25 March 2003

1.1.1 Support for USA costs Progress Party votes Norwegian submarine sharing intelligence with American forcesShipowners reject demand for danger moneyNorway making money on back of warDeputy leadership struggle in Christian Democratic Party Majority backs proposals for compulsory mediation for cohabiteesJobs disappearing abroad Today’s comment from Vårt Land

1.1.1 Support for USA costs Progress Party votes (Dagbladet)

The Progress Party slid back 2.7 percentage points on MMI’s tracker poll for March, while the Socialist Left Party continues to surge ahead. “I am well aware that we are struggling a tiny bit at the moment, and that the other parties are having a very easy time of it. But the change is not that great, so I am not losing any sleep over it. Anyway, we are still the country’s most popular party, if only by a whisker,” said Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen. He believes the voters’ views on both the USA and the Iraq conflict will change. According to the MMI poll, the Progress Party has the support of 22.6 per cent of the voters, while the Labour Party is backed by 22.5 per cent, a drop of 3.9 percentage points. The Socialist Left Party leaps ahead by 4.4 points to 20.7 per cent.

Norwegian submarine sharing intelligence with American forces (Nationen)

The Norwegian submarine KNM Utvær, which is on a Nato mission to combat international terrorism, is sharing intelligence with American forces. “All Nato member states have access to this information,” said Martin Lohne, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence. The submarine is currently in the eastern Mediterranean, the same area from which US warships are launching Tomahawk missiles against Iraq. But the Defence Ministry denies that the submarine is helping the USA in its offensive against Iraq.

Shipowners reject demand for danger money (Dagbladet)

The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association has rejected a demand from three seamen’s unions for crews sailing in the Persian Gulf to be paid additional danger money. “We want an agreement entitling our members who dock at ports in the inner end of the Persian Gulf to additional war-zone payments, but the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association is refusing,” said Tore Gjestrum of the Norwegian Maritime Officers’ Association. According to Mr Gjestrum, it has also previously been difficult to get the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association to agree to such additional payments as long as vessels have not actually come under attack.

Norway making money on back of war (Dagbladet)

Norway is making money out of the bombs raining down over Iraq. In the past year the Government Petroleum Fund has sharply increased its investments in companies that, among other things, supply the Tomahawk missiles which are spreading death and destruction in Iraq. “This is one of the reasons why we may need stricter ethical guidelines for the administration of the Petroleum Fund,” said Christian Democrat and former State Secretary, Janne Haaland Matlary. The Petroleum Fund is not doing anything unlawful by investing in the arms industry. “It is not forbidden to produce weapons, either in the USA or in Norway. But it is against the guidelines if those investments lead to Norway violating its commitments under international law,” said Kaj-Martin Georgsen, a political adviser at the Ministry of Finance.

Deputy leadership struggle in Christian Democratic Party (Dagsavisen)

The Christian Democratic Party’s annual conference in May will see an orgy of voting between rival candidates. The party’s selection committee is paving the way for a battle over the deputy leader slot, and fierce skirmishing over several of the seats on the central committee. Instead of agreeing on one candidate for the vacant deputy leadership position, the party’s selection committee has unanimously decided to propose two candidates: MP Dagrun Eriksen and State Secretary Knut Arild Hareide. Only one of them will make the grade. From what Dagsavisen has learned, the selection committee was unable to unite behind only one candidate for the deputy leadership. So to avoid a split within the committee it was decided to propose two candidates instead.

Majority backs proposals for compulsory mediation for cohabitees (Aftenposten)

Politicians from several parties agree that it is important to introduce compulsory mediation for cohabitees whose relationship has broken down, in the same way as for married couples. The proposal that the Government is working on will therefore receive wide-ranging support in the Storting. Today, compulsory mediation only applies to married couples who are in the process of divorcing. The proposal for mediation between unmarried partners with children will probably be included in the Government’s report to the Storting on the family, which is due in April.

Jobs disappearing abroad (Aftenposten)

10,000 jobs could disappear from Norway, according to a survey carried out by the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO). The survey, which has not yet been fully completed, indicates that two out of five industrial companies are thinking of moving abroad. But soon there will be less government support for companies setting up operations in other countries. “Publicly funded schemes should not lead to Norwegian companies moving abroad. In a proposition to be published this Friday, we will propose changes that move in this direction,” said State Secretary Helle Hammer at the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Worth Noting

  • Norwegian hotels are already feeling the effects of the war in Iraq in the form of cancellations. This summer could be particularly difficult for those who normally receive large numbers of American visitors.

  • Norwegian exporters will have to put up with minimum salmon prices in the EU market for even longer than anticipated. New delays mean that the agreement has been extended until the end of May.

  • Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen is due to open Norway’s first business part in England today. The park is intended for small companies that want to break into the international market. Seven companies are already in place from day one.

  • A new road over the Haukeli mountain range will reduce the travel time between Oslo and Bergen to six hours. The road will cost NOK 2.5 billion to build. According to a recent study, the new road will lead to an increase in the number of people using public transport and will provide a boost to business and industry in the western part of the country.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

  • Norway’s soldiers will no longer have to munch their way through stale sandwiches and tasteless dinners. The Norwegian army is gearing up for a gastronomic revolution. From 1 January next year, “luxury food” will be served in all military mess halls. Dessert will be done away with, but instead soldiers will be able to help themselves to lots of fruit.
    (Verdens Gang)

  • It is almost a year since Norway broke open its government-enforced monopoly on the production of spiritous liquors. But so far only one company has applied for permission to start a private distillery. Whisky produced in North Trøndelag could soon be on sale.

Today’s comment from Vårt Land

In many parts of the world over the past few years, wars have been fought in which interest in upholding the Geneva Conventions has been either wholly absent or marginal at best. A detailed framework exists to regulate the way wars are fought. Iraq has now violated those Conventions by humiliating and filming American prisoners of war. The temptation was too great, as it often is in war. But in a war that is being prosecuted in order to provide Iraq with a democratic and less dangerous regime, it is important that the USA and its allies comply with the conventions originating in that Swiss city. We do not expect the same of Saddam Hussein, but hope that the warnings issued after the Iraqi violations of the Geneva Conventions will lead to greater respect. But in any event, Saddam Hussein can expect retribution to be both swift and stern.