In the past month, the majority of those who had not made up their minds on whether Norway should join the EU have come down on the side of opposition. Despite this, support for Norwegian membership of the EU is record high on Nationen’s tracker poll. Support for EU membership stands at 49.6 per cent, half a percentage point up on the previous month and a new record on our poll. 14 per cent of the population still has not made up its mind on EU membership. But among those who have come to a conclusion in the past month, the majority of sceptics have decided to oppose membership. 36.4 per cent of those polled now say no to Norwegian membership of the EU. This is 2.5 percentage points higher than in January.
Left wingers mobilize to campaign for EU membership (Verdens Gang)
Four Socialist Left Party activists have adopted the same strategy as was used in Denmark, and are forming an EU coalition of left-wing supporters of Norwegian EU membership. “This will be a network of people who will be campaigning on behalf of EU membership. We will base our arguments on traditional Socialist Left Party policies. We are lifting the issue up where it should be, which is the European level,” said Petter Wold, a member of the Socialist Left Party and veteran of the European Movement in Norway. The four aim to set up what they call Radical Europe during the spring. The network will be the Norwegian arm of the Danish organization, New Europe.
Krekar case removed from security police (Aftenposten)
The Director General of Public Prosecutions has taken responsibility for investigating the case against Mullah Krekar away from the National Police Security Service (PST). The case has now been transferred to the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime. Chief Public Prosecutor Knut Kallerud says that the move does not reflect any lack of confidence in the PST. According to Mr Kallerud, the reason for the transfer is the February 24 decision by the UN Sanctions Committee to freeze all the assets belonging to Mullah Krekar’s organization, Ansar al-Islam.
Norwegians back French policy on Iraq (Dagsavisen)
Seven out of ten Norwegians say that Norway should back France and Germany’s line on the Iraq issue. Only 17 per cent want Norway to support the USA. “It is obvious that support for the USA’s line means giving the go-ahead for war. Support for France and Germany means giving the weapons inspectors more time,” said Espen Barth Eide, head of the Department for International Politics at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said he considered the poll to be “the expression of a strong desire for the conflict to be resolved peacefully”.
Socialist Left Party leader doubts effectiveness of ‘human shield’ (Aftenposten)
Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen doubts the effectiveness of the ‘human shield’ in maintaining the peace. “I would not encourage anyone to do so,” she said, referring to travelling to Iraq as a ‘shield’ against US bombs. “It is a dangerous and risky thing to do. I think the work we are doing at home to get public opinion behind efforts to maintain the peace is just as effective. If President Bush decides to go to war, I think it is a decision he will take regardless of the presence of a ‘human shield’. This is an obviously risky action, which the participants must take responsibility for themselves,” said Ms Halvorsen.
Doctors charge too much (Dagbladet)
Some doctors earn several hundred thousand kroner by demanding illegally high fees from patients. One in five patients pays too much for a consultation with his or her GP. The heads of the National Insurance Service and the Directorate of Health have now publicly voiced their concern, and are asking patients to keep an eye on their doctors. “We cannot live with this unlawful practice any longer. This is almost as bad as swindling patients out of their money. The Norwegian Medical Association must immediately raise this issue with its members,” said Lars E. Hanssen, head of the Directorate of Health. The Norwegian Board of Health has now joined forces with the National Insurance Administration in an effort to find possible sanctions against doctors who charge their patients too much.
Sacked after dispute over accounts (Aftenposten)
Terje Bogen was sacked as chief executive of Sponsor Service two weeks ago. His departure can be traced firmly back to the disordered state of the company’s accounts. After a long-running argument with Mr Bogen over the company’s accounts, major shareholders Telenor and Schibsted took matters into their own hands. Mr Bogen was let go without the benefit of a golden parachute. Over a ten-year period Mr Bogen has taken out huge sums in dividends, bonuses and salary from Sponsor Service. From 1992 to 2001 he secured NOK 37.5 million for himself. The Norwegian Ski Association has lost NOK 14 million following the collapse of Sponsor Service, which affects a total of 12 sporting associations.
