27 May 2003


Krekar could face military tribunal (Aftenposten)

The National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime is working flat out to have Mullah Krekar charged with violating two sections of the military penal code, among other things, by calling for suicide bombers to attack civilian targets. If Krekar is put on trial in Norway as a result of the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime’s new investigations, he will go before a military tribunal. This dramatic twist to the case means that the prosecution would be led by the military prosecutor, in collaboration with the civilian prosecution service. Krekar would have fundamentally the same guarantees of due process as in a civilian trial.

Abrupt halt to regional aid measure (Dagens Næringsliv)

The scheme whereby companies in certain regions pay a lower rate of employers’ national insurance contributions is the most important regional aid measure in Norway. The scheme will now have to be abolished because it violates EEA regulations. The Government has asked the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA) to accept a three-year transition period. However, the first response from Brussels indicates that the transition will not be as gradual as Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss would like. Øystein Djupedal, economic policy spokesman for the Socialist Left Party, says it would have dramatic consequences if the ESA demanded that the scheme be abolished without a transition period, and accuses the previous Labour government and the current administration of failing regional businesses.

Government approval for creation of Sharia council (Aftenposten)

The fact that men and women do not, in practice, have the same opportunity to seek a divorce in the Muslim community represents a serious problem in Norway. To give Muslim women somewhere to turn to when they want a divorce, the Local Government and Regional Affairs Ministry is giving its support to the creation in Norway of a council based on Islamic Sharia law. Similar councils already exist in Britain and Sweden. The Christian Democrats and the Socialist Left Party oppose the move. “We cannot allow a system in which one law applies to Christians, while another applies to Muslims,” said Christian Democrat MP Anita Apelthun Sæle.

No need to stockpile cash (Dagbladet)

Just over an hour before the deadline for an agreement in this year’s round of pay negotiations in the banking and insurance sector, the threatened bank strike was called off. But people had already spent the whole of Monday stockpiling cash, to the extent that some cash dispensers ran out of money. At around 10.30 last night, it became clear that the banks would not be closed today after all. “We got more money for more of our members than before we started the arbitration process. That is why this is an acceptable solution,” said Dag Arne Kristensen, leader of the Finance Sector Union of Norway, who had previously announced that 27,000 employees in the banking and insurance sectors could be called out on strike. That would have paralyzed practically the country’s entire retail industry and made cash and cheques the only valid means of payment.

Negotiations moving towards compromise on pre-school day-care (Dagsavisen)

Negotiations in the Storting took a step in the direction of an agreement on pre-school day-care yesterday. Sonja Sjøli (Con), chairwoman of the Storting’s Family, Culture and Government Administration Committee, was pleased to acknowledge that the opposing sides were moving towards a broad-based compromise agreement in the Storting, albeit ‘at a snail’s pace’. “The negotiations are continuing. A number of important clarifications were needed, and these have now been forthcoming,” said Ms Sjøli. However, both she and the other parties’ negotiators declined to reveal the substance of these clarifications.

Petroleum Fund suffers more losses (Aftenposten)

Jarle Bergo, Deputy Governor of the Norwegian Central Bank, will today announce first quarter losses of around 2 per cent for the Government Petroleum Fund, calculated in foreign currency. And once again, it is the international stock markets which are to blame. In the revised national budget for 2003, the Ministry of Finance states that the shares owned by the Petroleum Fund lost 8 per cent of their value during the first quarter. Given the fact that 40 per cent of the country’s oil wealth is invested in shares and 60 per cent in bonds, the Petroleum Fund ends up with a net loss of around 2 per cent in the first quarter.

Young shoppers are not so gullible (Dagsavisen)

Anyone who goes around thinking that children are helpless victims for unscrupulous advertising agents should think again. In fact, children understand advertising better and are less influenced by it than adults. Children are influenced at least as much by their parents’ shopping habits as by advertising. 12-year-olds are, in fact, less easily influenced than 40-somethings who grew up at a time when adverts were not part of their everyday life in the same way as now.

