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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ministers’ quarrels upset the boss

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is not pleased that ministers in the left-center government coalition he leads have been openly quarreling during the past week. He let them know, and claimed Thursday that he’d arranged at least a temporary truce.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) is once again playing peacemaker among quarreling government ministers. He has kept the left-center coalition together for six years. PHOTO: Views and News

It all started when Oil & Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe, a 35-year-old politician from the small Center Party who joined the government just six months ago, infuriated the environmental movement by claiming they were hindering progress on renewable energy. That in turn upset some of his own party colleagues as well as fellow government ministers, not least from the Socialist Left party (SV), which maintains a high environmental profile.

Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen, a veteran politician and longtime head of SV, rebuked Moe by saying he was a bit “fresh” as a minister. She added that she thought it was “strange” that a minister in a “red-green” government didn’t see that the environmental movement was an important partner.

Then her SV colleague Erik Solheim, Norway’s Environmental Minister who also was upset by Moe, got more angry when Moe this week said the government wouldn’t push for faster action on Stoltenberg’s so-called “moon landing,” a full carbon capture facility at Statoil’s Mongstad plant. Solheim has been among those pushing for completion of the long-delayed project, and was encouraged by a report from state pollution agency Klif that the project involved fewer health risks than feared.

“I must be honest and say I’m beginning to get tired of all Moe’s solo initiatives during this election campaign,” Solheim told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “This comes on top of his praise of coal operations elsewhere in the world and many other opinions that have no backing in the government.” Among them was Moe’s claim last month that the government would not propose phasing out the controversial fur industry in Norway.

‘We’ve had a round’
On Thursday Stoltenberg had had enough. “I believe we must avoid this,” Stoltenberg said on NRK’s political talkshow Politisk valgkvarter. “Therefore we’ve had a round, a conversation, about how we will handle this.”

Stoltenberg said Moe’s Center Party and SV had agreed to postpone their latest environmental quarrel until everyone had read the Klif report. “The government has agreed to go through the report and then evaluate whether and in which way it will have consequences for the Mongstand project.”

Meanwhile, Solheim has announced more state support for the environmental movement, up NOK 3 million to NOK 49.5 million in the upcoming state budget. He has praised the same organizations Moe has criticized, but claims it has nothing to do with Moe. “We planned this long before Ola started his election campaign,” said Solheim, whose own SV party has been running seriously behind in the polls. Moe, for his part, has made a least one overture towards the evironmentalists, calling for emissions cuts by operating big new offshore oil extraction projects with electricity from the mainland.

There’s also been another spat going on involving SV leader Halvorsen, but it’s not as surprising since it’s between Halvorsen and Siv Jensen of the opposition and conservative Progress Party. Halvorsen, campaigning hard this week, said Jensen “could never be prime minister” after the terrorist attacks this summer, because Jensen hasn’t cracked down hard enough on offensive anti-immigrant rhetoric from her own party’s members. Jensen responded that Halvorsen was merely desperate in the run-up to municipal elections September 11 and 12.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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