Minister wants more immigration despite rising unemployment (Dagens Næringsliv)
Despite the fact that unemployment has risen by 29 per cent in one year, Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg wants an increase in the number of economic migrants coming to this country. “Liberalizing the immigration rules is not dangerous. We still need more foreign workers to take jobs in Norway. Unless we see a sharp downturn in those industries facing international competition, we will still have a shortage of labour in the years ahead. This is the underlying trend. We do not want to meet our need for employees to care for the elderly by closing down factories. That is why we want more immigration,” she said.
Market for illegal spirits has dried up (Aftenposten)
The Norwegian market for smuggled spirits has completely dried up. Smugglers, customs officials and the police all confirm that illegal spirits are impossible to sell. According to the same sources, this is mainly due to the methanol scandal. “We have seen the consequences. We are no longer seizing the same large hauls, and have not done so since the start of the methanol case,” said an official from the Directorate of Customs and Excise. Sales figures from the Vinmonopol, the state-run wine and spirits retail monopoly, also indicate that people are choosing to buy their drink legally.
1. Worth Noting
- The security police’s many blunders and use of illegal investigative methods were the main reasons for the decision to take them off the Mullah Krekar case.
- The Socialist Left Party is proposing that local authorities themselves be allowed to decide whether to increase taxes for certain periods in order to finance new schools, better care of the elderly and nice, new roads.
- The Socialist Left Party approaches its annual conference with record high support according to the opinion polls, at the same time as the Iraq crisis is reaching its climax. The party hopes to achieve its best results ever at this autumn’s local elections.
- Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and Svein Gjedrem, Governor of the Norwegian Central Bank, have succeeded in talking down the strength of the Norwegian kroner. Yesterday, the exchange rate fell by as much as 17 øre against the euro – its biggest drop ever.
- The National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime is to investigate four major construction companies who are accused of collusion when tendering for building projects. They now risk being forced to repay hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money, which they have been overpaid in connection with construction projects they have been involved in. One of the companies has already admitted to acting unlawfully.
- NOK 125 million in fictitious revenues are thought to have secured Terje Bogen and other Sponsor Service shareholders dividend payouts of NOK 24 million over the past three years. Professor Atle Johnsen of the Norwegian School of Economics and Business (NHH) believes this was both illegal and a punishable offence.
- The position taken by Bishop Per Oskar Kjølsaas on the Urianstad affair has generated deep divisions in Kautokeino. On Wednesday, the Hålogaland Diocesan Synod decided that curate Anniken Urianstad should be allowed to keep her job, even though she has entered into a legally registered homosexual partnership.
- The Christian Democratic Party’s major new policy – Christian teaching for all children baptized into the Church of Norway, extending up until their 18th birthday – has received a shot across the bows in the Storting. The Progress Party has a number of objections, and is demanding that people be asked if they really want this scheme. According to a poll, only eight per cent of those asked say they need help in giving their children a Christian upbringing. “This is a completely unnecessary scheme. This is something we can organize on our own,” say parents.
2. Today’s comment from Aftenposten
Just after midnight on 28 February 1943, the heavy water plant at Vemork was blown up. Nine members of the Norwegian resistance carried out wartime Norway’s most famous sabotage attack. Skill, courage, daring and determination characterize the events of that February day in Rjukan. Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of the attack, and five of the nine saboteurs are guests of honour at today’s remembrance ceremony. It is a memorial service that there is every reason to join together for. Both because the Vemork action stands as an honourable chapter in the national and international history of the second world war, and because we know that there will not be many more such occasions attended by the wartime participants themselves. The Bondevik government is therefore guilty of showing a lack of respect when it cannot manage to find one single minister who could spend a couple of hours of his or her time to officially represent Norway at Rjukan. The implacable march of time means that the direct references to our own history of occupation are getting fewer and fewer – which is precisely why it is vital that we are once again reminded of the events and the values that shaped the resistance effort. The Vemork attack represents this more proudly than most. So the Government’s lack of understanding of this event’s symbolic significance demonstrates not only a lack of respect, but a lack of historical perspective. If the Government had understood that significance, it would obviously have understood the importance of participating in the remembrance ceremony.