Norway 's constitutional monarchy was established on the 17 May 1814, a date celebrated annually with a public holiday(constitution day). The present monarch, and head of state, is Harald V. In 1997 the balance of power in the Stortinget, or parliament, changed when the Labour party(DNA) came to the end of a seven year term, making way for a centre-right coalition led by Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, head of the Christian People's Party. The overriding political issue in Norway is membership of the European Union. In a referendum in 1994 EU membership was rejected by a majority of just 52%. Norway, along with Denmark, donates the highest proportion of their GNP to the UN development fund of all the world's donor countries.
The Norwegian government has kept tight control over the country's economic mainstay, the oil and gas business( Norway is second only to Saudi Arabia in export volume). This combined with one of the highest tax rates in the world enables the government to subsidise some of the traditional, and now flagging industries, including agriculture and fishing. Norway 's geography also helps the economy, with revenue from tourism, hydro-electric-power, and timber. The government spends over half the GDP on the public sector, and has a social welfare system unparalleled in Europe.
Although nearly 90% of Norwegians are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, for many membership is a matter of ceremony rather than active religious practise, as baptism is the norm. In addition there are a number of Baptists, Roman Catholics and Methodists.
Population and ethnicity
The majority Norway 's population of 4.4 million is ethnically homogeneous, with the exception of 20 000 Sami(often incorrectly referred top as Laps). Proportionally Norway receives among the highest number of asylum seekers in Europe.
As Norwegian etiquette runs along the lines of that in the UK the chances of unwittingly committing a social faux pas are slim. There are however a number of cultural peccadilloes. A lot of socialising takes place in the home fuelled by the adopted national drink, coffee. When Norwegians go out it tends to be late and they stay out late, consequently most bars stay open until the small hours. At the bar itself, or in a restaurant, when ordering something 'please' isn't used, instead it's all said with a takk or thanks afterwards.
The Norwegian women's movement has helped to ensure one of the highest levels of sexual equality in Europe. Their first female Prime Minister, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, was elected in 1981(and held office on three separate occasions before standing down in 1996), she is the current head of the World Health Organisation.