Jagland pushes for EU debate

On the eve of the Labour Party national convention, party chief Thorbjørn Jagland took an unexpectedly aggressive stance in favour of reopening the Norwegian debate over membership in the European Union.

Earlier this fall, when public opinion polls had showed continued strong opposition to membership, he said the national debate should stay dormant until there was "a new situation among the people." On Wednesday, however, Jagland insisted his earlier comments had been misunderstood. Noting that Iceland and Switzerland as well as 12 eastern European countries are all moving in the direction of membership, Jagland said the ruling Labor Party should consider a Norwegian application for membership sometime between 2001 and 2005. The convention begins Thursday.