EU opens doors to salmon exports (Dagens Næringsliv)

The minimum price for salmon exports to the EU was yesterday formally abolished. Now Norwegian salmon can be freely sold to the EU market. During the six years since the salmon agreement was signed, Norwegian salmon farmers have avoided punitive, anti-dumping import duties to the tune of around NOK 5 billion. The imposition of a punitive import duty was the alternative to the controversial minimum price agreement. “This is an important decision for the industry, and will have a positive impact. Now it is once again possible for serious companies to have normal relations with their customers in the EU, after many years in which rogue firms have done what they could to get around the agreement,” said Atle Eide of Pan Fish.

Call for police certificate to prevent abuse by church officials (Vårt Land)

The Church of Norway’s employers’ organization has called for church employees to have to produce a police certificate of good conduct in order to prevent incidents of abuse. “We have lived in the naïve belief that we did not need a police certificate for people who are going to work for the church. But we have experienced far too many cases of abuse within our ranks,” said Frank Grimstad of the Church of Norway’s employers’ organization. He believes a number of cases of abuse could have been avoided if employees had had to produce a certificate of good conduct when they were hired. According to the Church of Norway’s employers’ organization, open and thorough vetting routines are necessary to build confidence and trust.

Biggest ever closing-down sale (Dagsavisen)

You now have the chance to put together your very own military museum. The Norwegian Armed Forces are getting rid of military equipment worth NOK 2 billion. Everything from tanks, underpants, jet fighters, a complete doctor’s surgery and vehicles are to be scrapped. But private individuals will not be allowed to buy weapons, ammunition, armoured vehicles or combat aircraft. The problem facing the Armed Forces is that it has too much equipment and not enough people. However, the Armed Forces do not think that they will make a profit by getting rid of all this equipment.

Swedish strawberries unwanted (Nationen)

Swedish growers have long wanted to take a slice of the Norwegian strawberry market, but stiff tariff barriers during the Norwegian high season have stopped Swedish strawberries at the border. This summer, for the first time, Swedish strawberries will be allowed duty-free into the country during the strawberry season. But Norwegian wholesalers have said ‘no thanks’. “We are not interested in importing strawberries as long as there are Norwegian strawberries to be had. Norwegian strawberries are the best,” said Ole Kristian Merkestad, import manager at Norgesfrukt, a leading supplier of fresh fruit and vegetables to the Norwegian market.

Worth Noting

  • The National Police Security Service (PST) is infuriated by the comments made by a senior officer belonging to the Oslo Police District, who criticized the PST for lack of efficiency in the hunt for suspected terrorists. Yesterday PST boss Per Sefland had a meeting with Anstein Gjengedal to put an end to the anonymous attacks.
  • The state is withholding NOK 200 million in reimbursements to the country’s hospitals for 2002, because widespread miscoding of diagnoses is suspected. 19 hospitals will have to justify a sharp swing towards more lucrative diagnoses and more profitable forms of treatment.
  • The Storting has decided to tighten up the generous “waiting pay” scheme to which former MPs are entitled. It will not longer be possible for former MPs to collect NOK 343,000 in salary while they pursue a course of further education, which could mean anything from media studies to pottery classes.
  • Norwegians have set a new record in vanity. Sales of make-up have doubled, and we are spending more money on our skins than ever before. In total we spent NOK 6.645 billion on skincare and hair products, make-up, perfume and articles of hygiene. This is over NOK 2.5 billion more than in 1994.
    (Verdens Gang)

Today’s comment from Dagsavisen

The ruling coalition parties and the Progress Party meet today for the start of talks on the revised national budget. Their discussions will reveal whether there is a basis for negotiations which could lead to a budget agreement. Once contact with the Progress Party has broken down, there will be a round of talks with the Labour Party. These will, in reality, be just as futile as negotiations with the Progress Party. The situation in the Storting ahead of the revised budget is extremely complex. The Prime Minister has not made matters any easier by repeatedly threatening to call a vote of confidence in his administration and provoke a government crisis. Such a move should be avoided. The Government has the chance to assemble a separate parliamentary majority for each item in the budget – political slaloming, as it is called. Slaloming in the Storting can be a demanding event, but it is, after all, much preferable to confrontation and crisis. The opposition – and the Labour Party in particular – should do its part to ensure that the Government makes it through the gates without a fall. If not, Labour will have to take over the country. And that is something the party is not prepared for.