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Secret Network Prepares for Norwegian EU Battle

A leading member of the Norwegian governing party, the Christian Democratic Party, has become involved in a secret network which opposes EU membership.

Initiated by Center Party leader, Åslaug Haga, the parliamentarian leader of Norway’s ruling Christian Democratic Party, Jon Lilletun and the Socialist Left Party have met to gear up for the expected third battle over Norwegian EU membership. "We are getting a forum established together with people from trade unions, agriculture, fisheries and the political parties," Haga explained to Norwegian daily Aftenposten. "This is only the beginning, up to now there has mainly been contacts at the informal level." The issue is sensitive as the leader of the participating Christian Democratic Party, Kjell Magne Bondevik, is the prime minister of Norway. He is heading the current Norwegian coalition government made up of the Conservative Party, the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Left. These three parties disagree on EU membership but have agreed not to raise the issue during this Parliament. Lilletun dismissed the question of whether the Christian Democratic Party would have to leave government when engaging actively on the No-side. According to Lilletun, the Conservative Party, which is also a member of the ruling coalition, has also been pushing the EU question lately. He would not confirm whether the prime minister had been informed about the network. Norway has already held two referendums on EU membership, in 1972 and 1994. Both ended with victory for the 'no' side. The discussion over EU membership is expected to heat up again in the run-up to the next election, which will be held in September 2005. (EUObserver.com)

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