EM Germany Event Report: Europe is in need of Norwegian civil society DNA
A vibrant civil society – just like freedom, democracy and prosperity – cannot be taken for granted. The current rise of right-wing populism and authoritarian tendencies in virtually all European states demonstrates that a pluralistic civil society requires constant attention, nurture and vigilance. How Norway promotes the rule of law and democracy in the EU was the main theme of the “EBD Dialog” with Norwegian State Secretary Elsbeth Tronstad. On May 3rd Norway committed 1.8 billion Euros to the 15 least prosperous EU states to be invested by 2020 through the EEA and Norway Grants. The grants will go towards reducing social and economic inequalities and strengthening bilateral relations. Lithuanian Ambassador Devidas Matulionis was also present and brought the perspective of the beneficiary countries to the podium. The event was hosted by the royal Norwegian embassy in Berlin.
Why does a non-EU country engage to such an extent with the Union? Tronstad emphasized that although Norway isn’t part of the EU, it views itself as a core European country. They both share a set of European values and the conviction that civil society constitutes an important building block for a just and sustainable society. Both of which naturally follow from Norway’s political culture and tradition where longstanding trilateral cooperation between employees, employers and the government make-up Norway’s pluralistic democracy. The inclusion of representative associations and organisations comes naturally to the Norwegian political elite, as a majority of public officials have done volunteer work for NGOs or political parties.
Against this background, the EU-Norway collaboration will thus logically focus on the strengthening of both democratic processes and human rights and the combating of youth unemployment. One of the five selected programme areas includes cultural heritage and cultural cooperation, civil society, good governance and transparency. This corresponds also to demand: The sustainability of civil society organisations in Central and Eastern Europe and their ability to have their voice heard are still in question.
At the occasion of the EBD Dialog, EM Germany published a web page that lists all Norwegian partner organisations of EM Germany members. It gives insights into bilateral civil society co-operations and aims at encouraging cross-border networking: http://www.netzwerk-ebd.de/aktivitaeten/politik/norwegen/