Upcoming parliamentary discussions on a safe level for the wolf and bear populations in Norway look set to create more fractious debate, with opposition parties demanding a full review of all policies regarding predators.
Meetings are expected next Thursday between environment minister Erik Solheim of the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk venstreparti, SV) and representatives of opposition parliamentary groups to attempt to form a consensus on the issue. But the Conservative Party (Høyre) is calling for a broader evaluation of all predator-related policies, since the last decisions taken on the issue were in 2004 were agreed by all parliamentary parties except the Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp).
“The whole point was that the settlement (in 2004) would create calm concerning predator policies. There has never been so much conflict as there is now,” Høyre’s predator policies spokesperson Bjørn Lødemel told Aftenposten. He added that his party wants an “open evaluation” of the issue in parliament, rather than what he sees as “a closed discussion in an office in the environment department.” He confirmed that Høyre will seek agreement with other opposition parties before the discussions set for next Thursday.
Next week’s negotiations begin before the government itself has clarified its position on the issues. It is well-known that government parties SV and Sp are divided on the issue. SV reportedly is nevertheless willing to give concessions to their beleaguered governing colleagues on what is seen as a very sensitive issue for Sp, a party that appeals strongly to farmers and rural interests.
Any opening up of the entire policy area is predicted to widen divisions and cause further problems for the red-green government – but Høyre, waiting in the wings to form a new conservative coalition if the current government falls, suggests the divisions only make a broader review more urgent.