16 June 2003


Devold campaign lost (Aftenposten)

Centrally placed Nato sources have confirmed that Norway is close to acknowledging that Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold will not be getting the job as Nato secretary general. Nato will probably delay appointing a new chief until September. The Government’s behind-the-scenes campaign on behalf of Ms Krohn Devold’s candidacy is, in reality a lost cause. Aftenposten is given to understand that the message, particularly from the capitals of Europe, is unmistakable. Kristin Krohn Devold is considered an active and dynamic politician, who has a number of good qualities and who has done a good job for the Norwegian armed forces, but she is not in the frame for the post of Nato secretary general.

Large majority favour public services (Dagsavisen)

People in Norway prefer schools, hospitals and pre-school day care facilities to be run as public services rather than by private companies, according to a survey carried out by Opinion on behalf of the Confederation of Higher Education Unions, Norway (UHO). “Independent of age, location, education or income, there is a substantial majority in favour of publicly provided services. These results should ring some alarm bells with those who are most eager for privatization,” said Anders Folkestad, leader of the UHO.

Employers’ organization opposes boardroom quotas (Aftenposten)

“Imposing quotas is not a suitable tool with which to achieve equality between men and women,” said Sigrun Vågeng, labour policy spokeswoman for the Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (NHO), after the Government tabled a bill on Friday to achieve gender equality in the boardroom. The NHO is pleased with the fact that Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy is willing to give companies until 2005 to reach the targets outlined in the bill.

Bondevik lauds Labour (Dagsavisen)

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik has given the Labour Party much of the credit for the fact that a government crisis has been avoided. However, he hit out at Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen, who had claimed that the Government was looking for an issue over which to resign. Mr Bondevik admitted that the final days before the Storting’s summer recess had been tough. “We have a budget that is more responsible than I had feared. We now have a framework which paves the way for further cuts in interest rates,” the PM told the Christian Democrats’ summer get-together at Hvaler yesterday.

Hagen breaks with Bondevik (Dagbladet/Sunday)

Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen made it clear yesterday that his party no longer feels any responsibility for the future of the minority coalition government led by Kjell Magne Bondevik. Mr Hagen’s proclamation could lead to a far more turbulent autumn in the Storting. “For a long time we thought the process of putting together a revised national budget could lead to a shaky situation in the Storting. But Labour’s Jens Stoltenberg took all the PM’s threats seriously and caved in on the most important issues. We, however, will pursue the Progress Party’s policies regardless of who sits in the Government. We no longer have any responsibility for this government’s future,” said Mr Hagen yesterday.

Stoltenberg believes people are tired of Carl I. Hagen (Dagbladet)

Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg believes that people are increasingly fed up with Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen’s political shenanigans. On Saturday, Mr Hagen said that his party no longer felt any responsibility for the Bondevik government’s future. “That is just typical of Hagen. It was the Progress Party that was instrumental in putting the Bondevik government in office, and who declared that they were a part of the government’s political foundation. They also voted in favour of this year’s budget. Now they are suddenly saying that they no longer have any responsibility. Putting a government in office means you have taken on a commitment. Hagen is playing a tactical political game, but I think that people are tired of this game of his,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

EU membership application no hindrance for Socialist Left Party (Nationen)

Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the Socialist Left Party, is not ruling out support for a Labour government after the 2005 general elections, even if it should send an application for Norwegian EU membership to Brussels. “We are not going to rule out the possibility of such an agreement,” she said. Ms Halvorsen’s views are controversial with her party’s parliamentary group. Ågot Valle says the idea is quite out of the question, while Heidi Sørensen thinks that it would be extremely difficult to support a government that is applying for Norway to join the EU.

Former Labour leader warns against EU fever (Dagsavisen/Saturday)

Former Labour prime minister and leading supporter of EU membership Gro Harlem Brundtland has called for those who want Norway to join the EU to take the recent strongly favourable opinion poll results with a pinch of salt. She is warning against the belief that Norway faces a short Sunday stroll into the EU fold. However, current Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg has indicated that an application to join could be sent very quickly after the next general elections in 2005. He has also signalled that if it comes to a choice between forming a government in cooperation with the Socialist Left Party or campaigning for EU membership, he will choose the latter.

