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Scientific article


Diplomacy through the back door: Norway and the bilateral route to EU decision-making


This article examines how Norway, a veteran EU outsider by choice, works on a day-to-day basis to compensate for its lack of formal voice in EU institutions. After Norwegian voters' second rejection of EU membership in a national referendum in 1994, Prime Minister Brundtland observed that Norway now must be prepared to use “the back door” to reach EU policy-makers. I suggest that for Norway, a key alternative route to the EU decision-making table has gone through bilateral partnerships. I identify two chief variants of this bilateral trajectory, what I term long-term and rotating bilateralism. Firstly, Norway has pursued long-term ties with selected bilateral partners within the EU system. Secondly, it has systematically strengthened its diplomatic presence in the member state holding or about to take over the rotating presidency of the EU Council. I conclude with some reflections on the relevance of Norway's “bilateral experience” for Britain, as a future EU outsider.


  • Diplomacy
  • Foreign policy
  • Europe
  • The EU