Ban on begging draws new support

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Justice Minister Anders Anundsen may have won enough support in Parliament for his minority government’s proposal to allow local governments around Norway to ban begging if they so choose. Anundsen’s Progress Party isn’t giving up its plan to slap a nationwide ban on begging at a later point.

Many in Sweden think that Norway has voted in a racist government, and that the Progress Party went to the polls with what one commentator described as "Breivik-style rhetoric," and a call to throw all migrant Roma out of the country. Norway's Holocaust Center is also now investigating it's own treatment of Norwegian Roma during World War II. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Beggars sit in front of the Norwegian Parliament building on a daily basis, as well as in front of many shopping centers and other crowded areas around Oslo. Those favouring a ban on their begging justify it by contending that most of the beggars are from eastern Europe and may be victims of human trafficking. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Anundsen thinks it should be up to local governments to decide whether they want to ban begging. “The more municipalities that impose a ban, the more effective it will be,” Anundsen said last last week. Those that oppose a ban can be free to enforce their own measures to regulate begging.

This week, Anundsen won support from the small Center Party, which was a member of the last left-center government and now is part of the opposition in Parliament. Jenny Klinge, the Center Party’s spokesperson on judicial matters, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday that she doesn’t think the government’s proposal to allow begging bans at the local level goes far enough but is a “small step in the right direction” that her party may support.

“In our party platform we clearly state that we want to impose a nationwide ban on begging,” Klinge told news bureau NTB on Tuesday. “We haven’t clarified whether we will support the government’s proposal (to allow local bans) but it’s not improbable.”

Klinge said that merely allowing local governments to ban begging, a measure the Conservative Party backs, “doesn’t give the police (who are state, not local, employees) enough opportunity to limit begging and human trafficking.”  Neither the Labour, Socialist Left, Christian Democrats nor Liberal parties will vote in favour of the local begging ban proposal Anundsen has introduced on behalf of the state government. If the Center Party votes in favour of it, though, it can pass and become law.

The Center Party will likely lobby for something in return from the government, though, just as it’s entered into difficult subsidy negotiations with the group that traditionally has formed the Center Party’s largest coalition, the farmers. It’s not inconceivable that the Center Party will demand that Anundsen’s party fellow, Sylvi Listhaugen, must rein in some of her plans to reform Norwegian agriculture and cut subsidies and protectionism to the farmers.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary leder for Anundsen’s Progress Party, Harald Nesvik,  said the party also backs a nationwide begging ban, just like the Center Party does. He stressed, though, that the party fully supports the government’s compromise position and will first work hard to at least get allowance of local bans in place. The Center Party normally strongly favours distribution of local power over centralized decision-making, so that alone should prompt it to give the government the swing vote it needs.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund