‘Historic day for Oslo,’ not for Frp

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A city government compromise that clears the way for construction of a new Munch Museum at Bjørvika in Oslo was being hailed as “historic” on Tuesday. It led, though, to immediate retaliation from the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), which had tried to block the Bjørvika alternative and now may block the entire city budget.

The new Munch Museum, depicted here, will finally be built on Oslo's eastern waterfront, next to the Opera House that opened in 2008. ILLUSTRATION: MIR/Herreros Architectos/Oslo kommune

The new Munch Museum, depicted here, will finally be built on Oslo’s eastern waterfront, next to the Opera House that opened in 2008. ILLUSTRATION: MIR/Herreros Architectos/Oslo kommune

Carl I Hagen, head of Frp’s group on the Oslo City Council, was furious that city government leaders led by the Conservative Party (Høyre) had struck a deal with the Socialist Left party (SV) that allows the long-stalled museum project to move forward. SV, which wanted to expand and improve the existing Munch Museum at Tøyen, agreed to support the Bjørvika project in return for other redevelopment projects at Tøyen.

Hagen thus accused the city government, of which his party had once been a part, of “breaking two agreements with us, both the one from 2011 that a new library and Munch Museum wouldn’t cost any more than NOK 2.695 billion. And now they’ve broken the budget agreement for this economic period, so it’s not possible to negotiate any agreements with these city government parties.”

Hagen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that there was now no need to hold meetings later this week on a revised city budget that should be approved before the summer holidays.  He said he felt the government had swapped his party (which is more conservative than the Conservative Party) with SV as a partner, “and that changes the management of this city from a non-socialist cooperation for the past 16 years to a cooperation with SV.”

“Now we’ll go over to just being a normal opposition party,” Hagen told NRK. “That means we have no obligations towards the sitting city government, and will need to evaluate each individual issue on its own.”

Stian Berger Røsland of the Conservatives, who heads the city government, said the city budget involves much more than just the Munch Museum (expected to cost around NOK 4 billion) and that he thinks it will still be “natural” for Frp to cooperate with the non-socialist government. Hagen says Røsland as “underestimated” the consequences of his deal with SV.

Officials at the existing Munch Museum, meanwhile, were celebrating with cake after a very tough year that’s included both the delays in progress on a new museum and other budget problems that led to staff cuts. They said they didn’t dare celebrate beyond having some cake, perhaps not until construction actually begins.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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