Government talks resume in Hurdal

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Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre is meeting again this week with his Center Party counterpart, Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, in an effort to form a new left-center government. Støre claimed upon arriving at their hotel in Hurdal Monday morning that they’ve already settled many issues and aim to start working on a platform document.

This hotel in Hurdal, about an hour’s drive north of Oslo, is the venue for the government talks that resumed in earnest this week. It’s been closed, for security reasons, to all other guests since exploratory talks for a new left-center coalition began, adding to the cost of negotiations that already cost one of the parties involved. PHOTO: Hurdalsjøen Hotell

“A lot has been cleaned up and resolved, but we of course still have some points of disagreement,” Støre, who intends to become Norway’s next prime minister, told reporters outside the Hurdalsjøen Hotel. “The plan is to begin work on the platform.”

He had earlier told state broadcaster NRK that the two parties’ delegations had worked through the weekend and cleared the way for top leadership to resume face-to-face talks. Their new government coalition won’t have a majority in Parliament, meaning they’ll still need support either from the Socialist Left Party (SV) or even other parties on the non-socialist side. SV pulled out of talks for a three-party majority coalition last week, after SV didn’t get support for its proposals on climate and taxation issues.

SV had especially wanted to finally rein in Norway’s oil industry as a major means of cutting emissions and improving the country’s climate credibility internationally. Neither Labour nor Center, however, want to limit either oil exploration or production, insisting they can cut emissions while still drilling and pumping.

Prime Minister-elect Jonas Gahr Støre was front and center when meeting with his Labour Party’s new delegation in Parliament. It will hold 48 seats when the new four-year term formally begins next week, down from 49 in the last term. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet

Støre also insisted over the weekend that he will keep an alleged climate promise he made to his grandchildren. He told news bureau NTB that “I feel a responsibility to make sure that the Norway they’ll live in will be a good country. The planet must also be liveable.” He claimed that Norway’s contribution “is to cut our climate gas emissions in a way that we’ll still have jobs, income and a future for the Norwegian economy.”

He claims he can “guarantee that climate ambitions did not leave the government negotiations with SV.” Støre maintains the solutions the Labour and Center parties “go for” just “aren’t necessarily the same. I have the grandchildren in the picture also. I will listen to everyone who has this big (climate) engagement, but I won’t let myself be lectured from the outside on how to take responsibility.”

Støre also claimed that environmental organizations will be heard, “but no one has a monoploy on the right solution and the big job ahead.” He continues to claim that “if we cut back on the (oil) business and activity, we won’t succeed with what we have to do by 2030, and not least after 2030.”

Labour and Center are both pro-oil, but disagree on several other issues within the areas of defense, hospital reform, abortion rights, taxation and, not least, wildlife conservation. Center, which has a largely rural constituency, wants to kill off as many predators as possible, especially wolves and bears. Many animal rights- and nature conservation groups are deeply worried that Labour will give in to Center and allow more organized hunting of predators.

The Center Party also gathered its new Parliamentary delegation together ahead of next week’s formal opening session. It will hold 28 seats, nine more than during the last term that began in 2017. Both Center and Labour will need support form other parties in order to get legislation passed. PHOTO: Senterpartiet

There also continues to be widespread indignation on the left side of Norwegian politics that Labour let SV leave the table, sacrificing the prospect of a majority government to cooperate with Center instead. Center has a long history of being on the conservative side of Norwegian politics, with the exception of its lust for heavy government spending on agricultural subsidies and protectionist trade policy. Even newspapers that have traditionally backed Labour are claiming that Labour and Center’s support for oil lets down future generations: Dagsavisen editorialized over the weekend that Norway has “landed overnight in a climate crisis. It’s as if nothing has happened, and that the United Nations’ red alarm for the planet doesn’t apply to Norway.”

Others continued to accuse Støre and Labour of being weak, while Vedum and Center have emerged as the real and highly self-confident winners. Several ridiculed Støre’s claim that Norway needs to maintain the oil industry’s revenues and competence in order to have the resources needed for the green shift: “That’s tragicomic,” wrote Dagsavisen. “We have 12,000-billion kroner in the Oil Fund that can lubricate the transition. The mantra to develop and not phase out the oil industry seems to be a euphemism for draining as many billions as mulig out of the Norwegian Continental Shelf.”

Parliament will formally open early next week, with pressure on Støre to have a new government in place shortly after that.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund