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Norway: An 'Awkward Partner' of European Integration?

Stefan Gänzle, Thomas Henokl

Norway is the only Nordic state to have rejected membership in the European Union several times. Applying the conceptual lens of 'awkwardness', it seems fair to consider Norway as an awkward partner in the process of European integration. As a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), however, the country has been tightly associated with the European Union since 1994, actively participating in a number of EU policies and programs and effectively forging a close partnership which in itself became increasingly 'awkward'. This holds true despite the fact that Norwegian governments have recently started to embrace a more reserved attitude with regards to the implementation of a number of directives. As a member of regional and European integration, Norway aims at dissipating potential concerns for being perceived as awkward - despite the complexities created by its non-membership of the EU. We argue that Norwegian awkwardness has resulted in an awkward relationship between Norway and the EU predominantly rooted in the domestic political sphere between Norwegian political elites and the electorate, and among the political parties.



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