Government tightens gift rules

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Norway’s left-center coalition government has quickly ushered in new, tighter rules concerning the receipt of gifts, after news broke that several government ministers had taken home gifts they’d been given overseas.

The new rules mean that Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and former Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen will need to turn in gifts they’ve received that they kept for personal use.

Newspaper VG set off the burst of controversy over the gifts last week, after reporting that Støre, for example, had kept several carpets given to him by Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai. Both Støre and his fellow ministers had dutifully reported the gifts on their income tax forms and followed all existing rules, but apparently decided that the gifts weren’t worth the political liability they stirred up.

Stoltenberg announced just before the weekend that ministers who had taken gifts home “agree to return them to their respective ministries.” Stoltenberg said “we choose to return gifts taken into private ownership, in line with the intentions of the new rules.”

They now state that any gift worth more than NOK 2,000 must be registered with the state. The politicians will now be subject to the same rules as those governing bureaucrats, aimed at eliminating any hint of bribery.

Views and News staff