A high-profile veteran of the Progress Party, which has a long history of being skeptical towards immigration, was quick to call for a referendum on the issue in Norway after Swiss voters decided they wanted limits in their own referendum last weekend. The call went largely unanswered, though, even in his own party and government.
Per Sandberg, making a comeback after saying last fall that he wanted to spend more time with his family, claimed that current immigration levels in Norway threaten the welfare state. The longtime Progress Party official characteristically tried to spark more debate over immigration, and said he wants the Norwegian people to be able to directly express their opinions on how many immigrants the country should take in.
Referenda are rarely held in Norway, though, and while Sandberg was promoting his party’s own line, party leaders who now hold ministerial posts in a coalition government with the Conservatives did not embrace Sandberg’s initiative. They’ve had to back away from some of their party’s official positions, through compromises not only with the Conservatives but also with their two “support parties” in Parliament, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats.
The Progress Party’s Justice Minister Anders Anundsen thus sidestepped direct questions this week over just where the government stands on the prospect of an immigration referendum in Norway. Anundsen claims any referendum would need to be mounted by Members of Parliament, not the government.
The coalition government has earlier stated that foreigners will have access to the Norwegian labour market. Anundsen told the Liberal Party’s Abid Raja, however, that the government has not evaluated the referendum issue and will abide by its agreements with both the Liberals and Christian Democrats. That indicates that prospects for an immigration referendum in Norway are dim.