18 June 2003


Desecration of bodies in Skien (All newspapers)

Six coffins lay in cold storage at the Nordre Gravlund crematorium in Skien, awaiting cremation. Four of them were desecrated in the most grotesque way; their occupants dragged out, stamped on, stabbed and beaten. The head of one of the deceased was cut off. Police later found it at the home of one of the accused. All four of the men facing charges in connection with the desecration of the bodies in Skien this weekend play or have played in black metal bands. The atrocity, apparently committed under the influence of alcohol and drugs, is thought to have been ritual in nature. Yesterday, the four accused, whose ages range from 19 to 26, appeared before the Skien and Porsgrunn District Court for a remand hearing. “What strikes me is that this must be an example of pure vandalism,” said psychiatrist professor Berthold Grünfeld.

Cooperation on combat aircraft to be extended (Dagbladet)

Defence Minister Kristin Krohn Devold has decided to extend Norway’s contract with the US company Lockheed Martin for the development of the combat aircraft of the future. The decision will prompt strong reactions among union members. A contract of this kind usually benefits Norwegian industry in the form of sub-contracts worth billions of kroner. But for the first time ever, the Ministry of Defence has not demanded national sub-contracting in connection with the development of the Joint Strike Fighter. As a result, only two or three Norwegian companies have been awarded contracts by Lockheed Martin.

Fifty per cent of population want conscription for women (Dagsavisen)

Almost half the Norwegian population thinks women should do national service, according to a recent survey. As many as 37 per cent of women and 53 per cent of men support conscription for women. “I am surprised that so many people were in favour of conscription for women. We have had the impression that opposition to such a scheme was relatively strong. It is good that opinions are so evenly divided on this issue. This is one of the last areas where discrimination is enshrined in law,” said Gender Equality Ombud Kristin Mile. Marit Nybak (Lab), who chairs the Storting’s Defence Committee is also extremely surprised by the large numbers of those who want conscription for women.

Election postponed in bitter union feud (Verdens Gang)

Even before Norway’s largest trade union officially came into being yesterday, a venomous and bitter feud, in which party political allegiance plays a key role, has erupted. The election of the new union’s leadership team was postponed until today – officially because there was insufficient time to carry it out. Late last night, Jan Davidsen, former leader of the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees and now president of the newly amalgamated super-union, the Trade Union, and Gerd-Liv Valla, president of the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), both strenuously denied that the proposal to drop Gunhild Johansen, currently deputy leader of the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees, from the new union’s leadership ticket had anything to do with the fact that she is not a card-carrying member of the Labour Party. Ms Johansen, who is a member of the Socialist Left Party, has been first deputy leader of the municipal workers’ union for nine years. According to Ms Johansen, Labour Party members in the union are afraid that she will become the Trade Union’s next president in two years’ time if she is elected second vice president now.

SAS faces bankruptcy (Dagens Næringsliv)

According to SAS chief executive Jørgen Lindegaard, the airline could collapse if he does not manage to implement his cost-cutting programme. “If we do not fully carry out the turn-around we are now engaged in, the question is whether we can survive,” he said. While Nordic analysts have so far ruled out the possibility of SAS going into liquidation, foreign experts are not so sure. They claim that SAS’s management is good at talking and planning, but are unlikely to be able to implement their plans fast enough to turn around the embattled airline.

Complete free trade not enough (Dagsavisen)

One year after Norway removed the last tariff and quota barriers on goods from the world’s poorest countries, the Foreign Ministry still has no figures to show that imports from the 49 least developed countries (LDCs) have increased. Goods from these countries still amount to no more than about 0.2 per cent of Norway’s imports. International Development Minister Hilde Frafjord Johnson puts this down to the fact that these countries are simply too poor to take advantage of their access to the Norwegian market.

Statkraft asks for NOK 12 billion (Aftenposten)

Two years after the Storting boosted the capital reserves of the state-owned power utility Statkraft by NOK 6 billion, the company is asking for more money. This time, twice as much. “We have requested our owner for an additional NOK 12 billion in fresh capital,” said company chairman Terje Varberg. Statkraft needs more money in the bank in order to strengthen its attractiveness in the loan market. Statkraft has ambitions to become a leading European energy company. But the Storting could short-cut Trade and Industry Minister Ansgar Gabrielsen’s deliberations on this matter, by instructing him already today to grant Statkraft an additional NOK 10 billion.

