19 June 2003


Socialist Left Party kept out of union leadership (Aftenposten)

Socialist Left Party activist Gunhild Johansen lost the battle for a place in the leadership of Norway’s largest trade union, and is in no doubt that party politics was the reason why. The election’s winners deny the claim, but have offered no other explanation. One day later than scheduled, the Trade Union managed to elect its first leadership team. The dispute revolved around the position of second vice president. “Party politics are at root here. The union movement has always suffered from this power struggle. It would be surprising if it were to end,” said Ms Johansen. Anne Grethe Skårdal was elected second vice president.

Silent Stoltenberg (Dagens Næringsliv)

Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg followed events at the Trade Union’s national conference yesterday, but refused to say whether Labour feels the leader of the largest single union in the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) should be a card-carrying party member. Labour recently signed a new cooperation agreement with the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees, which is the senior partner in the newly formed super-union, the Trade Union. “After such a bruising conflict over who should be elected, it would be wrong of me to get involved,” said Mr Stoltenberg.

Councils get pat on back from public service users (Dagsavisen)

Here comes some welcome news for the country’s mayors, local authority chief executives, and councillors. More than half of those questioned, 53 per cent, say they are ‘fairly satisfied’ with the services provided by their local councils. The survey focused on people’s perception of the quality of local government services and the state of local government financing, as well as their views on competitive tendering in the public sector. “This shows that the Government’s criticism is wide of the mark. People are generally happy with the services provided by their local councils,” said Tove Stangnes, newly elected vice president of the public service super-union, the Trade Union.

Uncertain whether Norwegian foreign aid makes a difference (Aftenposten)

Norway has cultivated its role as self-righteous Samaritan, and has used its foreign aid budget to serve its own interests, it has been claimed. Norway has spent NOK 170 billion on foreign aid over the past 50 years, but it is uncertain whether that money has helped to reduce poverty, concludes a group of researchers in a new book. The researchers, whose book project has been financed by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, claim that our development assistance efforts over the past 50 years are full of examples of ideological blindness and expensive fiascos. “Many of the Norwegian projects led quite simply to a better life for some people,” is the modest conclusion of the third and last volume of the history of Norwegian development assistance.

Travellers check out of Gardermoen (Dagens Næringsliv)

Airports at Rygge and Sandefjord in southern Norway and Gothenburg in Sweden will ‘steal’ over two million passengers from Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport, which could lose out on revenues amounting to more than NOK 1,020 million if they succeed. Hardest hit would be the beleaguered airline SAS, which would lose even more passengers and revenues. According to calculations from Avinor (previously the Norwegian Civil Aviation Administration), Gardermoen Airport is vulnerable.

SAS boss loses no sleep over axe man role (Verdens Gang)

Chief executive Jørgen Lindegaard is committed to rescuing SAS from disaster, which is why he has to swing the axe over many of his employees. “Let it be perfectly clear. SAS has absolutely no chance of surviving if we postpone the extremely tough process we have to go through. There is no doubt about it. 4,000 jobs have to go. We have to save a further SEK 9 billion,” he said. Yesterday, 500 employees at SAS’s headquarters outside Stockholm were told that they will not have a job to come back to after the summer holidays.

Socialist Left Party accused of being intoxicated by poll success (Aftenposten)

Centre Party leader Åslaug Haga is worried that the Socialist Left Party’s recent upsurge in popularity has gone to its head and made it lose its sense of political direction. “The Socialist Left Party has climbed so high in the polls that the air is getting to be pretty rarified up there. They are not thinking straight anymore,” said Ms Haga, referring to the fact that according to a recent poll, around half of today’s Socialist Left Party sympathisers are thinking of voting in favour of EU membership. Ms Haga is warning the Socialist Left Party not to sacrifice its traditional opposition to EU membership in its eagerness to hang on to these new voters, thereby opening the way for Norway to join the EU.

