30 June 2003


30 June 2003

EU differences not a problem for continued Conservative presence in coalition (Dagsavisen)

The Conservative Party will go to the polls in 2005 as part of a coalition with the Christian Democrats and Liberals, the three parties currently share government office, and is prepared to accept a so-called ‘suicide pact’ on the issue of EU membership. Liberal leader Lars Sponheim also envisages a solution of this kind. While the issue of whether Norway should join the EU stands in the way of a formal agreement to cooperate between the Labour Party and the Socialist Left Party, the ruling coalition parties wish to continue their collaboration if they win enough votes at the 2005 general election to stay in office. Both Conservative Party leader Jan Petersen and Liberal Party leader Lars Sponheim have indicated as much to Dagsavisen. The Christian Democratic Party leadership has already stated that it feels the same way.

Majority convinced EU membership a foregone conclusion (Nationen)

A substantial majority of people in Norway are convinced that the question of EU membership is a foregone conclusion, according to a survey carried out by Sentio-Norsk Statistikk on behalf of Nationen. Regardless of what they themselves would vote, as many as seven out of ten Norwegians believe that the next referendum will return a majority in favour of Norway joining the EU. Not even Centre Party voters have any great faith in a victory for opponents of EU membership. As many as 60 per cent of voters, who are otherwise committed in their opposition to EU membership according to the normal opinion polls, believe that the next referendum will result in a majority in favour. Christian Democrat and Socialist Left Party voters are even less convinced of a victory for opponents of EU membership. However, Sigbjørn Gjesvik, leader of the organization No to the EU, says that this was also the situation in 1993, prior to the previous EU referendum. “This will change when people see the consequences of joining the EU’s monetary union and being part of the EU’s common fisheries and agricultural policies,” he said.

Norwegian troops can refuse to obey British orders (Dagbladet/Saturday)

The Norwegian troops deployed in Iraq will be under British command. But Norwegian officers will have the right to refuse to take part in specific military operations. “The Norwegian officers who are to work alongside the British therefore have a veto. We will have total control over which military operations our soldiers shall participate in or not,” said Gunnar Heløe, State Secretary at the Defence Ministry. This is the main provision in the agreement which Norway and Britain are still negotiating. Yesterday, the Government decided to grant the Defence Ministry the authority to sign the agreement. However, the ministry has so far declined to reveal when the agreement may be signed or what issues remain to be negotiated.

US military equipment to be shipped out of Norway (Klassekampen/Saturday)

US marines are in Trondheim this week to pick up military equipment stored in supply depots in Norway. Within the next few days, a civilian container ship will transport weapons and military vehicles from Trondheim port for deployment in Afghanistan or Iraq, or for use in some other way linked to the USA’s new wars. The supply depots’ new function has thereby been demonstrated to the full. Norway has become a convenient temporary storage facility on the right side of the Atlantic for the USA’s ‘war on terrorism’. In addition to allowing the Americans to store military equipment temporarily in Norway, for use in wars that Norway does not support, American and British forces are being allowed to borrow equipment belonging to the Norwegian Armed Forces.

Anti-immigrant feeling grows (Aftenposten/Saturday)

A number of serious crimes committed recently by immigrants has made two out of three people more negative in their perception of non-ethnic Norwegians, according to an opinion poll carried out on behalf of Aftenposten. The poll could indicate that Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen is most in tune with what ‘the man in the street’ is thinking. 66 per cent of those polled have a more negative perception of immigrants following the serious crimes recently committed by immigrants. Over 60 per cent say that the politicians are indirectly responsible for these criminal acts.

Liberals turn backs on farmers (Nationen/Saturday)

Liberal leader Lars Sponheim does not think that farmers, which Agriculture Minister Lars Sponheim is supposed to look after, are worth fighting for in the upcoming election campaign. “We are giving priority to the towns,” he said. When the party leader summed up the spring session yesterday, it emerged that he does not intend to woo the farming vote ahead of this autumn’s local elections. “But it is extremely important for Norway to have a vibrant agricultural sector and well tended farmland. And regardless of what our voters do for a living, they are concerned with retaining a viable agricultural sector. It is also important that farmers seek their fortune in the open market, rather than depending on farm subsidies.

Russian charter tourists invade Norway (Aftenposten)

Capital is returning home to Russia. For the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, more money is flowing into the country than out. The economy grew by 7.1 per cent during the first five months of the year, and the stock market is constantly rising to new heights. Fashion houses are popping up all over Moscow, and swanky Mercedes cars line the streets. The Norwegian Tourist Board plans to strike while the iron is hot, and has named Russia as a new target market. Our eastern neighbours are tired of beach holidays in southern Europe. Now they want holidays with more content, and have discovered our long and beautiful coastline. A charter aircraft arrived in Ålesund, on the northwest coast, at the weekend. From there passengers boarded the first wholly Russian cruise to sail along the Norwegian coast.

