Towards Europe

The Story of a Reluctant Norway

by Paal Frisvold (Author)
©2018 Monographs 236 Pages


Does Norway belong to Western Europe? This provocative question, put to the head of the Norwegian delegation to the conference on the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, begins the history of Norwegian attitudes towards European integration. From 1905 to 1994, Norway opposed practically all types of European and international cooperation. Had Norway’s views gained traction, Europe and the world would look very different today. Towards Europe demonstrates how little Norwegians knew before the 1994 referendum about the EU Single Market and the European Economic Area (EEA). The book takes the reader behind the scenes of secret negotiations between the EU and Norway, giving an unprecedented insight into how the EEA works in practice. It illustrates with concrete examples Norway’s ability to articulate its views and to be heard in Brussels, from the perspective of both government and interest groups. It also looks at Norway’s potential to tackle future EU challenges such as the Energy Union, migration policies, transatlantic trade and the Banking Union.
Towards Europe will provide the reader with pertinent insights into whether the EEA is a suitable alternative for Britain’s future relations with the EU.
This edition includes an extra chapter on how to influence the EU from a non-member country.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Foreword
  • Contents
  • Prologue: European policy from heaven
  • Part 1. Norway in Europe
  • Chapter 1. Resistance and Good Fortune
  • Løvland’s neutrality line and Norway’s first foreign policy
  • Pan-Europe and the idea of a United States of Europe
  • The Briand Plan and the first Norwegian debate on Europe
  • Against mobilization. The German invasion of Norway
  • “Europe is not an entity”
  • Churchill and the Norwegian iron curtain – a Norwegian vision of a non-aligned world
  • Chapter 2. Château de la Muette
  • The Americans’ demands regarding economic cooperation
  • Norwegian “yes” to the Marshall Aid
  • False hopes and realities
  • The OECD as an arena for new cooperation
  • “Before Norway goes under” – NATO membership
  • The Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights
  • The attempt at Nordic cooperation
  • René Pleven and the idea of a European army
  • The European Coal and Steel Union
  • The European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Britain’s answer to the Coal and Steel Union
  • Against the EEC’s customs union
  • Great Britain does an about-turn on the EEC question
  • Gerhardsen’s yes
  • The people’s first no
  • Also against the UN’s maritime organization
  • Also against the creation of the International Energy Agency
  • Chapter 3. From French Liqueur to the EEA
  • The 1970s – a world in stagnation
  • The Bretton Woods Agreement and American U-turn
  • Cassis de Dijon and the start of the EU’s Single Market – the last straw, or rather the final drop
  • The cost of non-cooperation
  • What about EFTA?
  • Norwegian indifference and shock
  • Follow-up by the government
  • Lack of political interest
  • Trade sanctions against Norway
  • The EEA is born
  • Norway’s reply
  • EFTA drama
  • 1989, Europe’s fateful year
  • Part 2. Europe-Bound
  • Chapter 4. Vote for What?
  • Tipping the scales
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Participation in EU defence and foreign policy
  • Great Britain does a U-turn – again
  • Anna Lindh’s hug
  • The Storting version
  • Yes to what?
  • The EU in the year 1994
  • Too good an agreement
  • Heyerdahl won
  • Chapter 5. Twelve Expensive Minutes in Brussels That Turned out Profitable
  • Borschette-goers
  • EEA in practice: Gas, food and fish
  • The delegation from EFTA
  • The EEA Committee
  • Ending Norwegian gas preferences
  • Jam, chocolate and pizza
  • Fish in transit
  • Norway, the EU, gas and the future
  • Part 3. Norway in the Europe of the Future
  • Chapter 6. EU Climate Funds
  • The breakthrough
  • Norway, the land of post hoc
  • Chapter 7. With Our Backs to the World
  • A Europe in crisis
  • EU cooperation on the wane
  • Chapter 8. The Banking Union
  • Something no one thought possible
  • The informal contacts
  • Norway’s part in the financial crisis
  • Chapter 9. The Energy Union
  • Reasonable, climate-friendly energy from home and reliable suppliers abroad
  • Norway’s views
  • Chapter 10. The EEA Across the Atlantic
  • Chapter 11. Migration Policy
  • The Arab spring reaches Europe
  • Chapter 12. Part of, But Not a Member – or Vice Versa
  • Brexit: A solution for Norway? A guide to successful EU lobbying
  • Epilogue: Courageous Enough to Take on Europe?
  • Appendix: A Guide to Successful EU lobbying
  • What Norway wants – about Norwegian navel-gazing and Finnish finesse
  • The EU’s key institutions
  • The Parliament: Europe’s most important political arena
  • The European Commission
  • The EU’s General Affairs Council
  • Three levels of ambition for EU work
  • The first commandment: Think European!
  • Second commandment: Use the right arena!
  • Third commandment: Leave yourself plenty of time
  • Fourth commandment: Forge alliances and network
  • An example to emulate – the Erika case
  • Index of Keywords
  • Series Index

← 20 | 21 →


European Policy From Heaven

In 1870 a hot-air balloon from the heart of Europe came crashing down in the mountains of Telemark. The crash provided the prelude to widespread popular support for France’s war against Prussia, one of Norway’s first and last popular engagements in European politics.