Support for EU membership due to anti-US feeling, it is claimed (Dagbladet)

The Progress Party’s Per Sandberg claims that much of the growing sympathy for the EU in Norway is due to increased opposition to the USA. “I suspect Norwegian socialists of throwing themselves onto the pro-membership bandwagon as a result of their opposition to the USA. They want to join the EU to build up a counter-force to the USA,” said Mr Sandberg. He supported Norwegian membership of the EU in 1994, when the country last held a referendum on the issue, but now has serious doubts. Party chairman Carl I. Hagen has long since declared his Euro-scepticism, while Progress Party deputy leader Siv Jensen is refusing to take part in any EU debate.

Storting forces Government to invest more billions in Statkraft (Dagsavisen)

The Progress Party decided last night to support the proposal by the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party to instruct the Government to invest NOK 10 billion in state-owned power utility Statkraft, at the latest in this autumn’s national budget. Despite strong protests from the ruling coalition parties, there is now a parliamentary majority in favour of strengthening Statkraft’s potential to grow even bigger. The resolution is yet another expensive defeat for the Government, though the money will not have to come out of the budget in the same way as expenditure increases. The resolution was passed because the Progress Party reversed its original position on the issue.

Stoltenberg accused of ‘trickery’ (Dagbladet)

While the ruling coalition parties are still shaking their heads over yet another example of the parliamentary majority, made up of the Progress Party, Labour Party and Socialist Left Party, riding roughshod over the minority Government, Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen has accused Labour leader Jens Stoltenberg of cowardice. “Jens Stoltenberg has shown he is totally incapable of action. He wants to strengthen Statkraft, but goes against allocating the company money now. But it is now Statkraft needs the money! Jens is backing out, again,” complained Mr Hagen.

Key role for Svalbard (Aftenposten)

Svalbard will become the world’s foremost ground station for the collection of information from environmental and weather satellites. The Svalbard Satellite Station is owned and operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services. The company’s facilities on Svalbard and in Tromsø can service satellites in polar orbits. No other ground station with good access and infrastructure can intercept and download data from all the satellites passing overhead in the course of a day. During the summer, a fibre-optic cable will be laid between Andøya on the northwest coast of Norway and Longyearbyen on Svalbard, a distance of 3,000 km. At its deepest the cable route will drop to 2,900 metres under the sea.

Smuggling and fraud rife in haulage industry (Aftenposten)

A recent report has revealed that part of the haulage industry engages in illegal activities in order to turn a profit. The haulage industry admits that the situation is out of control, and will work together with the Customs Administration in an effort to put a stop to the growing level of crime. Many hauliers smuggle alcohol and tobacco to increase profits. It is also common to pay wages not in money, but in goods such as diesel, tobacco or clothes, in an effort to avoid paying tax. Some truck drivers have their own closed warning systems to avoid customs checks, falsify invoices and circumvent the regulations covering duty-free diesel.

Worth Noting

  • From the podium of the Trade Union’s national conference, union president Jan Davidsen used all his authority to secure support for the selection committee’s proposal, and hit out at Gunhild Johansen in a series of poorly concealed personal attacks.
  • The Bondevik government will shortly announce plans to completely reorganize the ownership structure of the state-owned power utility Statkraft. Yesterday’s heated debate in the Storting on the transfer of additional capital to Statkraft could soon become irrelevant.
    (Dagens Næringsliv)
  • “When we buy a BMW or a Beaujolais, we get all kinds of information about the product. But a steak is just a steak,” said Agriculture Minister Lars Sponheim, who has been told unequivocally by his own consumer panels that meat must be labelled with detailed information about its origins.
  • If you smile at work to smooth over difficult situations, you are at risk of becoming burned out. The danger is greatest for women.

Today’s comment from Dagbladet

From time to time acts are committed that leave us in a state of weary resignation over the depths to which human beings can sink. It is as if the brutality exhibited robs us of the words to express ourselves. The desecration of bodies awaiting cremation in Skien is one such case. It was despicable. It was a gross violation of human dignity. The act was therefore not just a crime that affects the families of those involved, but violated an important social contract which defines agreed limits of behaviour that may not be overstepped. Unfortunately, cases of this kind can lead to those limits being pushed outwards. That is why it is important that we have the courage to speak up and use the words which describe both our powerlessness and our outrage. And, of course, it is important that both the legal system and the psychiatrists do their job. But we do not think it is possible to fully insure against such acts. Human dignity from cradle to grave can never be secured through alarm systems, only through clearly articulated values and norms.