Ministry report draws criticism

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It didn’t take long for an internal and highly pessimistic assessment of the refugee crisis, prepared by diplomats at Norway’s foreign ministry, to draw criticism. Its contents, revealed by newspaper VG, are “disturbing,” claims an Oslo professor, because no consideration is accorded to the human rights of the hundreds of thousands of people trying to win asylum in Europe.

Norway's foreign ministry has been fighting a cyber attack for months. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Some top diplomats here at Norway’s foreign ministry in Oslo have what one professor calls a “disturbingly pessimistic” view of the refugee crisis and its consequences. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“The main problem with the notat (memorandum) is that it only takes stability into consideration, and not human rights,” Erik Oddvar Eriksen, a professor and leader of the Center for European Research (ARENA) at the University of Oslo, told VG.

Eriksen suggested the memorandum’s omission of human rights issues and its emphasis on threats to stability and cooperation within Europe signal “a break with what Norway has stood for” in the past.

VG obtained a copy of the 10-page memorandum written by a department director and a senior adviser at Norway’s foreign ministry (Utenriksdepartementet, UD). In its lengthy published report on the two diplomats’ views, warnings and advice about the refugee crisis, VG revealed how they predict an ongoing influx of asylum seekers into Europe and Norway, and they go into into detail on the risks that poses to decades of open borders and increasing regional cooperation on the European continent.

“There’s nothing directly incorrect with what’s in the memorandum,” Eriksen conceded to VG, but he objects to how it expects that the refugee crisis will continue regardless of what happens with the EU, the so-called external borders of its “Schengen” cooperation and possible peace in Syria. He calls that “a problem,” adding that the memorandum draws on some facts but  lacks nuance.

‘Disturbingly pessimistic’
With a title examining the “scenarios, consequences” and “measures” that could be taken in response to the migration to Europe and Norway in 2016, the memorandum had officially been withheld from public purview. VG was nonetheless made aware of its surprisingly candid and pessimistic contents, dated January 28.

Eriksen found it “disturbingly pessimistic” as its authors predicted a migration crisis within the next six months. “They don’t take into consideration that the outcome depends on how (officials) act,” he told VG. “The memoranum claims that peace in countries now at war won’t stop the stream of asylum seekers. It’s okay to think that, but it’s wrong to present it as a fact.”

Eriksen claims that it will be “difficult” to break down the ties among EU countries, because they’re all “so tightly woven together.” He said the current debate over whether the UK should leave the EU “shows how far integration in Europe has come, and how difficult it is to get out” of the EU. “Of course there’s a risk that cooperation can collapse,” he told VG, “but that all depends on how the politicians act.”

Professor Jørgen Carling of the peace research institute PRIO in Oslo was less sure, countering that he thinks the character of EU cooperation is already different now than it was before the refugee crisis began.

“This is absolutely a crisis that can change cooperation in Europe” he told VG. “We’re already seeing new alliances and lines of conflict, not least in relations between Greece and the rest of the EU.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund