The objective of this paper is to show how petroleum discoveries and an increasingly important continental shelf may conceivably influence the standing of a small nation in the international community.

Norway is a small and remotely located country, traditionally endowed with few natural resources. For years she has enjoyed the privileges of a small state, being of moderate international prominence, inoffensive to neighbouring states and having a sheltered existence within the framework of a military alliance, all factors giving her "freedom from error" and a fair amount of flexibility in foreign affairs.

In 1968 oil was discovered in the Norwegian part of the North Sea, and since then oil and gas fields have been developed and petroleum reserves gradually built up. To-day, Norway produces petroleum from the North Sea at a rate seven times her own consumption, which is rather unique for an industrialized country. The introduction of economic zones in the seventies, giving coastal states exclusive economic rights in an area extending 200 nautical miles off their shores, has further enhanced the resources potentially available to Norway. Depending on developments in the international energy markets, she may now become an important supplier of energy, especially of natural gas to Western Europe.

Considering the foreign policy and military dimensions of energy security, Norway may, more or less against her will, find herself at the focus of critical energy issues. The situaton is not made easier by the fact that the maritime areas under Norwegian jurisdiction seem to become increasingly important from a military point of view. The stronger this international dimension becomes, the more difficult it will be for Norway to have an influence on developments and defend her interests. Norway may have to take a stand on controversial issues which most small countries can keep at a comfortable distance.

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