Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik fears that war is inevitable unless Saddam Hussein leaves Iraq and goes into exile. The PM declined to apportion blame after the USA and the UK decided not to lay a new resolution before the UN Security Council. However, he said he was afraid that the UN would emerge weakened from the affair. “The member countries must rebuild the UNs prestige as soon as possible,” said Mr Bondevik. Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg said it was tragic that the international community did not seem able to disarm Iraq by peaceful means. Like the majority of countries on the UN Security Council and the Norwegian government, Mr Stoltenberg believes the UN weapons inspectors should have been given more time to carry out their work in Iraq. The Labour leader acknowledges that the Iraq issue has caused a split between Europe and the USA, but he warned against exaggerating the rift. “It has happened before that Norway has taken another view than the USA, so this is not the first time there has been disagreement,” he said.
Investor opposition could block bank merger (Dagens Næringsliv)
A firm of stockbrokers, Pareto, is coordinating investor opposition to the sale of Gjensidige Nor for what many shareholders believe is too low a price. 23 per cent of Gjensidige Nors shareholders are now thought to be refusing to sell, which leaves the entire merger between Gjensidige Nor and Den norske Bank (DnB) hanging in the balance. Dagens Næringsliv understands that Pareto has so far brought together seven foreign investors, as well as a few Norwegian Gjensidige Nor shareholders, who are extremely unhappy with the price they are being offered in connection with the proposed merger with DnB. These investors share the view that neither the way the merger process has been conducted nor the offer from DnB are satisfactory. Nor do the foreign investors like the idea that the Norwegian state “shall have” 34 per cent of the shares in a post-merger DnB-Gjensidige Nor. The shareholder group is now trying to force Gjensidige Nors management to contact other potential merger candidates.
Battle joined over Labours EU standpoint (Aftenposten)
The Labour Partys EU working group started work yesterday. Party leader Jens Stoltenberg believes an application for EU membership is more important than forming a coalition government with the Socialist Left Party. Trond Giske, a long-standing opponent of EU membership, thinks that joining forces with the Socialist Left Party to take office is more important than the EU. Gry Larsen, leader of the Labour Partys youth wing (AUF), also thinks the formation of a coalition government is more important. Both are members of the working group that will draw up the ground rules for Labours internal debate on EU membership in the period up to partys annual conference in 2005. The shock waves from the poll which showed that the Socialist Left Party has as much popular support as the Labour Party have barely died away, making the issue of a centre-left coalition government much more difficult for Jens Stoltenberg.
Possibility of strike in private sector (Klassekampen)
The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) broke off their pay negotiations with the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO) yesterday, which could lead to a strike by private sector employees from 3 April. “We have not received any real offer from the NHO,” said Christopher Navelsaker, chief negotiator for the YS. Yesterday, the State Mediator and the NHO received notification of possible strike action by 175,000 LO members and 13,500 YS members in the private sector. A round of negotiations under the auspices of the State Mediator will now follow. If the YS and LO are not satisfied with the results of this mediation effort, the unions will call their members out on strike probably starting on Thursday, 3 April.
- Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg is blaming the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) for the possible loss of tens of thousands of jobs in Norways outlying areas. Mr Stoltenberg, a fervent supporter of Norwegian membership of the EU, claims that the ESA is putting unnecessary stumbling blocks in the way of Norways right to implement an effective regional policy. “Different employers national insurance contributions in the north and south of the country, and exemption from electricity tax are not state subsidies, but specifically targeted measures to maintain employment and prevent the depopulation of outlying areas,” said Mr Stoltenberg. The ESA has demanded that Norway modifies both the differentiated employers national insurance contribution scheme and the electricity tax to bring them into line with EU rules on state subsidies.
- SASs Norwegian cabin crews are willing to accept a cut in salaries in order to help the airline survive. SAS must cut its costs, totalling some NOK 34 million, by 30-35 per cent. The SAS Group will try and convince its employees that it is necessary to accept a pay freeze, and possibly even a drop in salaries. “We are aware of SASs financial situation and will do as much as we can to save jobs,” said union representative Jon Lyng.
- Local authorities in Finnmark spend much more money per head of population on pre-school day-care, schools, healthcare, care of the elderly and local government administration than those in any other part of the country. At the same time, these local authorities receive most in government transfers.
- Two out of five people questioned in a recent poll said that they have little or no trust in lawyers. 20 per cent said that they have little or no trust in auditors, and people do not think particularly highly of business leaders either. In other words, there has been a decline in public confidence in professions whose practitioners are in a certain sense dependent on peoples trust.
- The National Institute of Public Health has been contacted by a number of people who have felt ill after having been in Southeast Asia, but there are no indications that any Norwegians have caught the respiratory illness SARS.
Todays comment from Dagbladet
US President George W. Bush is willing to go to war against Iraq without the backing of the UN Security Council. Mr Bush will launch an attack despite reports by the UN weapons inspectors that Iraq can be disarmed by peaceful means. Like UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, we regret that the UN Security Council was unable to arrive at a compromise. President Bush blames France for this, but it was the USA that totally rejected a French proposal to extend the inspections by 30 days and several other compromise proposals. We have no sympathy for Saddam Hussein, but fear the high price the Iraqi people will have to pay if war breaks out. Norway cannot give this war any kind of support.