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Norway’s EU ambassador Anders Eide in the EU Parliament in Strasbourg to gauge the election mood. Photo: Bibiana D. Piene / NTB

Of NTB | 28.04.2024 08:32:19

Policy: In the corridors of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg, the atmosphere is tense. It is the last session before the EU elections.

In the main hall, the parliamentarians are in full swing with a marathon vote. A record number of legal acts and resolutions, almost 90 in number, must be hammered through before a new parliament takes over.

The corridors are teeming with advisers and assistants. In addition, around 1,000 journalists are present, which is also a record.

For now, the election campaign begins in earnest – with the official opening on Monday. In six weeks, the citizens of the EU countries will go to the polls and elect a new parliament for the next five years.

– The idea is to talk to parliamentarians about the time we are entering, and take the pace on the priorities going forward, he says to NTB.

Because even if Norwegians do not have a vote in the election, the outcome will greatly affect Norway and Norwegian politics, emphasizes the ambassador.

– The EU Parliament is one of two legislators in the EU. So they have great influence, he says and reminds us that around 90 per cent of the laws the EU adopts are imported to Norway through the EEA agreement.

To date, around 14,000 legal acts have been introduced.

But Norway’s opportunity to influence what takes place in parliament is quite limited, admits Eide.

– Our room for action in the EU is greater the earlier we enter the processes. When they have made it as far as parliament, you are often a part of the decision-making process. So here the room for action is probably quite limited.

But it has not paralyzed the union. On the contrary. New laws and regulations have been produced at high speed, including the EU’s green package “Ready for 55”.

– We have been involved in converting an entire continent in a green direction, which no other continent has done before us, says the Danish member of parliament Morten Helveg to the Danish newspaper The politics.

In addition, the Digital Services Regulation (DSA), designed to keep tech giants like Meta and Google in check, and the Artificial Intelligence (AI) regulation are examples of policy innovation that could have global repercussions.

Despite scandals about bribery and espionage in the EU Parliament: unofficially, the last five years have already been named the most productive period in the EU’s history. The question is whether it will continue in the same vein.

In particular, the party group Identity and Democracy (ID) on the far right wing has made great progress recently and is set to become the third largest group in the EU Parliament, ahead of liberal Renew.

Together with the right-wing populists in the party group European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), they can form the second largest wing in the parliament. This can make it more difficult to create a majority, which can hamper political work.

This keeps many parliamentarians awake at night, write Politico.

– It will make our work more difficult. No doubt about it. Many of these parties are against the EU, says a high-ranking official in the parliament, who does not wish to be named, to NTB.

– It remains to be seen. The unrest for a strengthening of the far right has been there in previous parliamentary elections as well, he tells NTB.

One – perhaps poor – consolation is that ECR and ID disagree both among themselves and internally on several issues, perhaps especially in their view of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.

But a widespread fear is that more right-wing politics will mean less green politics from the EU in the future.

– I think there is real reason to worry about a pushback when it comes to the green shift, says Eide.

– It can probably happen. But at the same time, it is in Norway’s interest that the EU as a democratic system is as well-functioning as possible. So we hope that as many Europeans as possible actually use their right to vote, says Eide.

Norway’s EU ambassador Anders Eide is among those following the election with arguable eyes. He has traveled to Strasbourg to take the pulse of the atmosphere himself.

In the last five years, the EU has gone from crisis to crisis – from Brexit, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis.

according to measurements can the EU take a sharp turn to the right in this election.

Eide still keeps the door open so that the right turn is not as big as it might seem.

This year’s EU elections may set a new record in terms of turnout. In a recent poll, over 70 percent said they intended to vote.

(© NTB)

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