Norway represents one of the most advanced realities on the planet; the center-periphery dialectic is, as in the rest of the Nordic countries, overturned with respect to the rest of Europe: the South represents, thanks to the better climatic conditions and closer proximity to Central-Western Europe, the region with the highest population density and concentration of productive activities, counterpointed by a sparsely populated and less dynamic North. The population amounted to 4,419,000residents in 1998(according to UN estimates) and demographic trends appear to be substantially aligned with the European averages, while maintaining a certain vitality: in fact, if the birth rate is estimated at 13, 7 ‰, mortality touches the 10‰ due to the aging of the population, the average annual growth was estimated, between 1995 and 2000, to be equal to 3 ÷ 4 ‰.
The Norwegian territorial organization hinges on some urbanized regions along the central-southern Atlantic coast, along that of the North Sea and on the Skagerrak; the opposition between the marginality of the internal mountainous region and the greater centrality of the extensive coastal front, touched by the Gulf Stream, continues to play a fundamental role, also in relation to the recent evolution of the economy. These contrasts are reflected in the distribution of the population, concentrated in the coastal strip of the southern regions, which in any case shows one of the lowest average densities in Europe (14 residents / km ²). In fact, the counties of the capital Oslo, of its metropolitan region (Akershus), that of Vestfold and Østfold and those of Hordaland, Rogaland and Sør-Trøndelag (the capitals of these last three are Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, the three largest cities after Oslo) have an above average density. In Finnmark, the northernmost county, the density is only 2 residents/km ² ∙
The capital, Oslo (494,000 residents In 1997), stands out for its demographic weight as well as for its economic and functional importance, with its metropolitan region, which hosts about a third of the total population and is also the main industrial center. The history of this city is linked to the strategic position of its site, a crossroads between the Baltic and North Seas, as well as to the function of the main maritime outlet of the Scandinavian area; the port of Oslo is a very important commercial and maritime hub, the headquarters of one of the most modern and impressive fishing fleets in the world. The exploitation of North Sea oil fields has given new life to the already important coastal cities of Stavanger (105. 600ab. in 1997) and Bergen (224,100 residents, the second Norwegian city), which together with Trondheim (144,600 residents) constitute the other strong points of the urban and economic framework of the Norway; Trondheim then acts as a hinge between the South and the North of the country. In the northern section, the population is concentrated in a few small port centers, among which Bodø, Narvik and Tromsø stand out.
The key to understanding the Norwegian territorial organization remains maritime. If in the past the sea was the main source of food resources, the vector of exploration and mercantile activities, as well as the main route for internal communications, today it represents a sort of physical extension of the national territory. From the sea comes, in fact, the main and most recent resource No, the rich oil and gas reserves offshore, a resource which is the first item of exports (157 million tonnes of oil extracted and 45. 300 million m ³ of gas in 1997). In the yards of Stavanger, Oslo and other ports, the structures have adapted to the construction and maintenance of the platforms necessary for the extraction of oil at sea. The solid Norwegian economy finds its strengths both in traditional sectors and in those of more recent development, but there is no doubt that the hydrocarbon resource is fundamental for the surplus of the foreign trade balance.
Within the primary sector, agriculture occupies the least weight, in particular the agricultural sector, while the livestock sector (cattle and sheep in the South, reindeer and fur animals in the North) has a certain importance. More important, although much lower than that of Sweden and Finland, is the forestry patrimony (25.7 % of the territory) managed in a far-sighted way, which feeds the industrial sectors of wood and paper. Norway excels in fishing thanks to a highly technologized fishing fleet that allows it to occupy the tenth place in the world for size of fish (especially cod and herring).
In the energy sector, Norway occupies an important position in the world, and excels in Europe for oil and methane (extracted in the North Sea), also being able to count on a no less important hydroelectric heritage. Energy wealth was at the origin of the industrialization of the country, in which aluminum processing, shipbuilding and the petrochemical and food industries stand out.
