Late on Friday night in New York, Norways Environment Minister Børge Brende (Con) was chosen to lead the UNs Commission on Sustainable Development. The EU countries and the G-77 (the group of developing countries) had asked Mr Brende to stand as a candidate. Both Mr Brende and Norways Development Assistance Minister Hilde Frafjord Johnson made a strong impression during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last autumn. Among other things, the two ensured that environmental regulations would not be considered of secondary importance to the rules governing free-trade issued by the WTO. Mr Brende is taking on no small task. His mandate is to ensure that the many resolutions adopted at Johannesburg are actually being put into effect. However, Mr Brende has promised that Norwegian environmental and conservation issues will not suffer, even if he has to spend a great deal of time on the UN commission.
New Christian Democrat deputy leader says no to Labour (Verdens Gang/Sunday)
“I cannot envisage the Christian Democrats sharing power with the Labour Party, either in the short or medium term. And I do not want to speculate about such a thing, while the coalition we are already a part of is working so well. Nevertheless, we will undoubtedly continue to cooperate with the Labour Party on an ad-hoc basis,” said Knut Arild Hareide, newly elected deputy leader of the Christian Democratic Party. At its annual conference this weekend, Mr Hareide was described as the new Bondevik, and tipped as the partys next leader. Mr Hareide himself is more modest. “Mr Bondevik has a unique position within the party. I was elected as deputy leader not the next leader. The Christian Democratic Party has had many good deputy leaders that never became party leader, such as my political role-model, Jon Lilletun,” said Mr Hareide.
Learn from Gro Harlem Brundtland! (Verdens Gang/Sunday)
Jens Stoltenberg and Carl I. Hagen have both called on Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik to pull himself together and learn from the way legendary Labour leader Gro Harlem Brundtland managed the job of being prime minister. Mr Stoltenberg and Mr Hagen are, each for their different reasons, sick of what they describe as the whingeing and whining coming from the PM and other leading government ministers. The two claim that Mr Bondevik has a lot to learn from Ms Harlem Brundtland, who sought cooperation and solutions rather than confrontation and constant threats. Mr Stoltenberg also pointed out that Mr Bondevik or other members of his cabinet have threatened to resign over a total of four different issues since the start of the year.
Call for Bondevik to explain his position (Dagens Næringsliv/Saturday)
Gerd-Liv Valla, president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), is demanding that Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik make it clear whether the Government has a deliberate policy of removing LO representatives from the boards of directors of state-owned companies. “In conversations with us, Mr Bondevik has said that he and his government have absolutely no intention of excluding LO representatives from company boards. I want clarification of whether the Government has changed its position on this matter,” said Ms Valla. DN reported yesterday that the Government intends to sack LO vice president Roar Flåthen from the board of Kongsberg Gruppen. Since the Bondevik government took over, the LO has lost representation on the boards of directors of four companies in which the state has a major shareholding. The LO is now not represented on any such companies boards.
Bondevik to sell whale meat to Japan (Aftenposten)
Norways whalers trust Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik to boost sales of whale meat to Japan. At the end of May, Mr Bondevik will visit Japan, and whale meat exports are among the issues he will be discussing with his Japanese counterpart. “Exports to Japan have not got started. They are continually making new demands with regard to quality and labelling,” said Johan Williams, director general of the Ministry of Fisheries, in an interview with the radio station, P4. The Norwegian authorities have relaxed the self-imposed restrictions banning exports of whale products. Some exports now go to the Faroe Islands and Iceland, but it is the Japanese market that offers the greatest opportunities.
Hafslund under investigation (Dagbladet/Sunday)
The Banking, Insurance and Securities Commission is investigating the energy company Hafslund for suspected violations of the Securities Trading Act. The commission suspects that someone in the company may have leaked sensitive information to Dagbladet. The commission was prompted into action by an article in last Mondays edition of the newspaper. The article reported financial figures for Hafslund, which is listed on the stock exchange, that had not been publicly released. The figures were later shown to be correct, and the commission has therefore initiated a hunt for the source of Dagbladets information. “This kind of information is supposed to be published via the Oslo Stock Exchange. When financial results appear in the newspapers before they are supposed to, it could be a violation of section 2.2 of the Securities Trading Act,” said Jarle Johansen, a senior consultant at the Banking, Insurance and Securities Commission.
