of working people.
Many of these so-called deregulations coming from the EU have really challenged progressive and well-functioning national regulations in this area. That is why many
trade unions want Norway to leave the EEA treaty.
Norwegian motorcyclists, at least those belonging to the NMCU, have obviously determined that it is worth being a member of FEMA. What are your reasons for being a member?
It is very simple: Norwegian riders do not have MEPs to approach, and Norwegian ministers have no say in the Council of Ministers. The only way Norwegian riders can influence EU motorcycle politics is through NMCU being an active member of FEMA.
Does the same sort of thing happen for other interest groups?
Yes, but I think the NMCU/FEMA story is one of the more successful.