2 April 2003


Norwegian special forces replace F-16s

A Norwegian special forces unit is once again operative in Afghanistan, while the six F-16 combat aircraft return home after six months assisting in the hunt for terrorists. Eight missiles were fired in the course of 3,000 hours of flying time. As usual the armed forces leadership is refusing to say anything about where the Norwegian special forces, mostly from the Norwegian Army Special Operations Commando, are located. But their mission, in connection with the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, will not be dissimilar to that of the first contingent of army and marine commandos last year. At that time they operated largely in the region around Kandahar, carrying out such tasks as strategic reconnaissance, assault operations, contact with local forces, as well as guiding aerial attacks from the ground.

Cut in greenhouse gas emissions (Aftenposten)

Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen because factory closures are compensating for increases in traffic emissions. Both Statistics Norway and the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority (SFT), which published its figures on Tuesday, are warning against the belief that this represents a new trend. The drop in carbon dioxide emissions is due, among other things, to lower levels of industrial activity and closures in the ferro-alloy industry. There was also a reduction in the amount of flaring by the offshore oil and gas industry in 2002. Flaring is the term used when oil platforms burn off surplus gas instead of putting the energy inherent in the gas to good use. Other factors which contributed to the drop in carbon dioxide emissions include a reduction in the amount of diesel being used by the petroleum sector, lower levels of activity in the refinery sector and less vessel traffic along the coast.

Lobbying campaign costs NOK 3.3 million (Dagsavisen)

This spring’s hardest fought lobbying campaign revolves around proposals to relocate eight Oslo-based central government agencies to various towns up and down the country. The participants have invested thousands of hours and several million kroner to influence the decision. Today, the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party could decide the outcome. When, in January, Labour and Government Administration Minister Victor D. Norman (Con) announced his intention to move eight central government agencies, with a total of 900 employees, out of Oslo, he sparked a veritable avalanche of lobbying activity. While the agencies are fighting to remain in Oslo, local councils around the country want them out of the capital. This afternoon’s separate meetings of Labour Party and Socialist Left Party MPs could, in reality, decide the issue. Both parties favour the relocation of government jobs out of Oslo, but they are holding open the possibility of sending what they describe as the Minister’s “wafer thin report” back to the Government’s drawing board.

Bravida boss gets bonus bonanza (Dagens Næringsliv)

Bravida is shedding hundreds of jobs, but for chief executive Jan Kåre Pedersen last year provided a bonus bonanza. He received a total of NOK 15 million in salary, bonus and other benefits last year, while the Norwegian-Swedish installation company he heads made 1,000 employees redundant. On Monday Mr Pedersen announced that a further 950 employees will have to go, 750 of them in Norway. But 2002 was not a bad year for everyone in Bravida. “There is no point in linking the payments in 2002 to the downsizing programme. It was purely a coincidence,” said company chairman Tormod Hermansen. DN’s figures show that Mr Pedersen received NOK 6.1 million in salary, bonus and other remuneration in 2001. The huge difference between 2001 and 2002 is not due to a pay rise, but to special circumstances relating to stock option and pension schemes.

DnB raises bid for Gjensidige NOR (Dagbladet)

Den norske Bank (DnB) is now willing to pay almost twice as much in cash to achieve its merger with Gjensidige NOR. In return, Gjensidige NOR’s two largest shareholders have pledged to support the merger. DnB is now increasing the cash component of its bid from NOK 23 to NOK 43 per share in Gjensidige NOR, in addition to 6.2 DnB shares for each Gjensidige NOR share. This raises the price DnB must pay by just over NOK 1.7 billion. To bring this about, Gjensidige NOR’s two largest shareholders have pledged to support the merger. The foundation Stiftelsen Gjensidige NOR Sparebank and the insurance company Gjensidige NOR Forsikring will therefore vote in favour of the merger at the up-coming general meeting of shareholders.

Worth Noting

  • Only Iceland has a larger proportion of people aged 55-64 in the labour force. 67.4 per cent of Norwegians in this age group are in employment. In recent years a number of ‘senior’ projects have been initiated, whose objective is to recruit and take care of older employees both in the public and private sectors.

  • Local elections are not the same as general elections for the Progress Party. A recent opinion poll shows that only 40 per cent of the party’s voters at national level plan to vote for the Progress Party at this autumn’s local elections. If there had been a local election tomorrow, the Progress Party would have received only 13 per cent of the vote.

  • A total of 1,353 companies went into liquidation during the first quarter this year. This is an increase of 38.9 per cent compared with the same period last year. The increase has been particularly high in Hordaland, Finnmark and Buskerud counties.

  • The Immigration Directorate (UDI) is highly critical of Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg’s proposals to tighten up the rules on family reunification. The Government wants asylum seekers who have been given leave to stay in Norway on humanitarian grounds to be required to support new family members financially. Those who are granted refugee status will not have to. The UDI claims that this is unfair. “60 per cent of those who are granted leave to stay on what is called humanitarian grounds, receive that right because they are in need of protection. In other words, they cannot return to their countries of origin. We therefore feel it is unreasonable to demand that these people should be able to provide for their families in Norway,” said the UDI’s Frode Forfang.

Today’s comment from Dagsavisen

According to today’s opinion polls, a clear majority of voters thinks that Norway should join the EU. At the same time, Dagsavisen’s current series of articles has shown that ‘everyone’ is unhappy with the EEA Agreement. The road to Brussels should therefore be a cakewalk for the pro-membership lobby. It will be anything but. There are no indications that the Government or the Storting have any intention of replacing the EEA Agreement with EU membership in the immediate future. In the coming years Norway will therefore have to continue with the EEA Agreement, the pro-membership side’s consolation prize from 1994. If you cannot have the one you love, you are obliged to love the one you have. By the end of this week, Norway’s negotiations for an expanded EEA Agreement should be successfully concluded in Brussels. We will then not have to stand out in the rain when the 10 new member countries formally sign their membership agreements with the EU on 16 April. The intention is that the members of the EFTA group will put their names to the new EEA Agreement at the same time. It is not certain that the agreement will be finished in time for Norway to participate in the signing ceremony. The distance separating the two sides is still substantial, and revolves around fish and money. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was previously a strong supporter of the EEA Agreement. His comments on Friday, to the effect that the EEA Agreement had robbed Norway of more power than he had anticipated, therefore caused something of a stir. Mr Bondevik still thinks that the EEA Agreement is far better than going back to a free-trade agreement. We will therefore have to live with it. But for how long? The PM has said he will consider his position “when we get closer to 2005”, the date of the next general election. If Mr Bondevik and the Christian Democrats emerge from their deliberations in favour of EU membership, there will probably be a referendum on the issue during the next parliamentary term. While we wait for Mr Bondevik, we will have to console ourselves with the EEA.