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Conflict: Swedish Reindeer Shepards Take Norwegian Lands

Published on : by Marcel Burger

UPDATED, ADDITIONAL 3rd PARAGRAPH 20:25 10 July 2020 | Reindeer migrate mostly freely through the year. As they don’t have passports nor need to, for a long time Swedish and Norwegian reindeer caretakers were allowed to follow the herds. But it now leads to conflict, and the Norwegians are not happy with what the strongest critics call a Swedish occupation.

It all comes down to an old treaty. In 1751 Norway and Sweden signed an agreement, changed in 1650 and then again 1972 with Swedish reindeer caretakers no longer allowed to set up their own infrastructure inside Norway when following the herds. But in 2005 the deal ended. The Norwegians say the latest deal still stands until a new agreement can be worked out. The Swedes say the old one of 1751 is again in effect, and have started to build permanent structures again in Norway, to collect the reindeer cattle for owner marking and have moved along with 16,000 “Swedish” reindeer into the Northern Norwegian territory of Indre Troms.

The historical background is the split of the union between Norway and Sweden centuries ago. The Sami – the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia – are traditionally the ones that take care of the Sami herds and they have been supressed by both the Norwegian and Swedish governments ever since. Some say the current Norwegian drive against the reindeer caretakers is just another attempt by conservatives to keep the Sami – who do not have their own state – away and deny them their way of living.

But a gentlemen’s between all parties says that the Norwegians use the areas in the winter, while the Swedish use them in the Summer. But as the Norwegians notice, the Swedes don’t pull back on their side of the border. So 15 years into the limbo status, the question is now high up on the agenda again. The herded reindeer live free but are cattle like cows, and the business is tough, economic gains – not territorial – are the driving force behind the current conflict. | © 2020 Marcel Burger / (text and photo). Title photo: Reindeer cattle wandering freely near the Norwegian border in Sweden

Is the State of Norway killing its own citizens with oil?

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The State of Norway has again to show up in court because it has given company licenses to drill for oil in the Arctic region. After lower judges ruled it was kind of okay, environmental watchdog Greenpeace and two Norwegian organisation are stepping up their efforts and want a final ruling from the highest Norwegian court on the matter.

Without much of fuzz the parliament in Oslo went along a plant to fill the Norwegian Oil Fund, with 1200 billion US dollars the worlds largest public “savings” for a rainy day, with income from Arctic oil. But Greenpeace argues this is against article 112 of Norway’s constitution. In this piece of basic law the government of the country is obligated to not only care for the environment as it is, but also safeguard it for future generations. Greenpeace says allowing oil drilling in the Arctic is not.

In a recent court decision the judge said the state of Norway was right in allowing oil businesses in the Barents Sea around Svalbard, but that there could be some truth to the constitutional unclarity of this decision. That’s why Greenpeace and the other two organisations wants to have the highest ruling. A judge should decide whether the state is right, not parliament, they argue.

So far the government of Norway got away with saying that the Norway is a very environmental friendly country, with most of its energy needs produced by hydropower. The oil and gas won in the North Sea and Norwegian Sea are exported. According to a lower court ruling this burning the oil somewhere else should actually be included in weighing the effects of the oil business.

But apart from the environmental argumentation Oslo is playing a more important, geopolitical game. With big neighbour Russia increasingly active in all kinds of Polar activities, Norway wants to mark that their part of the Barents Sea and Svalbard is their economic zone, their property and therefore something other nations – read Russia – should respect. What the outcome will be of Greenpeace vs Norway, time will tell. | © 2020 Marcel Burger, This post is based on my chat in the show Nieuwe feiten on VRT Radio 1, 26 February 2020, 00:41:33 into the broadcast, with program host Lieven Vandenhaute. Featured image: Monacobreen Glacier on Svalbard (Photo by Gary Bembridge)

ISIS woman splits Norwegian govt to almost goodbye

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The populistic Frp party has left the Norwegian government, over the return of a woman of the radical ISIS organisation and her son. However the ultra-right Frp remains a strong force when it comes to government decisions.

Falling apart seemed to be a possible outcome after the Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg decided to repatriate a woman that was part of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that controlled large parts of Syria and Iraq under strict, radical Islamic rule and were fought by soldiers from many nations including from Norway. Solberg admitted to the press it was a hard decision – Norway is not eager to repatriate those who fought for what is seen as a terrorist organisation – but out of humanitarian concern for the well-being of the very ill son of the woman both were allowed back. The boy was put into medical treatment, whilst his mother was put in jail for initially four weeks pending a court ruling whether she is found guilty for terrorism and such. However, Scandinavian countries always try to keep the mother and child somewhat together, while other countries like Belgium rather let the children come without the mothers if they were part of ISIS.

