Stoltenberg reaches out to Vestlandet

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg ventured into the lions’ den this week, traveling to the site of his government’s controversial plans to run new power lines through Hardanger in Vestlandet (western Norway). While there, he also announced plans for a new children’s hospital in Bergen.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen in Hardanger, here meeting Granvin Mayor Jan Ivar Rødland. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Stoltenberg was met by chanting, sign-waving demonstrators who don’t want ugly power lines built over the scenic Hardanger Fjord, but also by friendly locals dressed in their national costumes and absolutely glorious fall weather. The affable Stoltenberg declared it was all an “important, nice and productive visit, because we have had direct dialogue with committed people.”

The prime minister stopped by the townships of Eidfjord, Ulvik, Granvin and Kvam, which have been at the heart of the debate over the Hardanger power masts. Stoltenberg, Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen and State Secretary in the oil ministry Per Rune Henriksen were shown exactly where the power lines might run, unless the government pays for far more expensive undersea cables. Among their meetings was one with a local council (Hardangerrådet), to discuss development of power supplies from Sima to Samnanger.

Stoltenberg asked the demonstraters to “senke skuldrene litt” (literally, to sink their shoulders a bit, a Norwegian expression aimed at lowering stress levels) until a re-examination of the issue is completed this winter. No one disputes an acute need for more power supply to Bergen. The argument is over how it will be supplied.

Stoltenberg made no promises and noted that an undersea cable would also harm the environment, because of the need to build end stations for it.

From Hardanger Stoltenberg traveled to Bergen, where he announced that the government was allocating an extra NOK 700 million in the new state budget to replace the currently run-down children’s clinic at Haukeland University Hospital.

The money will be granted in the form of a loan to the hospital, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) and will help fund construction of a new psychiatric unit for children and a children’s hospital unit, to be completed by 2020.

The current children’s clinic in Bergen is 60 years old, outdated and unable to meet demand. Plans for a new children’s hospital have been discussed since the 1990s.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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