Ministry demands explanation (Dagens Næringsliv)

The Transport Ministry has asked Norway Post to produce a report on the legality of its purchase of IT services from its subsidiary, Ergo Group. “We have asked for Norway Post’s evaluation of the legal aspects of this issue. After that we will make our views known,” said Per Sanderud, permanent secretary at the Transport Ministry. Mr Sanderud also said that the ministry had not set a deadline, but expected a reply relatively quickly.

Let’s get modern (Aftenposten)

The world knows little about Norway, say numerous surveys. And Norway does not even appear on the map of Europe stamped on the euro. What on earth are we to do? The Foreign Ministry has asked British expert Mark Leonard for help. Among other things, he has suggested forgetting all about Ibsen, Munch and Nansen. Instead, Norway should plug popular musicians Röyksopp and Lene Marlin, adventurer Erling Kagge, world environmental and health campaigner Gro Harlem Brundtland and UN special envoy Terje Rød-Larsen. Norway should promote itself as a humanitarian superpower, whose people have a unique relationship with nature. Build a Nobel Peace Centre in Brussels, a Harlem Brundtland Centre for Sustainable Development in Washington. The aim is that in 2005 – Norway’s centenary as an independent nation – the county should have developed a clear, international image.

Worth Noting

  • He predicted a public health doomsday, with a dramatic increase in depression, anxiety and alcohol-related problems, if Norway decided to join the EU in 1994. Now professor of social medicine Per Fugelli has himself become a supporter of EU membership.
  • For the first time ever, the majority of those belonging to the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) work in the public sector or in publicly-owned companies. Nevertheless, LO president Gerd-Liv Valla believes that industry has nothing to fear.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)
  • Politicians want Telenor and Netcom’s mobile phone subscribers to be able to switch provider when the network is down or in areas without coverage. But Telenor is refusing, since they claim network coverage is a competitive factor.
  • The Immigration Directorate (UDI) has no plans to resume processing the applications of asylum seekers from Iraq. The temporary halt to processing the applications of around 2,000 people has been in effect for just over five months.
  • An ordinary Norwegian wage-earner must work for just two hours and eleven minutes to make enough money for a week’s supply of food. This is the conclusion of the annual international food price survey.
    (Verdens Gang)
  • More than one in three of those who voted Christian Democrat in 2001 are now sitting on the fence. Those who have switched to other parties are almost equally divided between the Progress Party and Labour.
    (Vårt Land)
  • It was Kofi Annan himself who hand-picked Jan Egeland to head the UN’s entire global emergency relief activities. The Bondevik government’s preferred candidate was a Dane.
  • Helmut Sohmen’s company World-Wide Shipping has embarked on the compulsory buy-out process under which Bergesen d.y.’s remaining shareholders will have to sell their stake in the company to its new owners. At the same time, World-Wide Shipping has announced that it will shortly apply for Bergesen to be delisted from the Oslo Stock Exchange.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)
  • Over 80 per cent of babies born prematurely and weighing less than a kilo survive today. In 1966, only 10 per cent of babies with such a low birth-weight survived. A unique Norwegian study has revealed that premature babies are doing much better than many experts have believed.
  • Everyone is talking about the weather, but we are doing very little in Norway to adapt to the warmer climate we can expect, according to a recent report from Western Norway Research Institute (WNRI).
    (Vårt Land)

Today’s comment from Verdens Gang

A strong, new groundswell of opinion is surging in on the country’s political left. It is a trend that could put Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen in a political dilemma. A majority of those Socialist Left Party voters who have made up their minds are in favour of Norway joining the EU. The Socialist Left Party is virtually synonymous with opposition to EU membership as well as to membership of Nato. The Labour leadership, under the command of Jens Stoltenberg, wants to turn the 2005 general election into an election about EU membership. This is also an election which could bring the Socialist Left Party into office for the first time, in a coalition with the Labour Party. It has been a truth universally acknowledged, that the conflict over EU and Nato membership makes such a collaboration impossible. Ms Halvorsen, too, believes that it would be extremely difficult for her party to commit itself to supporting a Labour government in the Storting, if that government puts in an application for EU membership. For Kristin Halvorsen it could come down to a stark choice between remaining a political fringe party or abandoning opposition to the EU in return for political influence and a say in government decision-making. We think we know the outcome. Particularly if she can demonstrate that a majority of her own voters are actually in favour of EU membership. That it will undoubtedly provoke a hullabaloo among the party faithful is quite another matter.