Prime Minister Erna Solberg has avoided a lack of confidence vote in Parliament after she and her justice minister, Monica Mæland, apologized for the government’s lack of preparedness regarding the aborted sale of Bergen Engines this spring. That’s mostly because no one wants to unseat her government just 100 days ahead of the September election.
The opposition in Parliament wants voters to do that job, suggests Hege Ulstein, commentator in newspaper Dagsavisen. She noted how the Parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee reported this week that it thinks the government was negligent for almost allowing the sale of Bergen Engines, which has a highly strategic location in Bergen and is privvy to state secrets through its work on frigates and other defense material, to a company owned by Russian interests with direct ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was only after a warning was lodged with Norway’s business and trade ministry that the government halted the sale at the last minute. The foreign ministry hadn’t acted earlier and critics say the defense ministry was asleep at the switch. The pending sale wasn’t taken up by the government’s security commission until the media, led by Bergens Tidende, had started writing about it.
The parliamentary committee ended up criticizing the government in the strongest possible terms for serious deficiencies within what’s supposed to be coordinated work on security and preparedness issues. Solberg herself has responded that she takes the criticism from Parliament seriously, and that the government would learn from its mistakes. “At the same time,” she added, “it’s worth mentioning that all parties backed the government’s decision to stop the sale.”