As Europe Changes, Will Scandinavia Remain the Same?

By Ingebritsen, Christine | Scandinavian Studies, Fall 1992 | Go to article overview

As Europe Changes, Will Scandinavia Remain the Same?


Ingebritsen, Christine, Scandinavian Studies


THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY'S internal market reform program challenges the identity of the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian welfare states and the traditional preference of Scandinavian governments for autonomy from international institutions.(1) Policy coordination among the twelve members of the EC--Scandinavia's largest export market--creates external pressure on the small, open economies of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark to reduce tariff and non-tariff trade barriers and liberalize economic policies in a manner consistent with those of EC member-states. The Scandinavian partnership between business, government, and labor, defined as "democratic corporatism," is not found in the EC, where labor is relatively weaker and not in a position to extract demands from employers.(2) If Scandinavian governments liberalize their social welfare policies to meet the requirements of the EC's internal market program, the identity of the Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish welfare states will become less distinct from other European welfare states.

In 1985, Jacques Delors introduced the EC's internal market reform program. These reforms included the revitalization of plans for political union (with the intent to create a common defense and foreign policy), the establishment of a common currency and central European bank, reforms in the decision-making capacity of the EC's three core institutions (the Council of Ministers, the Commission, and the European Parliament), and the creation of an internal market for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and persons (the "four freedoms") by January 1, 1993. The EC's adoption of the Single European Act and White Paper (introduced in 1985, and approved by national assemblies in 1987) provides a blueprint for improving the competitive position of the EC in the world economy.(3)

The collapse of Communism, the break-up of the Warsaw Pact, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union have rendered Cold War solutions to the security threat obsolete. In post-Cold War Europe, the principal threat to Scandinavia is the prospect of economic decline. The most important political challenge for Scandinavian governments in the 1990s is to participate in the EC's internal market program while retaining policies that have become central to the identity of the Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian welfare states.

In this essay, I will outline the political choices made by three Scandinavian governments--Denmark (a member of the EC), Norway, and Sweden (members of the European Free Trade Association)--in response to the EC's internal market program. I will also discuss the implications of those choices for the new Europe, for Scandinavian politics, and for the identity of the Scandinavian variant of welfare capitalism.(4) While the political choices are still in the process of being made, one outcome is certain: as Europe changes, Scandinavia will not remain the same.

SCANDINAVIA AND EUROPEAN INTEGRATION

Sweden, Denmark, and Norway have traditionally preferred autonomy to integration in their international relations. In 1973, Denmark, following its largest trading partner, Great Britain, became the only Scandinavian state to join the EC when sixty-three percent of the participants in a national referendum voted "yes" to EC membership. As members of EFTA, Norway and Sweden negotiated a bilateral free trade agreement with the EC that reduced tariffs on industrial goods rather than join the supranational, free market-oriented EC. The Swedish government objected to the Werner Plan for economic union, which infringed upon national sovereignty, and the Davignon Plan for foreign policy cooperation, which was deemed incompatible with Swedish neutrality. In Norway, a social movement that associated the EC with the "three C's"--Capitalism, Conservatism, and Catholicism--was effective in mobilizing an oppositional coalition of rural economic interests (agriculture, fisheries, small industry) and urban nationalists. …

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