19 February 2003

Krekar branded a threat to national security Krekar says he trusts ministerUS President may come to NorwayBush will face demonstrators if he visits NorwayBattle for paternity leaveLabour pulls aheadStorting could extend net wages scheme Unions call for Government to spend more oil money Centre Party leadership divided over gasToday’s comment from Aftenposten

 Krekar branded a threat to national security (Verdens Gang)

According to the recommendation sent by the Immigration Directorate (UDI) to Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg yesterday, Mullah Krekar can safely be sent back to northern Iraq, where he is in no danger of persecution. The UDI believes that Mullah Krekar can be sent back to Iraq as long as he is returned to the area controlled by his organization Ansar al-Islam. Ms Solberg now has to decide whether this is feasible. This is now the key question in the deportation case against the Kurdish Islamist guerrilla leader.

Krekar says he trusts minister (Dagbladet)

Mullah Krekar had to calm down his own attorney, Brynjar Meling, after the Immigration Directorate (UDI) sent its recommendation to Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg. “I trust Erna Solberg and do not believe she will deport me without there being one single shred of evidence against me. And if anyone finds as much as one per cent proof that I have been, am or will become a danger to Norwegian national security, I will say thank-you for the 11 years I have been allowed to stay in Norway and leave. But where can I go? asks Mullah Krekar.

US President may come to Norway (Aftenposten)

US President George W. Bush will probably come to Norway for a so-called working visit at the end of May. If Mr Bush does come to Norway, he will be the second sitting US president to do so. President Bill Clinton came to Norway in November 1999. On that occasion too, the Norwegian Prime Minister hosting the US President’s visit was Kjell Magne Bondevik. Acting spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Kåre Eltervåg, confirmed yesterday evening that Norway had been informed by the American authorities that a visit to Norway was being seriously considered, but the White House had not yet made a final decision on the matter.

Bush will face demonstrators if he visits Norway (nrk.no)

US President George W. Bush will be met by protest demonstrations if he comes to Norway. Yesterday it became clear that the US President may visit Norway at the end of May, and this has provoked strong reactions on the part of many opponents of a war in Iraq. Aslak Sira Myhre, former leader of the Red Electoral Alliance, said that it was terrible to invite such a war-monger to Norway. “I for one will certainly be taking part in any demonstration against such a visit, and plan to stop the presidential plane at Gardermoen, or at least stop the President at the outskirts of Oslo,” said Mr Myhre. Vegard Hole, leader of Attac Norway, said that if the President arrives, he will not be given a warm welcome from that quarter.

Battle for paternity leave (Dagbladet)

Mona Larsen-Asp, head of the Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality, thinks that Norwegian fathers do not spend enough time at home with their children. She is now proposing that paternity leave should be extended to at least three months. Ms Larsen-Asp wants a change in the legislation to ensure that men spend more time with their children. Women, on the other hand, will have to content themselves with a reduction in the maternity leave entitlement. If dad does not take his full three months, the time will be lost. Ms Larsen-Asp hopes that the Bondevik government will introduce a legislative amendment to that effect. However, Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy has firmly rejected the proposal. She does not want mothers to lose maternity leave if fathers do not take their full three months. Ms Dåvøy claims the proposal would lead to less freedom of choice for the individual family.

Labour pulls ahead (Nettavisen)

Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg has reason to smile; according to Nettavisen’s latest opinion poll, the Labour Party is now the country’s most popular party, with a clear lead over the others. Labour moves ahead 1.6 percentage points, putting support for the party at 27.3 per cent. This confirms the trend seen in both national and regional polls in recent weeks. Mr Stoltenberg told TV2 Nettavisen that he is pleased with the party’s progress. “I believe it is due to the fact that we have a clear line against increased unemployment and against high electricity prices, and that the Progress Party and the ruling coalition have implemented a large number of public spending cuts affecting the weakest sections of society,” he said.

Storting could extend net wages scheme (Dagens Næringsliv)

There could be a parliamentary majority in favour of extending the net wages scheme for seamen when the Storting debates a Labour proposal to that effect next week. The issue has already been debated in the Storting, but this coming Tuesday, 27 February, MPs will reopen the debate on the net wages scheme for Norwegian seamen. There are strong indications that this time there will be a majority in favour of extending the net wages scheme from 1 July to supply ship crews on vessels registered in the ordinary Norwegian International Ship Register (NIS). If that happens, they will be treated in the same way as the seamen employed by the ferry companies Color Line and Fjord Line. Erik Bratvold, leader of the Seamen’s Union and Marianne Lie, chief executive of the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, both say they have received positive signals from political sources.

