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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Parliament to re-open more securely

Norway’s Parliament building in Oslo has been boarded up most of the summer, undergoing what posted signs describe as general renovation. In fact, the construction work has involved some major security enhancements deemed necessary after last year’s terrorist attacks.

Norway's Parliament (Stortinget) has been undergoing construction to improve security this summer. PHOTO: Views and News

When politicians return to work and the new parliamentary session opens after the long summer break, they’ll be working behind windows now believed to be bullet-proof, and behind a main entrance subject to new vehicular restrictions.

News bureau NTB reported that the windows at the Parliament (Stortinget) are also being made resistant to the shattering caused by any bomb blasts.

“The windows are being secured with security film that will protect those inside against an explosion, and against anything shot through the windows,” Terje Olsen, chief of operations at the Parliament, told NTB.

Olsen also confirmed that new security measures will prevent cars from driving up to the front entrance except under special circumstances or during visits by dignitaries. The same sort of security barriers installed around the Foreign Ministry after last year’s attacks will be in place outside the Parliament as well.

The current lack of strict security around the Parliament has been an issue of much debate in recent months, as politicians seek to remain their openness and accessibility that’s long been a hallmark of the Norwegian political system. There continues to be strong resistance in Norway to the type of security measures found in other countries like the US.

At the same time, many working inside the Parliament have complained of feeling vulnerable, not least since the street behind the Parliament, Akersgata, remains open to all car and truck traffic. There’s nothing to stop a car bomber from driving up to the building, like last year’s terrorist did before parking his bomb-packed van right outside government headquarters and the office of the prime minister.

No decision has been taken to block off Akersgata yet, but the other security measures are expected to be in place by September, which Olsen says will be “both visible and invisible.” Olsen noted that pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to pass by the front of the building as they do now.

Other security recommendations are expected when the government-appointed July 22 Commission releases its report on the emergency response to last year’s attacks early next week.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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