Conservatives resist more refugees

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Norway’s Conservative Party (Høyre), which leads the country’s coalition government, continues to resist calls by other parties for Norway to take in 10,000 more refugees from Syria. The Conservatives voted at their annual national meeting over the weekend to help refugees where they are instead, and promised to further increase efforts to help boat refugees in the Mediterranean.

The government led by Conservatives’ leader Erna Solberg has been under pressure to accept far more Syrian refugees than the roughly 2,500 approved so far. A majority in Parliament looks set to demand acceptance of 5,000 more this year and another 5,000 next year, posing a challenge to Solberg’s government.

The party’s annual meeting otherwise proceeded peacefully over the weekend, albeit shaken by the deadly earthquake in Nepal that has set off another humanitarian crisis. Foreign Minister Børge Brende of the Conservatives also promised aid to the stricken area and it was already being dispatched on Sunday.

In other areas, the Conservatives voted to allow Norway’s large municipalities to take over responsibility for both high schools and public transportation, along with tourism programs, child welfare, and a host of other public sector functions.

The party also wants to stimulate more residential construction in cities now facing high prices because of a housing shortage, by allowing introduction of local housing standards and regulations regarding open space and parking. The move was part of new efforts to strengthen the Conservatives’ so-called “district politics,” to spread decision-making instead of centralizing it within the state. Party delegates also sent a message to the Conservatives’ Health Minister Bent Høie to put more emphasis on local hospitals and that they must have round-the-clock preparedness for acute surgery.

Solberg already had called for stronger defense and the party supports calls to increase defense spending over the next several years.

Solberg wrapped up the weekend meeting Gardermoen, north of Oslo, by calling on her political partners in the Progress- and Christian Democrats parties to emphasize the coalition government’s accomplishments so far instead of attacking one another.

“I think it’s important to stress that we want to cooperate,” Solberg told newspaper Aftenposten. “It’s important that solutions get the attention, not the questions about political ploys.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund