Fishing in Troubled Waters. Iceland, Norway and the Question of EU Membership

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

20 Pages, Grade: 1.3

Ron Böhler (Author)


Table of Contents
1 Introduction ... 2 ­ 3
2 State of Research ... 3 ­ 4
2.1 The European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) ... 4 ­ 5
2.2 Impact of interest groups on political parties ... 5 ­ 6
2.3 Reluctant Europeans: The Case of Iceland ... 6 ­ 7
2.4 To Join or Not to Join: The Case of Norway ... 7 ­ 8
3 Theoretical Framework ... 8
3.1 Liberal Intergovernmentalism & the Sectoral Approach ... 9 ­ 10
3.2 Network analysis ...
10 ­ 11
3.3 Dependent and independent variable ... 11 ­ 13
4 Methodology ... 13
4.1 Operationalization of (in)dependent variable ... 13 ­ 14
4.2 Case Selection ... 14 ­ 15
5 Expected Results ... 15 ­ 16
6 Bibliography ... 17 ­ 19

Iceland and Norway have traditionally been referred to as "outsiders" or even
"outliers" in the process of European Integration (Miles 2005). While Iceland had not
applied for EU membership until 2009, the Norwegian public rejected the country´s
accession twofold in a referendum, first 1972 and again in 1994. Since the mid-1990s,
both states have nevertheless been highly affiliated to the EU project through their
participation in the European Economic Area (EEA). Additionally, both countries
experienced similar developments concerning political representation since 1994,
with long-serving Eurosceptic center-right governments, which were replaced by pro-
European center-left governments after the turn of the millennium. The electorate in
Norway brought a
coalition government of Labor, Socialists and Center Party to
power in 2005, which was reelected four years later. In Iceland, a coalition of
social democrats and Left-Green Movement replaced the conservative
government in 2009. How did it come that Iceland for the first time in history
applied for EU membership after the change in government while Norway did
This study assumes the validity of liberal intergovernmentalism (LI) theory
and follows Ingebritsen´ s sectoral approach. The thesis under investigation is
formulated as follows: While the fishing industry in Norway constantly succeed in
intervening in national policy-making towards European integration, Icelandic
fishermen lost access to governing parties after the sudden change of government in
2009. Consequently they failed to prevent the government from filing the EU
membership application.
The additive of this research project is threefold: First of all the literature on
Nordic European countries in general, as well as linkages of interest groups and
political parties in domestic politics in particular, is manageable and underrates recent
developments. Scholars normally concentrate on specific variables such as security
policy (Archer and Sogner 1998), international political economy (Miles 1996;
Ingebritsen 1998) or national identity and a constructivist self-concept (Gstöhl 2002).
Others try to manage the variety of approaches in comprehensive case study analyses
(Thorhallsson 2004; Archer 2005). This design contributes to the upcoming
discussion on the reasons of the Icelandic request for EU membership by focusing on
network analysis in Northern European domestic politics. Furthermore there is still

need to explain, why the Icelandic political elite has been resistant to apply until
recently although the electorate often favoured accession (Thorhallsson 2002a).
Finally, the thesis seeks to test a theoretical approach brought up by Christine
Ingebritsen in her book The Nordic States and European Unity (1998). She argues
that the most important economic sector and its preferences shape national policy-
making towards European integration. I suppose the assumptions of this theory still to
be true, although the recent Icelandic membership application indicates the opposite.
Access to decision-makers turns out to be the major concept in this study.
problem of the operationalization here is that the study only compasses full
explanatory power when the intentions of the governing parties and the fishing
industry vary. It is a basic assumption of this thesis that the fishermen in both
countries, who reject EU membership, inspired Eurosceptic governments already
in the first place through close linkages to Members of Parliament (MPs) and
standing committees. It is supposed that the interest group-party relations between
fishermen and the post-2009 left government in Iceland were too loose to prohibit the
Icelandic EU application. In Norway, the political ties between the fishing sector and
governing parties remained stable due to historic entanglements of the sector with all
parties equally.
To come to a valid and reliable result, I will take into account the impact of
fisheries on anti-European conservative governments, which led both countries in the
1990s and beyond the millennium as well as the pro-European social democratic
coalitions that came to power in 2005 in Norway and 2009 in Iceland. The period of
investigation ranges from Icelandic and Norwegian accession to the European
Economic Area (EEA) in 1994 to recent developments in 2009, when Iceland applied
for EU membership for the first time in history. Linkages to MPs in general and to the
legislation process in standing committees of both Nordic parliaments will serve as
indicators for the concept of access.
First, a concise insight into the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
shall underscore fisheries policy as the main obstacle on the Norwegian and Icelandic
path to Brussels. The fishing industries in both countries would lose immensely from
joining the EU so that they try to discourage their governments from filing a