The people quickly flocked to the square outside the Château de la Muette on the outskirts of Paris one grey November evening in 1870. Few had seen the revolutionary new means of conveyance first-hand: a hot-air balloon laden with people and supplies. None of the many thousands who turned out could have envisaged in their wildest imagination that the expedition they were witnessing would end up on Mount Lifjell, near Bø in Telemark – far fewer still that it would usher in widespread popular involvement in a Great European conflict.1

With Otto von Bismarck at the head, Prussia had surrounded Paris after having overpowered Napoleon III’s army in Sedan. The tactics now involved were to starve the Parisians into total submission and surrender. After several months of a full blockade around the whole of Paris, winter was imminent, and signs of desperation began to appear. The Parisians had a wealth of ideas for breaking the German blockade: everything from sending women with Prussic acid in their thimbles to kill German soldiers to releasing the wild animals in the zoo and letting them loose on the enemy.

President Louis Jules Trochu wanted to order the Minister of the Interior, Léon Gambetta, and his soldiers, who were besieged in Tours outside Paris, to join forces with the troops in Normandy. There they were to conquer the city of Rouen, then penetrate Bismarck’s troops at their weakest point: from the north. The President’s problem was to ← 21 | 22 → communicate the plan of attack to the Minister of the Interior in Tours, as no one on the ground was able to get there owing to the German blockade. The solution would turn out to be a hot-air balloon with two men carrying the President’s secret message sewn into their uniforms.

By 10 p.m. on 24 November the hydrogen-filled hot-air balloon, La Ville d’Orléans, was ready to depart from the large, open square at Château de la Muette, a castle on the outskirts of Paris. It was the same castle that would host the negotiations on the fate of Europe after the Second World War up to the present day. The open basket, or gondola, conveyed Captain Paul Rolier and his co-pilot Deschamps skywards and over German troops. The basket was full of thousands of letters, food, wine and water, and large sandbags were used to adjust their height and speed.

After just a few minutes and a good hundred metres up in the air, the balloonists were surprised by bullets flying past on either side. They had been spotted! In their panic, they began ejecting the sandbags in order to climb higher and beyond the reach of the German bullets. It was only when the altimeter showed 2,700 metres that they stopped ejecting.

“Neither of the balloonists driven northwards from Paris at breakneck speed in the Ville d’Orléans that pitch-black November night had any inkling that they had now embarked on one of the most dramatic balloon voyages in history”, writes Telemark’s great local historian Einar Østvedt in his book Den første luftferd over Norge [“The First Air Crossing over Norway”]. For hours on end the French President’s envoys had to sit in that little gondola, frozen stiff and staring at the sky, at the clouds and anything that might provide a clue about the landscape beneath them. As the sun’s rays peeked out one morning, Rolier first saw a carpet of green forest. He would later realize that his eyes were deceiving him and that they were just above the sea. Dreading landing in the ice-cold waters, the two men threw out more sandbags and allowed themselves to be blown further out of control. Nineteen hours and 130 nautical miles further north, both their clothes, hair and beards were stiff with ice. Trees and forests were exchanged for white plains and mountains. Rolier judged that it was “now or never”, and together the two of them managed to leap out of the gondola basket and down into the deep snow. The two Frenchmen walked all night long outdoors, and only the following morning – when they were famished and freezing cold – did ← 22 | 23 → they find a sledge track, which led them to a small timber shack. They knocked, but no one opened, whereupon they entered, sat down by the meagre embers of the wood-burning stove and flung themselves upon some paltry dregs of coffee and left-over potatoes. A short while later, two brothers stood in the doorway: Loggers Harald and Klas Strand stood face to face with the French balloonists in the little timber shack without any of them understanding a single word of one another’s language. Using sign and finger language, they arrived at France, Paris, Norway and Telemark. They had dropped down onto Lifjell in Telemark, 800 metres above sea level. They were 200 kilometres from Christiania, as Oslo was called then, which they had to get to as rapidly as possible in order to have the message from the President in Paris sent to the Minister of the Interior in Tours.

