March 14, 2018 / 11:20 AM / 9 months ago

Norway close to adopting EU energy rules, averting break-up with bloc

OSLO, March 14 (Reuters) - Norway’s main opposition party said on Wednesday it would support the government’s plan to adopt European Union energy rules, likely securing the law’s passage and allowing the European Union outsider to remain a full member of EU markets.

For the past 24 years, Norwegian companies have enjoyed market access on equal terms with companies in the EU via the European Economic Area treaty, in return for the country’s adoption of EU common market regulations.

The centre-right minority government feared that rejecting the EU’s Third Energy Package, designed to enhance energy flows and improve regulatory oversight, would put Norway on a slippery slope to a Brexit-like ending of its close EU relations.

Norway’s parliament is expected to vote on the package later this month.

Trade unions and several centrist and left-wing parties have opposed the regulation, believing Norway could lose control of its abundant hydroelectric resources.

However, the opposition Labour Party, the biggest party in Norway’s parliament, said it would back the proposal in return for government guarantees of continued public sector ownership of most power production and infrastructure.

Under the EEA treaty, Norway retains the right to refuse the adoption of EU rules, but has never done so as this would also allow the union to retaliate by suspending other parts of the agreement. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Susan Fenton)

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