Erik Strand, chairperson for the Coastal Party in Vestfold County
The EEA agreement (the Agreement on the European Economic Area) entails free movement of workers within the EEA countries. The EEA countries consist of the EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The Coastal Party has since its founding in 1997 favoured Norway’s withdrawal from the EEA agreement. One of the reasons for that is that we oppose the policy of free migration within the EEA area. In the following, I will share some arguments for why Norway should withdraw from the EEA and bring the policy of free migration from EU countries to an end. Some of these arguments might have interest for readers in other European countries.
I will start with an argument that is entirely internal (foreign readers, please be patient, I will come to some other points soon). The combination of a strong Norwegian economy and free immigration from EU countries has led to a dramatic increase in the immigration to Norway during the latest years. As this immigration has most of all affected Norway’s most populated areas (including Vestfold), it has contributed to an increased pressure on these areas.
There is also another side to this matter. There are strong reasons that one should not believe that free immigration within the EEA area has been a blessing for the poorer countries among the EEA countries either. I will illustrate this with the case of Latvia (admittedly one of the extreme cases).
As one can read in this article – http://www.france24.com/en/20120522-latvia-emigration-population-brain-drain-economy/ – the policy of free immigration within EU/EEA has contributed to a demographic disaster in Latvia. The EU/EEA policy is not the sole culprit, as low birth rates have contributed to the crisis. However, there is no room for doubt that the EU/EEA policy has had a serious harming effect on Latvian demographics.
Then, if free migration for workforce is a bad idea, what should we do instead? My suggestion is more use of temporary permits for foreign workers (as the Coastal Party in Vestfold adopted in a statement at our annual meeting in 2013). Such a policy will mean that instead of permanently removing some of the best work force from poorer countries, we will hire it, and they will return to their country after some years with their savings.
In the end, a shift in policy as outlined above will be to the benefit to all parties.
The picture is from Wikimedia Commons