The sensational balloon voyage would attract great attention all over Norway. The following telegram from P. Nielsen, a district sheriff in Krødsherad, to the bailiff in Buskerud spread like wildfire across the whole country – like a sensation in a country isolated and starved of news from foreign parts: “This afternoon a hot-air balloon from Paris came down in Krødsherad. There were a number of sealed mail bags, six live doves, but no people.” National and local newspapers got hold of the news. Both Morgenbladet and Aftenbladet wrote about the story, and the wildest speculations and rumours were printed in papers around the country.

Long before the French balloonists reached Christiania, the news of their arrival caused a great stir. Crowds of people swarmed together at Vestbane Station, where the train was due to arrive, and outside the French Consulate’s office in Karl Johan’s Street, where the throng shouted “Vive la France!”.

Telegrams and greetings poured in from the whole country, from Tromsø in the north to Hamar, Tønsberg and Mandal. In Christiania receptions and gala performances were held, with circus and theatre, all in honour of the Frenchmen. The biggest celebration was mounted in Gamle Logen, the old Freemasons’ Lodge on Count Wedel’s Square, where an independent organizing committee had invited 800 guests, with a further 100 outside. After Headmaster Gjertsen expressed the Norwegian people’s affection for France in fluent French, the Norwegian Students’ Choral Society struck up Jonas Lie’s ode “To France”. Close ← 23 | 24 → to one percent of the entire population of Christiania (at that time 100,000 inhabitants) had turned out. In a society devoid of radio, TV – not to mention the Internet and social media – mustering one percent of the capital’s population commands some respect.

Norwegian, Danish, Swedish and French flags adorned the facade of the heavy grey edifice housing the Masonic Lodge in Christiania. Songs, speeches, applause and champagne corks went off in perfect unison, and the evening’s keynote speaker, Mr Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, took to the stage and delivered a fiery address in honour of the French guests: “Just as this hot-air balloon that was sent up by the enthusiasm of the French fatherland, by France’s peril and valour, came drifting here towards us in a whistling storm, so too from France have risen, out of the great earth, mostly in the hour of need, great thoughts, ideas of redemption, travelling out on the wings of the storm across the world and careering towards our mountain, only to fall back to earth.” Bjørnson’s speech also played on the parallel with Norwegian society: “For more than half a century we have had France to thank for some of the greatest notions we have lived off. In this moment, too, when France itself seems to be a balloon drifting in foul weather, it is a shining example to the rest of us, particularly us ordinary folk. For it shows what a people without an army can do when it wants to. It is without precedent in world history!” The applause was interminable, and after Rolier’s speech of thanks the two balloonists were carried shoulder-high in triumph around the great hall several times.

The first balloon voyage over Norway generated great enthusiasm, even amongst most Norwegians. On the trip from Lifjell in Telemark to present-day Oslo, it caused a ripple of curiosity and sympathy that developed into a powerful feeling of solidarity with France. Money collections were held across the land. In Hamar alone they collected 630 francs, and from Kopervik on the Isle of Karmøy came 100 francs. As he was about to depart from the quayside in Christiania on the English steamship SS North Star on 1 December, bound for England, the French consul was able to hand over a cheque for the staggering amount of 23,800 French francs – an amount equivalent to 1.32 million Norwegian kroner in today’s money. ← 24 | 25 →

While the Norwegian government had to consider its position on the Swedish government’s sympathy and commercial relations with the Germans, the Norwegian people’s attitude had taken a different direction. Two Frenchmen’s incredible journey to the north ignited people’s heartfelt desire to show sympathy and support for resolving Europe’s conflicts. ← 25 | 26 →

1 This entire story and the details have been taken from Einar Østvedt’s book, Den første luftferd over Norge, Oluf Rasmussens Forlag, Skien, Norway, 1968.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (December)
espace économique européen plan Marshall crise Europe politique États-Unis crisis european economic area UE USA Norvège histoire history politique étrangère external policy plan Briand Marshall plan coopération cooperation Château de la Muette accord gouvernemental government agreement
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2018. 231 p.

Biographical notes

Paal Frisvold (Author)

Paal J. Frisvold is a leading Norwegian expert on the EU and the EEA, with experience of working with the OECD and the EFTA, and as a campaigner for The Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental NGO. Today, he is a writer, a political commentator and an adviser to Norwegian business, industry and civil society in Brussels. Paal Frisvold holds a Masters degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna and Washington DC. He fenced for Norway in the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.


Title: Towards Europe
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238 pages