15 April 2003

Christian Democrats divided over nursery price cap (Dagsavisen)

Half of the Christian Democratic Party’s branch chairmen believe the Government must accept the opposition parties’ demand for a price cap on pre-school day-care fees. This position is in sharp contrast to the Government’s own report on pre-school day-care, which was published on Friday. Immediately after the Easter holiday, the ruling coalition parties will invite the parliamentary leaders of the other parties represented in the Storting to a peace conference. The hope is to avoid a direct confrontation over pre-school day-care, which could lead to the Government’s resignation.

Call for compromise over pre-school day-care (Aftenposten)

“I would advise the Labour Party and everyone else to go through the material that has been presented on the pre-school day-care sector, and show some willingness to cooperate,” said Halvdan Skar, leader of the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS), and himself a member of the Labour Party. “A willingness to cooperate now seems vital. Now everyone needs to pull together if we are not to lose sight of our main goal: a nursery place for every child, and lower fees,” he said. Mr Skard’s fellow Labourite, Trond Giske, says that the Labour Party could be willing to look at other ways of channelling money into nurseries than the one proposed by the four opposition parties in their pre-school day-care reform package. “But we will not be budged on the principle that everyone should have a legal right to a nursery place if they want one, or that prices should be cut,” he said.

Labour’s Jens Stoltenberg prepared for Government’s resignation (Verdens Gang)

Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg has now confirmed that he would rather see the Government resign, rather than breach the opposition parties’ agreement on pre-school day-care. Mr Stoltenberg has refused to back down even the slightest in the power struggle the Government is now building up to. “No matter what the Government does, Labour will not go back on the pre-school day-care agreement. It could lead to the Government’s resignation. But what may follow such a crisis is impossible to predict at this stage. However, I think it would be quite out of the question for Prime Minister Bondevik to resign over an issue which revolves around the parliamentary majority carrying out the Christian Democratic Party’s election promises,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

EU membership more important than government office for Conservatives (Aftenposten)

81 per cent of elected Conservative local politicians believe the issue of EU membership is so important that, if necessary, the party should stick to its guns and back the sending of a new application to join – even if it means the Government’s resignation. Only 16 per cent of those polled said the Conservative Party should drop support for an application to join the EU if it threatened the Government’s existence. When the same question was posed last year, Conservative willingness to abandon its position on the EU was somewhat greater than it is now.

Conference on terrorism in New York (Aftenposten)

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and Nobel peace laureate Elie Wiesel are planning a seminar on terrorism to be held in New York in September. UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, presidents, prime ministers and experts will be invited to attend. It is unclear whether President George W. Bush will be invited. But Aftenposten has been told that Mr Bondevik will tell him about the conference during their planned meeting in the White House in May.

We spend most on beer and tobacco (Nationen)

Food is not what we spend most money on in the supermarket. Figures from the market research company AC Nielsen show that beer, soft drinks and tobacco cost the most. The price of beer and cigarettes is extremely high in Norway. Even though less than 40 per cent of the Norwegian population smokes, tobacco comes high on the list, where it is the value of the goods sold which makes the difference. In fourth and fifth position come cheese and milk.

200 formed Progress Party branch in Spain (NTB)

200-250 Norwegians attended the meeting to establish a local branch of the Progress Party in Torrevieja, Spain, yesterday. 100 new members had already signed up. According to the party’s general secretary Geir Moe, there are two main objectives to forming a local branch in Spain. One is to market the Progress Party’s policies to Norwegians living in Spain, and the other is to become involved in the problems Norwegians face when they move to that country. These include problems with regard to registration with the Spanish authorities, social security payments, pensions and child benefit.

Police warn of major traffic controls (Dagsavisen)

During the weekend of Palm Sunday, the police confiscated twice as many driving licences as last year. The majority lost their licences after driving at extremely high speeds. The traffic police are out on the roads in full force throughout the country, and have warned they will be carrying out major traffic controls tomorrow. However, there was little to indicate yesterday morning that the traffic police needed to set up speed traps on the main highway to Sweden. For most of the day there were long queues of slow-moving traffic on the E6 between Moss and the Swedish border at Svinesund. The vehicles were filled with Norwegian shoppers keen to pick up a bargain in Sweden.

Worth Noting

  • “The Storting needs to come up with something new. The people expect the politicians to put considerations of prestige aside,” said Conservative Party chairman Jan Petersen. He has called on the opposition to back down in the row over pre-school day-care.

  • In the period 1991-2000, Bergen City Council overcharged its citizens to the tune of NOK 505-690 million for water and sewerage services, according to local authority auditors. Experts believe the regulations are being broken by local authorities throughout the country – both deliberately and as a result of poor accounting routines.

  • Two two-year-old girls who attend the same nursery in Oslo have contracted meningitis. One of the girls died on Friday. The borough’s chief medical officer has called for the public to be on the alert.

  • Three Kurds with Iraqi nationality and resident in Oslo were arrested for having sent NOK 20 million abroad outside the normal banking system. They have now been found not guilty of illegal money transfer, violation of the UN boycott of Iraq and being accessories to people trafficking.

  • Norwegian travel companies are now also feeling the effects of the SARS epidemic. Several tour operators are now cancelling Easter trips to China, because of the fear of infection. And the Norwegian-owned luxury liner The World is not putting into Hong Kong for the same reason.

  • Norwegians’ eating habits are getting steadily healthier, but health experts are still worried about our high level of consumption of sugar and saturated fats. These are two of the conclusions contained in the wide-ranging report “Developments in the Norwegian diet 2003”, which has now been published by the Directorate of Health and Social Affairs.
    (Verdens Gang)

  • Employee representatives at the Directorate for Civil Defence and Emergency Planning (DSB) feel provoked. Many of those who do not move to Tønsberg when the directorate relocates there from Oslo could be left in a financial squeeze. Employees who resign voluntarily risk having to wait for eight weeks before they qualify for unemployment benefit.

  • Orkla Enskilda Securities, Kjell Inge Røkke’s preferred firm of stock brokers, arranged two share issues for Kværner last year. The firm is celebrating by handing out more than NOK 100 million in bonuses to its employees.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)

  • Easter will get off to a fantastic start weather-wise in the south of Norway, and later in the west country. The weather in the north of Norway will be more changeable, but there will also be periods of sunshine north of the Trondheim Fjord. The three most northerly counties can therefore look forward to some lovely weather this Easter.

Today’s comment from Vårt Land

For many people arriving at one’s holiday house is the same as turning off a switch. Peace and quiet sooths the stressed-out mind. Now scientists at the University of Bergen have discovered that this is not just a subjective feeling, people’s pulse rate actually does fall when they get out of the city and into the countryside. But Petroleum and Energy Minister Einar Steensnæs could set the heart rate of some holiday home owners racing again with his proposal for separate, and higher, electricity prices for holiday homes with a particularly high level of electricity consumption. The proposal will undoubtedly provoke ire in some quarters, but it cannot be helped. Conspicuous consumption causes problems for society as a whole. We will be doing our country a service by limiting the construction of holiday houses and apartments through restrictions on size, regulations governing their appearance and a tax system that prevents too much pressure on our energy resources. From 1994 to 2001, electricity consumption in Norwegian holiday homes rose by 58 per cent. Demands for comfort just keep on rising, but society cannot ban the use of electric underfloor heating in the bathrooms of holiday homes. What society can do, however, is protect the landscape from ugly property development projects and the wasting of natural resources. We must not forget that it is extremely important to reduce one’s pulse – and for that we do not need electricity or useless luxury, but nice breaks in the Norwegian countryside.