SAS ignores Gabrielsen (Dagsavisen/Saturday)
SASs management has not been intimidated by the warnings issued last week by Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen. They are putting financial considerations ahead of the need to share out jobs between Norway, Sweden and Denmark. SASs management believes the agreement to share out jobs is of minor interest when the companys financial position is under threat. The company simply cannot afford to take national interests into consideration, as demanded by Mr Gabrielsen. “SAS will continue to be a Scandinavian company, but the enormous financial challenges facing us mean that other things are more important than national considerations,” said Simen Revold, SASs head of corporate communications, in an interview with Dagsavisen. According to the consortium agreement on which SAS is built, there must be a reasonable distribution of jobs between Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Iceland only dissenter on Norwegian herring (Aftenposten)
According to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, there is no doubt about Norways sovereign right to regulate fishing activity in the Svalbard zone. However, Iceland is threatening to bring Norway before the International Court of Justice in the Hague if the Norwegian Coast Guard arrests Icelandic fishing boats operating within the protection zone. Karsten Klepsvik, a spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, is unworried by the threat. This year Norway and Iceland have not managed to reach agreement on herring catches, and Iceland is threatening drastic measures if any of its trawlers are detained by the Norwegian Coast Guard.
- Christian Democratic Party chairwoman Valgerd Svarstad Haugland could have got herself two new young deputy leaders, but refused to allow Einar Steensnæs to leave the party leadership. The partys annual conference must therefore choose between Dagrun Eriksen and Knut Arild Hareide as second deputy leader, while Mr Steensnæs continues as first deputy leader. Together the two candidates are as old as Mr Steensnæs.
- One in five of those who voted Christian Democrat at the general election in 2001 now say they would vote for the Progress Party, according to a analysis specially commissioned by the political parties.
- Law professor Carl August Fleischer has just published a report savaging the Norwegian Bar Associations treatment of attorney Thor-Erik Johansen. The associations chairman Helge Aarseth, in particular, is the subject of withering criticism.
- According to the industrial sector facing international competition, high transport costs are a bigger problem than the level of direct and indirect taxes. The wood processing industry has now called for transport policy to be transferred to the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
- 26,000 car-owners have still not paid their annual motor vehicle licence fee for 2002. The State Agency for the Recovery of Fines, Damages and Costs will now ensure that 18,000 of them will have the licence fee deducted straight from their salaries. Private creditors are only very rarely allowed to use the same method to recover their debts.
- A Christian Democratic Party working group wants beer taken off the supermarket shelves and transferred to the Vinmonopol, the state-owned retail monopoly for wines and spirits. “If the sale of beer is switched to the Vinmonopol, the volume sold will fall. For the breweries, the proposal is dramatic,” said Jan Bodd, chief executive of Ringnes, Norways largest beer brand. He is predicting brewery closures and job losses if the Christian Democrats proposal is adopted,.
Todays comment from Dagens Næringsliv
The Christian Democratic Party has held its annual conference, and has made it clear, by a substantial majority vote, that it likes being in power in partnership with the Conservatives, even though some party activists think the opposite. Unless the Labour Party and Progress Party force Mr Bondevik to resign, the coalition government will continue to rub along together for the foreseeable future. The foreseeable future being the next two years. The battle for the Christian Democratic Partys soul will be fought out in 2005. Opinion polls seem to have come to rest at a stable majority in favour of Norway joining the EU. If the ruling coalition parties are to ask the voters for a renewal of their joint mandate in 2005, the Christian Democratic Party will have to change its views on EU membership. It will not be easy, even if the party did give itself a young and dynamic supporter of EU membership when it voted Knut Arild Hareide in as deputy leader. The EEA Agreement is creaking at the seams. The EU has screwed up the price, and a substantial majority of the population wants full membership. If the Christian Democrats say yes to EU membership in two years time, the party risks modernizing itself away from its voters. If it says no, the party risks following the Centre Party down the road to parliamentary oblivion as the mouthpiece of a constantly shrinking minority interest group.