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Saturday, April 20, 2024

State snubs Sami again, protests loom

The Norwegian government has once again snubbed and angered the country’s indigenous Sami population, by dragging out any program to reduce or remove wind power turbines on Sami grazing land that the Supreme Court ruled were illegal more than two years ago. More talks between the ministry and the Sami Parliament broke down last week, after the state insisted on more studies instead of concrete action to halt ongoing violations of the Sami’s human rights.

Sami activists still feel like they’re meeting closed doors at Norway’s Oil & Energy Ministry and the rest of the Norwegian government: It continues to demand a new “program” for complying with a Supreme Court ruling that wind power turbines on Sami grazing land violate their human rights. Protests like this one last winter may flare up again. PHOTO: Møst

“This is very serious,” the president of the Sami Parliament, Silje Karine Muotka, told TV2 after the latest talks with the government’s Oil & Energy Ministry collapsed. “We have delivered several proposals (over how to move forward with efforts to ensure the Sami’s human rights). We are not being heard.”

Muotka told news bureau NTB that the disagreement is mostly over the goals of a new report that the state wants to compile over how the huge wind turbines disturb reindeer grazing, and whether wind power generation and grazing can co-exist. She doesn’t think that’s necessary, while several Members of Parliament also accuse the ministry of engaging in more delay tactics and efforts to lessen the impact of the Supreme Court decision.

The president of the Sami Parliament, Silje Karine Muotka (left), thought she had made some progress with Oil & Energy Minister Terje Aasland and Agriculture Minister Sandra Borch after a week of demonstrations in Oslo last winter. Aasland had apologized for human rights violations against Sami reindeer herder in Fosen, but nearly two months later, he still wants “more knowledge” about whether grazing and turbines can co-exist. PHOTO: OED

“We believe that the priority must be ending the human rights violations,” Muotka told NTB. “That must be done by reversing the concession granted (illegally) for the turbines and withdrawing the operating permission granted to Fosen Vind (the company operating the large wind power facility atop the Fosen Peninsula in Trøndelag, central Norway).”

Muotka fears that the government is actually mounting a new effort to keep the turbines operating, instead of fully respecting the Supreme Court decision, accepting its consequences and removing or scaling down turbine operations at Fosen. The court clearly stated that the turbines’ operating licenses were “invalid.”

If there’s to be yet another report compiled on the issue, she said, “it’s most important that it outlines how the the current and ongoing human rights violations can be ended, and how reindeer grazing can be ensured.” There’s no need, Muotka stressed, to re-examine what the Supreme Court has already based its ruling on.

Sami leader Muotka also had a meeting with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in March, but his government still allows the wind turbines at Fosen to operate more than two years after the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled that their operating licenses are invalid. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Anne Kristin Hjukse

Yet that’s what the ministry seems determined to do, and that’s why Muotka and her Sami colleagues broke off further cooperation. Oil & Energy Minister Terje Aasland of the Labour Party told NTB that a “program” for further study will be presented soon nonetheless.

He claims he and Muotka “had a good meeting” on Thursday and “agreed to now conclude consultations, even though we didn’t manage to agree on the program” for a new examination. He also told NTB that the ministry was also waiting for a final report from reindeer owners, even though Muotka said no agreement has been reached directly between the state and them either.

She was also irritated that the government also has been working on a plan to call in the state mediator to help reach a settlement with the reindeer owners at Fosen. The Sami Parliament was not informed about that until Aasland finally mentioned it at their last meeting on Thursday. “If the ministry is involved in that, the Sami Parliament (Sametinget) must also be,” she said.

It’s all raising new charges that the government is dragging out the entire process, in the hopes the Sami will give up after what’s amounted to more than a dozen years of legal battles over the wind turbines. The Supreme Court ruled in October 2021 that the controversial turbine licenses granted several years before that were “invalid.” The state has been trying to find a way around that ruling ever since.

After 500 days had passed with no action against the turbines, Sami demonstrators and supporters including Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg occupied the ministry’s lobby. Demonstrations spread to other government ministries, creating huge embarrassment for a country known for otherwise promoting human rights both at home and abroad.

After more than a week of disruption in downtown Oslo, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre finally stepped in and several other ministers sat down with the Sami leaders and reindeer grazers. The government claims it will respect the Supreme Court decision but Aasland keeps demanding “updated knowledge” in order to issue new concessions to replace the invalid ones at Fosen.

‘Simply incredible’
Members of Parliament including some from the government’s own support party, SV, were also upset with Aasland’s ministry, which they accuse of trying to find a way to keep the turbines operating despite the Supreme Court ruling condemning them.

“It’s simply incredible that the government isn’t accepting the demands from the Sametinget after already dragging their feet over following up the Supreme Court ruling for so long,” MP Hilde Gaebpie Danielsen of SV, told NTB. “By doing so, it’s setting things up for an ongoing, major conflict.”

Geir Jørgensen, business spokesperson for the Reds Party, said the government “can’t keep studying its way out of the human rights violations at Fosen. It’s completely unacceptable for Aasland and the Oil & Energy Ministry to try to study its way around the Supreme Court ruling.” Berglund



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