30 May 2003


Threatenened embassy in Kenya could be moved (Aftenposten)

The Norwegian embassy in Kenya was closed yesterday after an e-mail message warning that the building in which it is located would be destroyed. The building houses 11 embassies, and has been designated a potential terrorist target. “The e-mail contained a picture which apparently comes from a film called ‘Bring down the house’, and this message was repeated several times in the text. The date, 29 May was also specifically mentioned,” said Kjell Harald Dalen, Norway’s Ambassador to Kenya. Norway could decide to find a new location for its embassy in cooperation with the Swedes.

Government and opposition clash over benefits rises (Verdens Gang)

Labour, Socialist Left Party and Progress Party MPs reacted with a mixture of surprise and fury to the Government’s latest offer to pensioners and benefit claimants, before negotiations were broken off altogether. It was only on Wednesday that the parliamentary majority voted to adopt new guidelines for this year’s round of benefit rises, which was to have given pensioners an increase in line with the rest of society. In its revised national budget, the Government itself operates with a prognosis of 4.5 per cent for this. Less than a day later the Government drew the line at 4.0 per cent in its negotiations with organizations representing pensioners and other benefit claimants.

Pensioners cheated out of NOK 500 million (Dagbladet)

Pensioners feel deceived, and the Progress Party is furious after the breakdown of negotiations on pension and benefit rises. “The Government is cheating pensioners out of what the Storting voted two days ago that they should get. This is a provocation towards pensioners and towards the Storting. Labour and Government Administration Minister Victor Norman is making trouble again,” said the Progress Party’s John Alvheim, who chairs the Storting’s Social Affairs Committee. Mr Norman, however, has defended the Government’s position. “We gave complete compensation for 2001 and 2002, and the increases for this year are in line with other groups – at the very least. At a time when other groups are showing moderation, we are making a concerted effort on behalf of pensioners,” said Mr Norman.

Government could split apart over HEP plans (Dagsavisen)

The Government has already finished deliberating over the controversial plans to expand hydro-electric power production on the Sauda river system in Rogaland. The result was a compromise between the Conservatives, who are eager for the construction of more HEP stations and the Christian Democrats and Liberals who are sceptical. However, Leif Frode Onarheim, leader of the Conservative group of MPs on the Storting’s Energy and Environment Committee, has said that he wants to form a majority with the Labour Party in favour of more extensive HEP production than the Government has gone in for. At the same time, the Liberal and Christian Democrat MPs have said they will reject any proposal that entails more HEP production than the Government’s original plans.

Jens Stoltenberg getting in a mess over Sauda (Aftenposten)

On Wednesday, Labour veteran and former Environment Minister Torbjørn Berntsen said bluntly that Labour’s decision to support a major expansion of hydro-electric power production in the Sauda mountains was damaging the party’s environmental credibility. Labour leader Jens Soltenberg replied that, “I am very fond of Torbjørn Berntsen, but he cannot be fully informed about this issue.” However, according to the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature it is Mr Stoltenberg and not Mr Berntsen who is getting in a mess over HEP development at Sauda.

Storting votes to expand use of good conduct certificates (Vårt Land)

This spring, Justice Minister Odd Einar Dørum blocked a proposal to demand a police certificate of good conduct from everyone who works with children and young people. The proposal was made by Save the Children Norway on behalf of 28 voluntary organizations. But this week, the Odelsting voted in favour of expanding the use of good conduct certificates issued by the police. According to the Progress Party, which put forward the proposal, a police certificate of good conduct would be “a tool which would have a preventive effect and give both children and parents increased confidence.”

Norwegians swindled out of NOK 30 million (Nationen)

A foreign company has swindled 268 Norwegians out of a total of NOK 30 million. According to the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, the company has made fraudulent offers of share investments over the telephone or by means of the internet. Internet and e-mail fraud is becoming increasingly widespread. “We estimate that Norwegians are swindled out of several million kroner each year in this way,” said Arnt Angell, chief public prosecutor with the National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime.