Unions call for Government to spend more oil money (Dagbladet)

According to Stein Reegård, chief economist at the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the rise in unemployment is so alarming that the Government should consider departing from the guidelines for how much of Norway’s oil wealth should be pumped into the domestic economy. Up to now the LO has backed the guidelines which state that the Government should not spend more than the annual return on investment from the Government Petroleum Fund. With the exception of the Progress Party, there is broad political backing for this line in the Storting. But the Progress Party’s position has now received support from an unexpected quarter. Mr Reegård is so worried about the crisis affecting Norwegian industry and the rise in unemployment that he feels the Government should consider departing from this economic guideline.

Centre Party leadership divided over gas (Aftenposten)

Speaking on an NRK Radio programme yesterday, the Centre Party’s incoming deputy leader Lars Peder Brekk said that the party should change its manifesto in 2005 to support the construction of gas-fired power stations. However, both the party’s outgoing leadership and the remainder of the incoming leadership team have poured cold water on such a move. The Centre Party is currently opposed to gas-fired power stations, and will continue to do so in 2005, according to outgoing party leader Odd Roger Enoksen, incoming party leader Åslaug Haga and incoming leader of the party’s parliamentary group Marit Arnstad. “It remains out of the question for the Centre Party to approve the construction of gas-fired power stations that do not eliminate carbon dioxide emissions.

Worth Noting

  • While wage moderation is the watchword for 2003, Statoil employees can look forward to a juicy bonus. 11,000 employees in Norway will receive a bonus equivalent to five per cent of their salary, while 300 executives can get bonuses of up to 20 per cent of their salary. A good financial result in 2002 provides the basis for the bonus beanfeast.

  • Two out of three Norwegians feel that electricity prices should be determined by the political authorities. Only 3 per cent think that the price should be regulated by supply and demand in the market. According to the poll carried out by Opinion on behalf of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) there is also strong public support for state control among Conservative and Progress Party voters. 45 per cent of Conservative voters and 55 per cent of Progress Party voters want the electricity market to be subject to political control. 74 per cent of Labour voters are in favour of state control.

  • Predictions that petrol prices would shoot sky high are being put to shame by the petrol companies. Prices are being cut today. The drop in prices comes despite a steady rise in the price of crude oil, which is now up at USD 33 a barrel. At the same time, the Norwegian krone has weakened against both the USD and the Euro over the past few weeks.

  • Health Minister Dagfinn Høybråten will no longer accept that hospitals cannot manage to fulfil the right of patients to treatment through the NOK 1 billion allocation earmarked by the Storting for the purpose. He is now proposing the establishment of a permanent scheme under which treatment may be bought from private clinics in Norway or from hospitals abroad.

  • 1,450 employees risk losing their jobs as the former Public Roads Administration downsizes its operations. The Government is willing to spend NOK 1.4 billion to get rid of superfluous staff.

  • 42 per cent of those between the ages of 15 and 24 have a part-time job, while 38 per cent would like one, according to a survey carried out by Research International in collaboration with McDonalds Norway. However, 50 per cent of those polled said that a part-time job interferes with school and homework. Eight out of ten parents feel it is a good thing for youngsters to have a job in addition to school.

  • Paedophiles who use the internet to exchange child pornography face a tough time ahead. The Norwegian internet company FAST has developed a software package that will make it easier for the police to track down offenders.

  • Last year, for the first time ever, camera equipment worth more than NOK 1 billion was sold in Norway. Norwegian consumers’ fascination with digital cameras lies behind the fact that the total sales of cameras has doubled in just three years. Sales of traditional film have not decreased.

Today’s comment from Aftenposten)

Health Minister Dagfinn Høybråten wants to introduce a permanent scheme to provide Norwegian patients with the opportunity of obtaining hospital treatment abroad. He wants patients to be systematically sent abroad if Norwegian hospitals cannot treat them. The reason for this move is that the current temporary scheme is not working as it should. According to a recent survey, patients could have been treated faster and more cheaply in Norway. We are therefore facing a paradox. We have hospital waiting lists, at the same time as there are reports of vacant capacity. What is it that fills the landscape between tight budgets and available capacity. Bad organization and a reluctance on the part of the country’s hospitals, claim the researchers. Every new scheme suffers from teething-troubles, and that includes the scheme to send Norwegian patients abroad for treatment. The massive opposition from sceptical doctors who refuse to let go of their patients is one such teething-trouble. Too much haste and bad political organization is another. It is a fundamentally good idea to let foreign hospitals treat Norwegian patients. Both the National Insurance Administration and the Norwegian National Hospital are in favour of the scheme, and emphasize, among other things, the positive side-effect that it can have on Norwegian medical staff who can gain valuable expertise through their contacts with international colleagues. The current scheme, in which NOK 1 billion was allocated by the Storting to fund treatment abroad, is not working as it was intended, primarily because of poor organization and the opposition of the medical profession. Mr Høybråten’s proposal for a permanent scheme could therefore be a constructive factor in a well-functioning Norwegian health service. But it assumes that the country’s hospitals demonstrate a real willingness to cooperate.