Worth Noting
The competition will be savage, but both P4 and Kanal 4 are convinced that they will win the battle for radio listeners. The champagne flowed and the company’s share price jumped through the roof when P4 pipped rival Kanal 5 at the post to win the operating licence for the P5 radio channel. However, Norway’s largest commercial radio station has decided to keep its name.
Progress Party chairman Carl I. Hagen has said that Health Minister Dagfinn Høybråten deserves to be impeached for demanding that the country’s hospitals work less efficiently. The Ministry of Health has issued a memo to all the country’s hospitals telling them to cut the number of patients they treat because they have overrun their budgets.
Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik is looking into the possibility of allocating more money to the hospital sector to avoid cuts in the number of patients they treat. But a condition for doing so is that other items in the national budget are reduced correspondingly.
The total costs of the water injection project at the Valhall oil platform are NOK 2.7 billion more than budgeted, according to revised figures which the operating company BP has sent to the Petroleum and Energy Ministry. Aker Kværner is the main contractor for the project. The platform should have been installed in the Valhall field last August. However, pile driving proved so difficult that it had to be abandoned and the deck towed back to Aker Stord.
(Dagens Næringsliv)
Fewer and fewer people are officially leaving the Church of Norway. In 1978 a record 11,755 people abandoned the Church, while last year only 3,759 asked for their names to be removed from the church rolls. “The Church represents security for a lot of people,” said Per Tanggaard of the National Council of the Church of Norway.
Every Norwegian fighter aircraft pilot is to receive a superhelmet costing NOK 2 million, which will enable him to hit a target just by looking at it. Norway is at the forefront in Europe, with a NOK 310 million upgrading programme for the F-16s that the air force will have to keep flying for a further 15 years.
(Verdens Gang/Saturday)
Norway has 137 refugee reception centres. At five of them fires have broken out 65 times. The safety requirements for refugee reception centres are much lower than for hotels, as a result of which a number of insurance companies have refused to provide insurance cover. The technical standard at refugee reception centres is also generally low.
Employees at Raufoss AS were yesterday celebrating that the company had apparently been pulled back from the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to investor Jens Ulltveit-Moe. But the banks did not respond before the deadline. They have not managed to reach agreement on a financial solution.
Princess Ragnhild’s husband, Erling Lorentzen, is paying NOK 4.5 billion to strengthen his position as the world’s largest producer and exporter of cellulose. Tomorrow, Mr Lorentzen’s company, Aracruz Cellulose, will take over Borregaard’s formerly controversial Riocell plant in Brazil.
Never before have Norwegians taken so much medicine. Over a ten-year period, consumption has jumped by 60 per cent. On average last year, every person in Norway bought pharmaceutical products worth almost NOK 3,100, according to figures published today by the National Institute for Public Health.
(Verdens Gang)
Today’s comment from Dagbladet

‘Run or die!’ was the warning shouted to six British army MPs by the Iraqi policemen accompanying them as they stood outside a police station in the southern Iraqi town of Majar al-Kabir last week. They did not run, and a few minutes later they were killed by shots fired by an angry mob. On Friday, the Government decided to send Norwegian troops to that same southern Iraq, a decision that has already been thoroughly pre-empted. The first soldiers are already in place, but there is still no agreement with Britain on a command structure. Under international law, Norway does not have the status of an occupying power in relation to UN resolution 1483, but the Iraqis do not see the difference. As one of the Norwegian soldiers told Dagbladet before he left for Iraq: “The only thing that separates us (from the British) is the flag on our shoulders.” It is important for the Government to be in Iraq. It is a matter of global politics and relations with our allies in Washington and London. It is so important that when Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik met President George W. Bush in Washington DC, he promised to send Norwegian soldiers to Iraq, regardless of whether they had UN backing or not. But Mr Bondevik has a problem, one he has had for a long time. He does not like the realities of war. When he thanked Norwegians abroad in his New Year speech, he did not say a word about Norwegian soldiers participating in offensive military operations, he restricted his greeting to those involved in peacekeeping. It sounds kinder and safer. In the same way, the Government has almost excused the Norwegian presence in Iraq as a humanitarian operation. But humanitarian soldiers do not exist. Soldiers are trained and equipped for war, even when their mission is to build bridges or search for mines.

This is the last edition of Norway Today. As we take our farewell, we hope our readers have found this daily news roundup both enjoyable and useful.