Support or hijacking government decisions

But to the Frp the acceptance of mother and son was just the last drop in a longer unhappiness about its partners in the government. After an hour talk between Frp leader and going Justice Minister Siv Jensen and Norwegian conservative prime minister Erna Solberg on Monday, the Frp decided to leave the government, but remain in control of many decisions from the opposition benches of the Stortinget (parliament), de facto supporting the sitting government or hijacking it – depending on your view of things. Why? Because Solberg will continue her reign, but with a government made up of 3 – in stead of 4 – parties which together do not have a majority in parliament without the Frp, or the opposing labour party which is on the other side of the political spectrum. | © 2020 Marcel Burger, This post is based on my chat in the show De Wereld Vandaag on VRT Radio 1, 20 December 2020, together with Justice and Law editor Anne Vanrenterghem and presenter Ruth Joos, 00:49:29 into the broadcast. Featured photo: The Oslo Operahouse (Photo by Marcel Burger)

Russian “spy wale” is a therapist, not a soldier

Published on : by Marcel Burger

A beluga with a harness. This must be a military whale, Norwegians thought when the animal surfaced in their waters. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

This is the property of St. Petersburg a sign on the beluga read which fishermen saw swimming around their boat in May, just off the coast of northern Norway. The creature even picked up a phone from the water.

Soon wild theories emerged. It was supposed to be a Russian military spy, ready to drop bombs and such. After all, it would not be the first time that such training came to light. The US Navy uses dolphins to discover mines and the Russia is also known to have a similar project. Some sources even say that Russian has been training dolphins and seals to attack enemy divers.

But in the case of the beluga surfacing in Norway this doesn’t seem through. According to the former consul for Norway in Murmansk the animal was already around in 2008, helping children to release their emotions.

Dubbed Vladimir by the Norwegian the beluga’s real name is supposed to be Semjon. Now that he apparently escaped and is free Norwegian authorities seem to let him be, keeping an eye every now and then on his wellbeing. | © 2019 Marcel Burger at Post based on my chat in the show Nieuwe feiten on VRT Radio 1, on 14 May 2019, with show host Lieven Vandenhaute. Featured image: Steve Snodgrass

Svalbard strangely flocked by Russian tourists

Published on : by Marcel Burger

More and more Russians are going on vacation to Spitsbergen, an island group north of Norway. The area is close to the North Pole and is considered an “exotic destination” by Norwegians and Russians. Nevertheless, this has now moved into a political issue.

Spitsbergen is not an illogical holiday destination for Russian tourist. For years Russia had an active settlement there. Pyramiden is an old coal mine the Russians used until 1998. The mine may be closed, but the surrounding Stalinist village is still there. And now Russia is trying to make that village interesting for tourists again.

Weird in a way, because for visiting the Arctic Russians have loads of alternatives. That’s why Norway is extra worried that large number of Russians flock to Svalbard all of a sudden. A few years ago, suddenly there were a lot of Russians in Crimea, and that area was eventually taken away from Ukraine. The Norwegians are afraid that Russia wants to do the same with Spitsbergen.

Russia has been more active in military and geopolitical business lately. It announced to conduct missile exercises in the same Northern European exercise area of NATO operations, Russian aircraft flew flew along the Norwegian coast days ago, and a month ago a Russian man was arrested at Oslo Airport for spying on the Norwegian parliament.

The Russian Deputy Prime Minister visited Spitsbergen last year, even remarking Svalbard is very much like the Crimea peninsula. “It is a beautiful area that we should actually be able to use, as Russians,” the statesman said

If Russia would eventually capture Spitsbergen, there is little that can be done. Officially it is a demilitarized zone that for the Norwegians will be difficult to defend in case of war. The Royal Norwegian Air Force cannot just fly a few fully armed F-16 combat jets 500 kilometres away without necessary support, something Norway doesn’t have on their own.

The Norwegian are trying to think of something, but the project that they’ve started to halt the Russianification of Svalbard is only seven people strong. They cannot stop tens of thousands of Russians.

