Last gasp for political junkets

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For the past two decades, members of the Norwegian Parliament have regularly been invited on “study tours” to Taiwan, with expenses paid by the Taiwan government. Such political junkets are rapidly falling out of favour, and the Labour Party soon may ban them altogether.

The tours are now being viewed as a form of influence peddling that’s become, according to Marit Nybakk of the Labour Party, “problematic.” She told newspaper Aftenposten recently that “Taiwan conducts active lobbying directed at the Parliament, and everyone understands why they invite.”

There’s a long list of politicians and party leaders who have accepted Taiwan’s invitations over the years, including a few Labour Party politicians. Jan Petersen, former head of the Conservatives and now Norway’s ambassador to Austria, was among them, back in 1981, but says he wouldn’t accept such an invitation today.

“The norms for what members of parliament kan or should accept have become much tighter,” Petersen told Aftenposten. “I also see much more clearly today how such a trip would have affected my room for negotiation as a politician.”

The all-expenses-paid trips offered by Taiwan can also be awkward, because Taiwan isn’t recognized by Norway as a sovereign state. Still, some politicians continue to accept them, including Progress Party leader Siv Jensen in January and Andre Oktay Dahl of the Conservatives just last year.

By Views and News staff