Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg held his traditional half-year press conference today, six months that have seen his government bruised, but not battered.
It has been an eventful time for Mr Stoltenberg. The controversial Hardanger power pylons have not gone up, neither has his popularity in the opinion polls. Like Norwegians in search of winter sunshine, it has gone south.
“Mr Mongstad” himself, Petroleum and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen, kicked off the half year by being dinner (terrine) for the Opposition. Tell, as the name Terry is often shortened to in London’s East End, did not. He kept quiet about the delay and cost overrun about the gas power station’s carbon capture and storage project.
His Party (Centre/Sp) also temporarily kept quiet about 700,000 kroner from two power companies, alleging it was financial support for last year’s general election campaign.
No connection has been found so far between the money and Terry’s approval for the companies’ respective concessions, but Sp paid the money back. It is still under investigation for possible fraud, though, and it seems only time will tell.
Meanwhile, the Party’s leader Liv Signe Navarsete and Minister of Transport and Communications Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa have been in trouble for receiving presents from businesses. One declared her present; the other did not.
These were also returned, as well as three perfectly good litres of whisky, awarded to Mrs Navarsete by Parliament’s press section for the year’s “top ten trip-ups” made by a politician. She claims she cannot accept them because the government and Sp (who should maybe consider renaming its abbreviation to Send [the] presents [back]) has changed its rules for receiving gifts.
The next item has the put the red-green coalition government in stitches. Having spent 77 million kroner on planning the new regional Molde hospital for Nordmøre and Romsdal counties, it cannot decide exactly where to build it. In the meantime, there is a need for medical staff to treat the fistfights.
There is broad political opposition to introducing the EU’s Data Retention Directive, opposition which the Prime Minister said he sees as a setback in the fight against serious crime. It looks as though the government needs it, though, as they cannot even retain their own data. An unsecure central server linked to his office has been leaking classified information to all potential hackers for years, despite several warnings.
Mr Stoltenberg also mentioned he believed the recent spate of ‘Wikileaked’ documents were not too serious for Norway, or for its relationship to other countries. The US is still popular with the government, then.
Meanwhile, Norway has managed to patch up a 40-year territorial dispute with Russia over the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean.
The PM was also particularly pleased his government has managed to avoid the effects of the recession and put the Norwegian economy in place, irrespective of the Oil Fund. However, he warned there is still danger lurking in the economic woods.
“Many take it for granted the Norwegian economy is performing well. We have low interest rates and unemployment. We are making a serious mistake if we think the economy runs itself,” he said.
We wish you a Merry Christmas, Mr Stoltenberg, and do enjoy the whisky whilst it lasts.
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