4 April 2003

“This is Bondevik”Politicians enter home straight on EEA AgreementLess independence for Immigration DirectorateTelenor moves to get Bravida back on trackConservatives and Christian Democrats clash over tax cutsToday’s comment from Dagsavisen

“This is Bondevik”  (Dagsavisen)

A notorious Norwegian conman has struck again. Last Friday Richard Ringheim (19) phoned the American Embassy in Oslo claiming to be Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and told the US Ambassador that the USA had Norway’s complete support in the war against Iraq. “I introduced myself as Kjell Magne Bondevik and asked to speak to the Ambassador. ‘It is most urgent.’,” said the 19-year-old. “Half a minute later the Ambassador was on the line. ‘Hello, Prime Minister,’ he said. Then we had a conversation lasting 10 to 15 minutes.” Ringheim said he told the US Ambassador that he personally was completely behind the USA in its war on Iraq. “I told him that this was something I could not say publicly due to a lack of support in the Government and the party,” he said.

Politicians enter home straight on EEA Agreement (Dagens Næringsliv)

The negotiations to extend the EEA Agreement to cover the new EU member states is being lifted up onto the political level in the rush to reach a conclusion before the deadline expires on Monday. Norway is refusing to offer more money until the EU has accepted its demands with regard to fish exports. Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik hopes it will be possible to reach agreement before the deadline on Monday. “The situation is difficult. We are monitoring developments continuously, and hope to reach agreement so that EEA expansion and EU enlargement can be dealt with in parallel. For Norway, what remains is to reach an agreement on fish exports that can justify billions of kroner in contributions to economic and social equalization. The only acceptable solution is a substantial reduction in EU import tariffs,” said Mr Bondevik.

Less independence for Immigration Directorate (Aftenposten)

Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg is planning to reorganize the way Norway’s asylum and immigration policies are managed. Decisions of principle will be removed from the remit of the Immigration Directorate (UDI) and placed under political control. Ms Solberg has outlined how she foresees the reorganization. In future, the major issues of principle, such as analyzing the situation in so-called refugee-producing countries, will be determined at the political level. Decisions relating to individual asylum seekers or immigrants will remain in the hands of the UDI and the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE). According to Ms Solberg, one of the factors influencing the reorganization is that the UDI and the UNE have operated with widely differing perceptions of the situation in individual countries. “We can live with the fact that Norwegian immigration authorities have varying opinions about individual people, but we cannot live with varying country analyses. Norwegian immigration authorities must have a common view of the situation in the countries which asylum seekers come from,” she said.

Telenor moves to get Bravida back on track (Dagens Næringsliv)

It falls to Bravida’s new chairman, former deputy chief executive at Telenor, Terje Thon, to get the troubled telecommunications installation company back on track. Mr Thon will also be the one to decide if Bravida boss Jan Kåre Pedersen gets to keep his job. Mr Pedersen has refused to comment on revelations that he received payments of NOK 15 million from Bravida in 2002, at the same time as the company is to shed 950 jobs.

Conservatives and Christian Democrats clash over tax cuts (Dagsavisen)

Ine Marie Eriksen, leader of the Conservative Party’s youth wing and a member of the party’s central committee, has accused Christian Democratic Party chairwoman Valgerd Svarstad Haugland of pushing the Conservatives to the limit by sowing doubts about the Government’s commitment to its pledge to cut taxes. Ms Eriksen does not accept the Christian Democratic Party leader’s desire to boost local government funding at the expense of further tax cuts. “There is a limit to what we can tolerate, too,” said Ms Eriksen, adding that the Conservatives’ enthusiasm for participating in the current coalition government could fade if its key policy issue – tax cuts – no longer had the full backing of the cabinet.  “If our vision of increasing personal freedom through lower taxes is weakened, the whole enterprise will begin to cost too much,” she said.

Worth Noting

  • The European Movement in Norway will have to elect a new leader following the decision by Wenche Fossen to step down after just four months in office. The election will take place during the organization’s annual general meeting this weekend. On Thursday, the selection committee had not yet found a replacement.

  • Bergen’s richest man, Trond Mohn, says that Gjensidige Nor will be devoured lock, stock and barrel if the merger with Den norske Bank (DnB) goes ahead. According to Mr Mohn, a foreign partner would take better care of Gjensidige Nor’s corporate culture. Gjensidige Nor’s chief executive Helge Leiro Baastad remains firm that “it is DnB that we want”.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

  • “It is important that the Government speaks with one voice, and it is unfortunate that she (Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold) and other ministers make public statements that create uncertainty about Norway’s position on the war,” said Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg in response to Ms Krohn Devold’s comments on Norway’s neutrality with respect to the war on Iraq. The Socialist Left Party’s defence policy spokesman Kjetil Bjørklund also feels that Ms Krohn Devold’s comments show that there is a difference between what Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik says and what Conservative ministers are saying.

  • TV2’s two representatives left Baghdad on Thursday as a result of the invasion forces’ advance on the city in the past few days. For the moment, therefore, freelance journalist Åsne Seierstad is the only Norwegian journalist left in Baghdad.

Today’s comment from Dagsavisen

Yesterday’s unemployment figures tell of a dramatic worsening in the labour market. 91,400 people are completely without work. This is 30 per cent more than at the same point last year. Together, the number of people who are completely out of work and those participating in labour market schemes has now climbed to 106,600. The most frightening thing is that the situation will probably only get worse in the coming months. There is a danger that unemployment will get stuck at a historically high level if current economic and industrial policies remain unchanged in the years to come. The challenge for our politicians must be to ensure the forecasts do not become a reality by changing those policies.

         In that respect, a wage settlement, prioritizing those on low incomes and without a general pay rise for all, such as that agreed by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the Confederation of Vocational Unions (YS) and the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO), is an important contribution. Other employee groups can simply forget any attempt to negotiate a better deal. It is an unfortunate fact that recent years’ wage settlements have helped to weaken the country’s competitiveness to such an extent that industrial job losses have escalated. With today’s gloomy outlook with regard to unemployment, next year’s ordinary wage settlement ought to result in no pay rises at all for most people.

         Now it is the turn of the Government and the Storting to act. A wide-ranging review of budget policy, monetary policy, incomes policy and, not least, industrial policy is necessary. We must develop a package whose overall objective is full employment. We would urge the political parties, in the strongest possible terms, to pull together. Halvorsen and Foss, Stoltenberg and Hagen must stop squabbling. The majority of people – and the unemployed in particular – are not interested in political point scoring. They want results.