Last week Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was being hailed for settling a border dispute with Russia’s president. This week he was accused of lying to the Norwegian Parliament, and suddenly his government may face a lack of confidence vote.
Stoltenberg was summoned to the Parliament for the weekly “question hour” on Wednesday, and he had to endure a public grilling unlike any seen in recent years. Opposition politicians assaulted him with tough questions over his government’s recent admission that construction and operation of a much-hyped carbon recapture facility at Statoil’s Mongstad will be delayed by several years.
Many of the opposition politicians never wanted to invest in the facility anyway, but they seized the opportunity to assail a project that Stoltenberg himself claimed would amount to Norway’s equivalent of a “moon landing.” According to Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, the project looks more like it’s about to make a “crash landing.”
Jensen and other opposition politicians from the Christian Democrats, the Conservatives and the Liberal Party stood in line to question Stoltenberg. They want to know exactly when he knew the project couldn’t be completed as scheduled, and whether he withheld any knowledge of a delay during last year’s election campaign.
Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg told newspaper Aftenposten there are indications Stoltenberg “broke his information duties” towards the Parliament, and “the natural consequence of that would be a vote on a lack of confidence proposal (mistillitsforslag).”
The low point was reached when another Progress Party politician claimed Stoltenberg had lied about Mongstad, which quickly prompted a rebuke from the president of the Parliament, who said such language and accusations weren’t acceptable.
Stoltenberg stood firm through the grilling, and the accusations of arrogance. He said the Mongstad project, which is supposed to capture and store carbon dioxide from natural gas at Mongstad to reduce emissions from the power plant, has proven to be far more complicated than initially thought and that health concerns have also emerged. He maintains the project will still be built, albeit another four years late, and that his government remains ambitious about it and other projects to cut emissions and reverse climate change.