A strong voice of the national economy is also represented by tourism, which has undergone a significant expansion thanks to an efficient enhancement policy also from an environmental point of view (in 1994 the Norway had 88 protected areas, covering 13 % of the territory).
Overall, the Norwegian economic situation appears solid, even if some serious problems need to be addressed, such as those of excessive dependence on North Sea oil, the gigantism of state assistance and the regional imbalance between North and South.
Historically dependent on fishing, and more recently on submarine hydrocarbons, the country has often been the protagonist of international disputes over the exploitation of the seas. Among the latter is the one concerning whaling which Norway has decided to reactivate despite the international moratorium.
A popular referendum (1994) confirmed the Norwegians’ will not to enter the European Union (see below: History).
Governed from 1945 to 1965 by the Labor Party of Det norske Arbeiderparti (DnA), in the following years the Norway saw the succession to power of conservative coalitions (1965-73) and left-wing coalitions (1973-81). The eighties were instead characterized by the prevalence of centrist-conservative alignments, even if both the legislature started in 1985 and that started in 1989, recorded the breakdown of the government alliance and were concluded by minority Labor governments led by GH Brundtland (former prime minister for a few months during 1981and first woman to assume that office). In the same decade, the economic situation was marked by a series of fluctuations, linked to the various economic phases but also to the new role exercised on the international market for energy sources; nevertheless the Norwegian economy remained very progressed, and the GDP grew, between 1980 and 1993, at a pace of 2, 6 % per annum. On the international level, the question of relations with NATO and with the countries of the European Economic Community remained at the center of the political debate.
The Brundtland government was characterized by the favor shown towards the process of European integration, which ended up dominating the electoral campaign in view of the legislative consultations of September 1993. The polarization of the debate favored both the Labor of the Europeanist Brundtland and the Senterpartiet (SP, Center Party), decidedly hostile to the entry of the Norway into the European Union: while all the other political forces, and in particular the conservatives of the Høyre (H), they lost consensus, the former went from 63 to 67 seats (37 % of the votes) and the latter obtained 32 seats compared to 11the previous elections (with 16, 8 % of the votes). In October, a minority Labor government was formed, again chaired by Mrs Brundtland, who in March 1994 reached an agreement with the European Union for the accession of her country to the latter. This membership, however, was rejected by 52, 4 % of voters in the referendum that took place in November. For Norway history, please check ehistorylib.com.
Several factors weighed on the outcome of the referendum. In particular, the widespread fears among farmers and breeders, worried that competition from European countries could make their products less competitive, contributed to the victory of those who opposed entry into the European Union. Similar concerns characterized the operators of the fishing sector, opposed to the possible access of foreign vessels in Norwegian fishing areas.
In October 1996, Prime Minister Brundtland resigned, citing personal reasons. In his place King Harald v called T. Jagland, who had been the leader of the DnA since 1992. As soon as he was appointed, Jagland declared, among other things, that he wanted to encourage the expansion of the private sector while maintaining an efficient welfare state and promoting a series of investments in the fields of education, scientific research and culture. The different positions on the issue of European integration had a considerable weight also in the political elections of September 1997, which marked a decline in the consensus of Labor and confirmed the fragmentation of the center-right electorate.
The DnA fell to 35, 1 % of the votes and 65 seats, while the Fremskrittspartiet (FrP, the Progress Party), gained 15, 3 % of the vote and 25 seats, the Høyre the 14, 3 % and 23 seats, the Kristelig Folkeparti (KrF, Christian Democrats), on 13, 7 % and 25 seats, the Senterpartiet the 7, 9 % and 11 seats.
The leader of the KrF, KM Bondevik, in October formed a minority government comprising members of his party, the liberals of the Venstre and the Senterpartiet. Weakened by internal conflicts, the executive went into crisis in March 2000 and the leader of the Labor Party, I. Stoltenberg, gave birth to a new government.