Foreign Ministry seeks new homeland for hijackers (Aftenposten/Sunday)

A decision is expected in the near future about whether two airline hijackers will be allowed to stay in Norway. Aftenposten has learned that the Foreign Ministry has recently been working flat out to find a country willing to accept hijackers Masour and Farad Muhammadi Injeh. The two brothers were granted temporary residence permits in Norway last year by the Immigration Directorate. The Foreign Ministry has been in contact with Russia and Azerbaijan, with a view to sending them there.

Call for closure of gender equality centre (Aftenposten/Saturday)

The Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality does not promote efforts to achieve equality between the sexes. On the contrary, it represents old-fashioned women’s lib from the 1970s, and is more reminiscent of a self-appointed morals police. This broadside against the state-funded Centre for Gender Equality comes from two young Conservative MPs, Linda Cathrine Hofstad and André Dahl. Karita Bekkemellem Orheim, leader of the Labour Party’s women’s movement, does not go quite as far. She says she is open for a debate about the centre’s activities, but has not concluded that it should be closed down.

Job too big for gender equality centre (Dagsavisen/Saturday)

The Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality’s mandate is too wide-ranging and it does not have the resources necessary to fulfil all its obligations, according to former Gender Equality Ombud Anne Lise Ryel. She was responding to recent criticism of the centre. Ms Ryel agrees that not everything has functioned as it should, but points to the fact that the Storting has given it a huge task. If you look at its mandate, the centre has an incredibly long list of responsibilities. It is supposed to both lead the way and be a watchdog, she says.

1. Worth Noting

  • Support for the Centre Party has doubled since the previous month, from 2.6 to 4.7 per cent. Other than this, there are only small changes in the poll results for June. Labour has the backing of 25.3 per cent of the electorate, and is the country’s most popular party.
  • “Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold is keeping the US Defence Department better informed than the Storting’s Defence Committee. This is totally unacceptable,” said Per Ove Width, defence spokesman for the Progress Party.
  • According to Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen, local authorities should organize referenda to decide whether they should have refugee reception centres or not. “This applies to all important issues, and refugee receptions centres are one such important issue,” said Mr Hagen.
  • There is a limit to what the USA should be allowed to find out about you when you travel to that country. At a meeting this weekend, Georg Apenes, head of the Data Inspectorate, and his European colleagues arrived at this conclusion. The US authorities are demanding to know as much as possible about all airline passengers from Europe, and are now engaged in final negotiations with the EU on this issue.
  • Senior Christian Democrat MP, Jon Lilletun, and the Conservatives’ chief negotiator Jan Tore Sanner believe the Government emerged victorious by losing the rerun of its battles with the opposition over the revised national budget. The alternative could easily have cost another NOK 1 billion.
  • Gro Harlem Brundtland, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), has compared parents’ smoking with child abuse, and wants a ban on smoking in the home. “She is clearly willing to sacrifice personal freedom and the right of privacy in order to cleanse the private domain of smoking,” said professor Per Fugelli. On the other hand, Trond Waage, the Children’s Commissioner, supports Ms Harlem Brundtland’s position.
  • Norwegian managers’ good attitudes are appreciated, but they are not in demand for senior posts abroad. Even compared with Swedish and Danish managers, Norwegian executives seem to be less competitive.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)
  • A number of private nurseries have decided to postpone any cut in the fees they charge parents until the autumn of 2004, despite the fact that they will receive a 33 per cent increase in public funding from this year. “Private nurseries will have to lower their fees from this autumn. It would be astonishing if they did not,” said Children and Family Affairs Minister Laila Dåvøy.
    (Verdens Gang/Saturday)
  • Scotland Yard expert Robin Keeley is currently reviewing the forensic evidence from the Orderud triple-murder case. His speciality is to find and carry out forensic analyses of metals, chemicals, gases and other materials which have left traces in criminal cases.
    (Verdens Gang/Sunday)

2. Today’s comment from Dagbladet

The Norwegian Centre for Gender Equality, which comes under the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, is in hot water at the moment. The Directorate of Public Management has evaluated the centre and discovered that it is an impossible creation. It is both a research institute and a propaganda machine. The Centre for Gender Equality is a typical social democratic construction, where information and research are jumbled together in the same pot. The centre has been controversial since its inception. Many of the points of view taken by its leaders have been provocative – which is obviously a good thing. But when the Directorate of Public Management concludes that the way the institution is put together is in itself unfortunate, there might be good grounds for dismantling the entire edifice. The production of knowledge and political lobbying make bad bedfellows.