Norway’s new Labour-Center government is busy offering to reverse mergers that were forced upon many counties and municipalities by the former Conservatives-led government. Warnings are also going out, however, that breaking up can be expensive.
Local governments around the country have been told that they can apply for the equivalent of divorce, but only until March 1, 2022. That’s a shorter deadline than what was initially offered in the new government’s platform last month, but necessary in order to prepare for new elections set for the fall of 2023.
Parliament must approve the separation of forcibly merged counties, like Troms and Finnmark in Northern Norway. They were forced into an unhappy marriage for reasons of economies of scale, and appear the most likely to split up again.
Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum of the Center Party, which firmly if ironically opposes centralization, has promised “economic security” for towns and counties that want to separate. Newspaper Aftenposten editorialized that Vedum should be more careful as he’s heading into his first session as responsible for the state budget. “Saying he’ll do this with ‘an open hand’ is most unusual for a finance minister,” wrote Aftenposten. “It’s not responsible either.”