Bombing repairs face long delay

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It’s likely to take at least another decade before Norway’s state government officials can move back into a new headquarters complex in the heart of downtown Oslo. The current left-center government that was attacked by a bomber and gunman in 2011 has decided against making any rebuilding decisions before the fall elections.

Memorials will also be held near the bombed government complext in downtown Oslo, where many of the damaged buildings remain covered in tarps and surrounded by a new security fence. PHOTO: Views and News

Norway’s government complex, damaged in the bombing of July 2011, looks likely to remain an abandoned, draped ruin in the center of town for many more years. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Newspaper Dagsavisen reported Monday that the huge job of deciding on the scope, look and functions of a new, expensive government complex in the heart of the Norwegian capital will be left to whoever forms the next government in Norway. That may be a new conservative coalition of non-socialist parties currently in opposition, given public opinion polls that show the current Labour-led coalition running behind them. The existing government, now scattered around town in various “temporary” offices, isn’t prepared to make any decisions on the future of the government complex between now and Election Day on September 9.

“This will be one of the largest construction projects ever undertaken by the state,” Rigmor Aasrud, the Labour minister in charge, told Dagsavisen. “We haven’t been involved in such a complex project earlier … and then there’s the security dimension to consider.” She said she doesn’t want to make any hasty decisions, even though she and her colleagues have already had nearly two years to consider options.

Officials have yet to decide whether to tear down or repair the current high-rise where the Office of the Prime Minister and the Justice Ministry were located before they were bombed by convicted Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011. Surrounding buildings housing other ministries also had to be vacated after the bombing, and Aasrud has long seen needed repairs and rebuilding as an opportunity to “think new and differently” about how the offices can be rebuilt, modernized and improved.

It also must be decided whether a new government complex on the downtown site will also include space for the Foreign Ministry and the ministry in charge of environmental protection (Miljøverndepartementet). Both need more space and have been studying prospective moves for years. Aasrud thinks all the government ministries should be consolidated in the same location, while others have felt they should be spread around town for security reasons.

Aasrud also is calling for more public debate and suggestions as to how a new complex will look and function. While most recognize a need for much higher security around government offices, Aasrud and other politicians are also keen to retain as much openness and accessibility as possible.

Aasrud told Dagsavisen that she doesn’t think the government will be ready for an architectural competition for another four to five years, but claimed that plans for ministries to move into new and likely consolidated quarters within eight to 10 years remained intact.

She was inviting state workers to an informational meeting on the project this week and also scheduled a public meeting at the Literature House in Oslo for May 29. She expected various proposals for the government headquarters’ future to be ready by late June.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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