membership application. Afterwards, an overview on the scientific literature on the
impact of interest groups towards political decision-makers will be given. At least, the
historical and socio-political development of both units of analysis, Norway and
Iceland, will be explored until recently.
The European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was officially introduced in
1983, when the coordination of the common seas was separated from the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) (Commission of the European Communities 2009: 6-8). At
that time, European concerns rose that the management of the 1977 created Exclusive
Economic Zones
(EEZ) between EU Member States could be highly problematic.
Common regulations and cross-national agreements would provide the best solutions.
In 1976, the EC concluded contracts with third countries, inter alia Norway
and Iceland. The agreements allow both countries to trawl in the EEZs of EU member
states. They have equal rights in exchange, yet the access to waters is strictly limited.
The mechanism of total allowable catch (TAC) serves for the Resource Conservation
and Management Policy of the CFP. The underlying principle of "relative stability" is
one of the most important concerning a joint fisheries management in Europe. The EC
determines annual maximum fishing quotas for every species, based first and
foremost on historic catch of the respective country, but also on the so called "Hague
as well as offsets in order to outweigh the losses of EEZ (Conceição-
Heldt 2004: 19). "The purpose of relative stability is [...] to provide fishers with an
environment which is stable relative to the overall state of the stock in question"
(Commission of the European Communities 2009: 6). The accession of Iceland and
Norway would have an enormous impact on the CFP as both countries are among the
leading fishing nations in the world. Foss et al. calculate that the TACs would
increase by approximately 40 per cent from 6 - 7 million tons of fish to 10 ­ 11
million tons per year (2003: 13).
Fisheries policy in the Nordic Countries is often seen as high politics, while it
remains rather low politics in Brussels. Especially after Iceland applied for
membership, many Icelanders were concerned the country could give away its fishing
The EEZ is a 200-miles sea zone that is under sovereign supervision of each European coastal state.
The "Hague preferences" refer to the relative stability between EU member states as some of them are
highly reliant on fisheries. Independently from negotiated quotas, a minimum tonnage for exploitation
is always guaranteed.

monopoly around the island too swiftly and without really obtaining much positive
effect on its economy (EUobserver 2009). The question with regard to this design is
not, what Iceland and Norway could win after EU accession in total, but what the
leading fishing sector could lose after joining the EU and the CFP. In this case, the
two countries would have to adopt EC regulation in the European fisheries policy, so
that a) foreign shareholders could in future hold majorities in Icelandic/Norwegian
fishing companies (Foss et al. 2003: 20-21); b) these shareholders could then exploit
fish stocks on Icelandic/Norwegian quotas; and c) Icelandic/Norwegian stakeholders
would in consequence be excluded from participation in national as well as European
fisheries management (Mikalsen and Jentoft 2008).
This design is embedded within liberal intergovernmentalism theory that
refers to the idea of interest groups having an impact on national governments.
Moravcsik traces back the states´ attitude towards the Single European Act (SEA) and
European Monetary Union (EMU) to the interests of transnational and finance
companies that determine national preferences (1998: 344-346 and 408-423).
The literature on EU lobbying does not provide a common understanding of
what influence actually is, which strategies stakeholders use to arrange linkages to
relevant actors and how the actual impact can be measured scientifically (cf. Dür
2008a; Mazey and Richardson 2006; Dür 2008b). Hence, I will follow Schier, who
came up with a more Weberian definition: "Influence is the ability of a group to
produce a desired outcome in government ­ whether that outcome involves stasis or
change" (2000: 158). In contrast to the controversial concept of interest group´s
impact, this design is targeted on the concept of access as a pre-condition of exerting
influence. Beyers refers to access as "the channelling or exchange of policy-relevant
information through formal or informal networks with public actors" (2002: 587). The
access of interest groups to political actors is not of a regular character, but based
upon asymmetric power relations. First, MPs may consult stakeholders on their own
initiative, but there clearly is no guarantee that they do so. Second, economic interest
groups do not perform as veto players by law. Neither in Norway nor in Iceland do
governments need the agreement of key industries to enact and implement legislation;
stakeholders do not possess veto power (cf. Tsebelis 2002). If anything, they can
operate with incalculable pressure such as strikes. In consequence, stakeholders have

to regain access to decision-makers over and over again. Pieter Bouwen is right that
access does not automatically lead to influence, but that influence at any point
requires access (2002: 366). Whenever it is denied, the preferences of the stakeholders
are unlikely to be adopted by the government.
Economic sectors per se do not constitute an interest group. They are
organized in institutional bodies that formulate preferences internally and represent
them towards relevant political actors.
Iceland, which announced its independency from Denmark in 1944, never
applied for EU membership until 17 July 2009. Nonetheless, it has never been absent
from the process of European unification. Iceland joined NATO in 1945, the Council
of Europe in 1950, EFTA in 1970, the OSCE in 1975, WEU in 1992, and adopted the
EEA agreement in 1994 as well as the Schengen agreement in 2000.
In more than 60 years Iceland refused to apply for EU membership, although
the public has largely been in favour of starting negotiations with the EU, while the
political elite denied this step as well as any open discussion on the subject
vigorously. Thorhallsson refers to this problem as the `elite-electorate-gap´ (2002a).
In literature, several explanations exist why Iceland never applied for EU membership
before. One of the most important is Ingebritsen´s sectoral approach that will be
explained further below. Other scholars underline that national politicians (ab)use the
CFP as argument to stir up Icelandic nationalism. The political elite refers to the
pretended destructiveness of the European fisheries system for Icelandic fishermen in
order to eliminate the topic from day-to-day politics (Stommer 2007: 52). Others
argue that the administrative capacity to handle ongoing integration is way too small
(Thorhallsson 2002b). Gstöhl (2002) and Neumann (2001) stress the importance of
national identity in the process of European integration. The insufficient debate on an
Icelandic EU membership can best understood by following the logic of the political
discourse within the historic framework, e.g. the country´s young independence from
Denmark (Hálfdanarson 2004).
None of the scholars ever paid attention to the possible impact of interest
groups on national agenda setting and policy-making as the key variable. That´s why
this design targets the assumed consistent influence of the fishing sector on political
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Fishing in Troubled Waters. Iceland, Norway and the Question of EU Membership
Free University of Berlin
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Bitte unter folgendem Pseudonym veröffentlichen: Ron Böhler
Iceland, Norway, EU, European Union, EU Membership, European Integration, liberal intergovernmentalism
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Ron Böhler (Author), 2010, Fishing in Troubled Waters. Iceland, Norway and the Question of EU Membership, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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