The government secured crucial support from the Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) on Tuesday afternoon for its proposal to let municipalities impose their own begging bans this summer, and introduce a national prohibition from next year. They debated alternatives to begging for the poor, but the government’s usual support parties argued the ban was shameful and unfairly targeted the most vulnerable.
Sp gave its support to the measure after tough negotiations, meaning a national begging ban could be enacted by the Parliament by next year, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We have long worked for a national ban,” said the party’s Jenny Klinge. “Now it will be simple and okay for municipalities.”
Ulf Leirstein from the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) said the government coalition had listened to the people, police and social organizations in developing the proposal, including alternatives to begging. “We want to improve the conditions for them and will ask the government to ensure targeted social measure for beggars in Norway,” Leirstein said.
“The work must be targeted, whether that concerns facilitating drug rehabilitation or help with work and housing,” Klinge added. She said the measure would also drive down begging-related crime.
“We feel the result we have reached is a good and balanced solution,” said government partner Peter Christian Frølich of the Conservatives (Høyre). He said lessons could be learned from the local bans municipalities would have the power to enact this year, which would guide the parliamentary debate over a national prohibition.
Citizens vs immigrants
“It should not be necessary to beg in Norway for a Norwegian citizen,” said Leirstein. “Then we must ensure that the measures meet where they should, so for instance some addicts can have a better life.”
However, the most prominent beggars in Norwegian cities are often migrants of Roma background. The government wants to channel money to the European Economic Area countries where the migrant beggars travel from instead. “A national ban would affect the influx from these countries,” said Klinge. “With EEA funding we will work to facilitate schooling and education for them where they live.”
The Conservative/Progress coalition’s usual support parties, the Liberals (Venstre) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, FrP) refused to back the proposal. “I find it sensational that Sp will ensure the government’s majority for a municpal ban,” FrP’s Ingolf Ropstad told NRK. “There are poor people in Norway and Europe who as a last resort ask other people for help. It is very special that we now forbid that.”
The Liberal’s Iselin Nybø called the agreement a “quick fix” that would worsen the situations of Roma, poor and homeless people. She was also critical that the government had circumvented its support parties’ wishes on such a sensitive issue.
“It is very discouraging that the first issue the governing parties Høyre and Frp break with Venstre and KrF over is of such a shameful unsociable character,” Nybø said. “I am also very disappointed that Sp sets up to treat the weakest in this way.”