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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

‘Move Parliament from Oslo to Eidsvoll’

As the Norwegian government, all Members of Parliament, the Royal Family and other prominent guests got ready for Monday’s highly formal opening of Stortinget (The Parliament), an economist lodged an unusual proposition: Move it all to Eidsvoll.

The Norwegian Parliament building (Stortinget) recently celebrated its own 150th anniversary. Now a call is being made to move Norway’s national assembly to Eidsvoll, north of Oslo and where the Norwegian constitution was signed on May 17th, 1814. PHOTO:

That’s the town around 60 kilometers north of Oslo where the founding fathers of Norway’s current democracy gathered to write and signed Norway’s constitution in 1814. Jan Andreassen, chief econonist of Eika-gruppen, rattled off a long list of reasons as to why he thinks the Parliament should move out of Oslo and return to its roots in Eidsvoll.

“Politicians who sit there and represent us are from the whole country,” Andreassen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He questions why they should “absolutely meet on Norway’s most expensive postage stamp of soil.” In the spirit of decentralization, he’s calling on the goverment to consider a major move.

Would ease housing demand in Oslo
Andreassen cites the enormous pressure on Oslo regarding its population growth and huge increase in housing prices. “If we’re going to do anything regarding decentralization and moving jobs out of Oslo, the Parliament is quite high on the list of what’s possible to move out,” he told NRK.

Building a new Storting and government complex at Eidsvoll would also considerably shorten travel time for those MPs living far outside Oslo who must commute by air to Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. Eidsvoll is much closer to Gardermoen than downtown Oslo is.

Moving the government’s and MP’s offices out of Oslo would also significantly reduce the pressure on Oslo’s infrastructure and housing stock. There’s a lot of open space around Eidsvoll, local officials confirm, where both housing and state office buildings could be constructed, while the state’s existing offices and and housing for MPs in Oslo could be turned over to the open market and, possibly, lower housing prices.

‘Positive for district development’
Adreassen contends a move would “be positive for development of (Norway’s outlying) districts from Lillehammer in the north to Grorud in the south.” He sees major socioeconomic gains from a move of top state government functions out of the capital.

At a time when both the state and the City of Oslo are planning construction of a new multi-billion-kroner government complex in the heart of the capital, Andreassen contends that costs would be lower and security higher if a new Storting and new residences are built for MPs at Eidsvoll. He also thinks the country would be run better from Eidsvoll than from Oslo.

“It can happen there would be more professional and less heated debate and theater,” Andreassen told NRK. The government and MPs could also flee all the lobbyists now working and living in the capital. That was a reason why the constitutional negotiations took place in Eidsvoll and not in Oslo, which was called Christiania at the time. Even in 1814, lawmakers were under pressure from lobbyists for various causes, and Eidsvoll was viewed as more neutral territory.

Norway’s major encyclopedia (Store Norske Leksikon) describes Norway’s Parliament as the country’s national assembly in charge of making and approving laws, deciding the state budget and controlling the government. Where all that actually takes place is not clearly defined.

‘I think he’s right’
If anyone in Stortinget takes Andreassen’s proposal seriously, local officials in and around Eidsvoll are ready to greet a major government relocation with open arms. “The economist who has proposed all this is very sensible,” claimed Eidsvoll Mayor John-Eirik Vika of the rural-oriented Center Party. “I think he’s right.”

Vika claimed that Eidsvoll is the historic heart of Norway’s constitution, and the building where it all began was refurbished in time for bicentennial celebratons two years ago.

“We have room here and we are ready to receive,” Vika told NRK. Given the political passion in Norway for debate, quarrels and an apparent reluctance to make firm decisions, no move will take place any time soon. Berglund



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