The unhappy forced merger of Norway’s two most northerly counties, Troms and Finnmark, has already resulted in an attempted split. Neither county wanted to merge in the first place, but had to comply with unpopular national regional reform.
Now the merged county known as Troms og Finnmark, which sprawls over an area as big as Denmark, has applied to be divided into two again, and go their separate ways. The parties holding a majority in the county parliament (Labour, Center and the Socialist Left) all campaigned last year on a platform of reversing the unpopular merger. Kirsti Bergstø, deputy leader of the Socialist Left (SV) and a county politician from Finnmark, said the equivalent of a divorce filing was necessary: “There’s a difference between being good neighbours and being forced to merge.”
The Conservatives-led government that has pushed through regional reform has claimed that even the population of Finnmark was too small to ever be able to provide better social welfare services. Teaming up with Troms and being handed control over more local services was believed an advantage, but the local officials have never shared the state officials’ view.
“It’s been a demanding process for everyone to find their form,” conceded Nikolai Astrup, the government minister now in charge of local governments and thus enforcing the mergers. He urged all involved to give themselves time to settle on the new way of “delivering good services.” Bergstø and her fellow local officials instead claim that time’s up.