Government coalition’s new platform ‘will change Norway’

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his two government coalition partners rolled out their new platform for the next four years on Wednesday afternoon, calling it “the most radical in Europe” and vowing that it will change Norway, for the better, in their opinion.

Stoltenberg, Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left (SV) and Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party (Sp) were full of praise for one another, repeatedly extending their gratitude for “good cooperation” in hammering out the 81-page platform called “Soria Moria II.”

Stoltenberg claimed they maintained “a good dialogue” during the past several days of intense negotiations and stressed their ability to find solutions when they disagreed on key issues.

He and the Labour Party he leads clearly emerged as the big winners, which was expected since Labour is much larger than either SV or Sp and logged good election results. All three made a point of thanking voters for their confidence after they were effectively re-elected in last month’s primary voting.Halvorsen was perhaps the biggest loser of the three, not least on the issue of asylum and immigration policies, but she maintained an upbeat tone throughout the afternoon presentation and remains confident SV would have influence on government policy in the future.

The asylum and immigration issue was clearly tough for her, as both Labour and Sp prevailed in pushing through what will be far more restrictive policies in the years ahead. Stoltenberg said would-be refugees who need protection will still get it, but those who don’t will be quickly weeded out and sent back to where they came from. He wants to reduce the stream of asylum seekers that’s been arriving in Norway, and take a tougher line against those whose applications are rejected.

“We want Norway to be a generous society, and immigration has enriched Norway,” Stoltenberg said. “We will take our share of responsibility for refugees, but not a disproportionate share.”Halvorsen admitted straight out that SV lost its attempt to liberalize immigration policies, in line with its poor showing at the polls last month. When asked whether she’s now ashamed of the stricter policies that will be imposed, she said no, adding that SV chose to go along in the hopes of having more influence at a later stage.

SV also had to go along with the lack, at least for now, of an outright ban on oil drilling off Lofoten and Vesterålen. Halvorsen claimed she’s willing to wait until a detailed report on the issue is delivered next autumn, because she’s sure it will bolster SV’s arguments against oil exploration in such a scenic area.

SV was pleased with the platform’s beefed-up commitment to education — “The best thing we can do is invest in our people,” Halvorsen said, — with its focus on climate and the environment in a wide variety of areas and programs to enhance equal pay. She called the new platform “more offensive” than the previous one, noted that its main goal is “a society without poverty” and seemed genuinely enthusiastic about its prospects.

Navarsete also claimed she was satisfied even though she likely may lose efforts to authorize increased hunting of wolves and bears. Both Labour and SV want “sustainable” populations of predators in Norway.

Navarsete believes the platform provides a sound basis for further wealth creation in the entire country, not just in its largest towns and cities. She hailed plans to invest heavily in public transportation and roads, in nursing home construction, renewable energy projects and programs that offer more choices to their users.

“We are three parties and we have to admit there have been some pure compromises,” said Stoltenberg. “Other times we changed our views. We’re a good team.”

When asked what he thought might be best remembered from the platform, he immediately responded “full nursing home coverage,” which is supposed to mean that anyone applying for a nursing home room will get one.

All three party leaders noted that the new platform contains much less specific funding figures, because spending allowance will depend on economic development and, not least, the level of oil revenues Norway will generate over the next four years. “We have our ambitions,” Stoltenberg said, but conceded they hinge on financing ability. The government’s proposed state budget will be presented on Tuesday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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