Politicians hit back at Norsk Hydro boss (Dagens Næringsliv)

Norsk Hydro’s chief executive, Eivind Reiten, said he had no confidence in the country’s politicians. For that reason, Norsk Hydro’s future investments would be made abroad. “A cowardly pot shot into thin air. Listening to the reactions to the budget proposal for 2003, the budget agreement and the proposal for this year’s revised national budget, we heard only praise. Mr Reiten must come out and say what and who he is unhappy with. Then we would be prepared to listen,” said Jan Tore Sanner, Conservative economic policy spokesman. The Socialist Left Party’s Øystein Djupedal described Mr Reiten’s comments as “unreasonable and unnecessary”, adding that “Mr Reiten heads a company whose interests have always been paid an enormous amount of attention by the Norwegian society.”

Norsk Hydro boss dubbed irresponsible by union leader (Dagsavisen)

Roar Flåthen, vice president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), has described the threat made by Norsk Hydro’s chief executive Eivind Reiten to channel new investment only to areas outside Norway as facile and irresponsible. “It is simply too easy for Eivind Reiten to say ‘we cannot be bothered with Norway any more’. Both Norsk Hydro and Aker Kværner have a responsibility for industrial development in this country, and should therefore enter into a dialogue with the authorities to find out what is required. Norsk Hydro, in particular, has a broader social responsibility because it is partly owned by the Norwegian state,” said Mr Flåthen.

1. Worth Noting

  • The memory of 224 killed and 5,800 injured in two previous terrorist attacks on embassies in the region led to the resolute closure of 11 embassies in Nairobi yesterday – including Norway’s.
    (Verdens Gang)
  • The exemption from employers’ national insurance contributions enjoyed by companies in North Troms and Finmark is under threat. Centre Party leader Åslaug Haga says that Norway must take the case to the EFTA Court if the scheme cannot be saved by using the EEA Agreement’s escape clause.
  • Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Party, has accused Mona Larsen-Asp, leader of the Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality, of being old-fashioned, and mistrusting women’s choices. Ms Svarstad Haugland’s attack comes in response to Ms Larsen-Asp’s criticism of a recent Christian Democrat proposal that would abolish the need for women to have worked full-time for six months before qualifying for a second term of maternity leave.
    (Verdens Gang)
  • If the Finnish energy company Fortum were to buy the Oslo City Council’s shares in Hafslund, the power utility, the Norwegian state would still have the right of first refusal with regard to nine Hafslund power stations. The state has had such a right since 1917, but has never exercised it.
  • The Red Electoral Alliance fought tooth and nail to be allowed to participate in television debates in the run up to the last general election two years ago, but Norway’s public service broadcasting company, NRK, refused. Ahead of this year’s local elections, Alliance leader Torstein Dahle will take part in a televised public meeting on local government financing, in addition to the final party leader debate.
  • Never before have so many babies been born using caesarean section. 15 per cent of all births in Norway are a result of a caesarean section.
  • Early tomorrow morning the moon will slide in front of the sun, causing the most complete eclipse of the sun seen in Norway since 1954. The eclipse starts in Oslo at 04.43 and lasts for two hours. The eclipse will reach its maximum level at 05.40.
    (All newspapers)

2. Today’s comment from Dagbladet

Following the decision by an overwhelming majority of Labour MPs to back an expansion of hydro-electric power production on the Sauda river system that is twice as extensive as that proposed by the Bondevik government, Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg has kicked off a foolish debate about whether Labour’s plans represent a ‘major’ HEP development or not. This embarrassing hair-splitting exercise is a dismal attempt to wriggle out of the fact that he has clearly broken the promises he made in his New Year speech as prime minister, when he said that the time for major HEP development projects was over. There is not much left now of the Labour leader’s credibility as a man of his word. HEP development projects are controversial in Norway, but opposition to them cannot simply be steamrollered, in the way Mr Stoltenberg is attempting to do, simply because the electricity market has been handed over to speculators who are more concerned with their own profits than with the good of the consumer. The resolution passed by Labour’s parliamentary group has given Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik a golden opportunity. He should get together with the Socialist Left Party to form a parliamentary majority in favour of a solution that takes the environmentalists’ concerns into consideration. But maybe he will not be allowed to do so by his Conservative coalition partners?