Absenteeism in Afghanistan and a mouthful about Mongstad.
Yesterday was a case of out of the frying pan into the line of fire for Jens Stoltenberg. Labour’s (Ap) Prime Minister has weathered criticism about sparse visits to Afghanistan, and for being creative with the truth about carbon capture for the Mongstad gas power station.
Lack of leadership
A united Opposition and Officer’s Union (Befalets fellesorganisasjon/BFO) started it by censuring his lack of attendance in Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister has been in the country for five hours in the last five years, fewer times than other leading people such as President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Crown Prince Haakon.
Former and present Norwegian Labourites have also visited the country. The ex Minister of Defence, Anne-Grethe-Strøm-Erichsen, has been ten times, Grete Faremo, the present one, has been once so far, and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre five.
“The fact Norway’s Prime Minister has hardly ever been in Afghanistan shows a lack of national leadership. Nobody has more of a need for national leadership than those who risk their life for the country,” leader for the Conservative Party (H), Erna Solberg, tells Dagens Næringsliv.
She went on to criticise Stoltenberg for not showing any interest, and was joined by Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party (FrP).
“The Prime Minister isn’t slow about travelling to other parts of the world. There’s every reason to ask why he hasn’t been there for more than a few hours five years ago. I daren’t believe it’s due to a lack of interest,” Jensen said.
“It’s regrettable the Prime Minister hasn’t been to Afghanistan more. It would have been an advantage if Stoltenberg showed greater visibility and interest, and took greater responsibility to explain why soldiers risk their life in there,” said Eivind Røvde Solberg, head of BFO.
Five Norwegian soldiers have been killed in action since 2005, and eight more were recently involved in an attack by rebel forces in Gwormatch in the north.
According to Røvde Solberg, Norwegian troops political backing and recognition from the government that sent them on the mission.
Both he and Erna Solberg suggest Stoltenberg takes a trip as soon as possible.
Under Parliamentary Question Time later in the day, Stoltenberg was asked why the start date for CO2 capture at Mongstad has been pushed back to 2014. The government has said new reports have argued in favour of a postponement.
This time, it was just the Opposition who’d joined forces. It didn’t go well for the Prime Minister
According to Aftenposten, Stoltenberg had to answer questions about financing, schedules, climate quotas, and the Kyoto Protocol.
FrP’s energy and environment spokesman, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, accused him of lying.
“Stoltenberg isn’t telling the truth about the Conservative’s and Progress Party's views on purification at Mongstad, and he gives the impression the reports that form the basis for the delay are new. They’re not. There was knowledge of them in 2008 and 2009. The Prime Minister is lying from the Speaker’s platform. That’s extremely serious,” Solvik-Olsen said.
“This was one of the most embarrassing situations I’ve seen in Parliament,” said Siv Jensen, afterwards
Dagfinn Høybråthen, leader of the Christian Democratic Party (KrF), didn’t beat about the bush either, accusing Stoltenberg of undermining the government’s environmental credibility.
“Away from home, the Prime Minister gets environmental prizes for efforts against deforestation, but this debate shows he stumbles and falls when it comes to the environment here,” he says.
The Socialist Left (SV) didn’t have time to attend the session.
“We may not succeed in reducing CO2 a lot during this debate, but Stoltenberg has certainly succeeded in removing SV from the chamber completely,” said Per Arne Olsen, FrP’s deputy leader.
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