Geopolitically, Spitsbergen is an important area. Oil can be found here and it is of great military importance. In addition, the World Seed Bank is also located at this outpost. Should anything ever go wrong with our world, that’s where our future lies. | © 2018 Marcel Burger at Post based on my radio chat in Dutch in the VRT Radio 1 show Nieuwe feiten, on 2 November 2018. Featured photo by Hulgeriak

Against ADHD: Kids in Norway at the Shooting Range

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Pang pang pang. Kids with guns at school is really a great idea, against ADHD and concentration issues. A project near Trondheim in Norway where students spend time on the shooting range shows promising results. A very strange way of aiding youngsters? I’ve talked about it today on Belgian Radio 1, about 00:30:50 into the broadcast.

Norway: Close Call in Elections

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Will Norway rule left or right again? Today’s Norwegian elections are a neck-and-neck race between the ruling Conservatives and Social Democrats. If the Conservatives win, they will most likely return to rule with the right-wing populist Progress Party. An hour before the first results were made public you could hear me live on public radio 1 in the Netherlands in VPRO’s Bureau Buitenland (Foreign Desk).


100 Years People on the South Pole

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Wednesday it will be exactly 100 years since the first human reached the South Pole. “One of the greatest achievements in modern human history,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday in Antarctica at 40 degrees below zero, while unveiling an ice bust of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen.

On 14 December 1912, Norwegians Roald Amundsen, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, Olav Bjaaland and Oscar Wisting won the race to the pole from a British team led by the adventurer Robert Scott. The Briton used horses and poorly tested machines, scientist Amundsen used dogs to get to the South Pole and, according to plan, also shot them as food for the team.

The Norwegian team left the South Pole alive, while Scott and a second Briton died on the way back to base camp. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 14 December 2011)

Norwegian Justice and Police Minister Resigns, in the Wake of Utøya

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Norway’s Justice and Police Minister Knut Storberget resigned. His job will be taken over by Grete Faremo, Minister of Defence since 2009 and Minister of Justice from 1992 to 1996. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced the change on Friday morning, during a sudden press conference.

The departure of the administrator comes at a unexpected moment, as the judiciary and police are under fire again during parliamentary hearings on the terror attacks on 22 July in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. Storberget was ultimately responsible for the security forces and, according to the prime minister, would not have requested his resignation until Friday morning.

“I had hoped he would stay,” Prime Minister Stoltenberg said. “Knut Storberget had a lot on his plate and now wants to spend more time with his family.” Stoltenberg said he has had many intensive, personal conversations with the outgoing administrator and knew that Storberget felt a great responsibility for the events in July.

The parliamentary hearings on Thursday yielded new information that critics in Norwegian politics say once again underlines the poor functioning of the emergency services. For example, Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to being behind the July attacks, was arrested in Utøya even seven minutes later than officially had been acknowledged until now. He had nearly 900 rounds left in his pockets.

Also, no one seems to know who had unnecessarily stopped the long line of ambulances from the campsite opposite the island of Utøya, while camping guests begged for quick medical help by phone for victims picked up from the water.

The attacks in Norway on 22 July 2011 killed 77 people. Anders Behring Breivik is the only suspect in prison and has admitted to being behind the acts. According to experts, with the appointment of defence minister Faremo on justice, government policy will be even more based on crisis readiness. State Secretary for Defence Espen Barth Eide will be the new minister for the armed forces and national defence. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 11 October 2011)

Spitsbergen Satellite Base Hacked, Norwegians Don’t Understand The Report

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Hackers from possibly the Chinese armed forces reportedly took control of American satellites in 2007 and 2008, according to a US parliamentary committee. They reportedly succeeded to do it four times via a satellite control base in Spitsbergen, Norway. But the Norwegians don’t understand the report.

“We have told the committee when asked that there is no evidence to the allegations, after a thorough check of our systems,” a spokesman for base operator Kongsberg Satellite Services said on Friday. “We have also heard nothing from the NASA, which owns the satellites.”

The claims of the cyber attacks by the US Congress’ Economic and Security Committee on Relations with China (US-China Economic and Security Review Commission) were leaked yesterday through the US news agency Bloomberg. The official annual statement will not be released until next month and is based on reports from the US Air Force. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original in Dutch, 28 October 2011, previously unpublished)

All Oslo Schools Closed by Fire Extinguisher

Published on : by Marcel Burger

All schools in Oslo, Norway, were suddenly evacuated around lunchtime on Thursday after the Public Protection Directorate discovered an explosion hazard in a series of two and five kilo CO2 fire extinguishers used by the schools.

This was reported by the municipality of Oslo during a press conference on Thursday. Tens of thousands of pupils are now on the street to be picked up by their parents, have gone home themselves or get lessons on alternative locations for the few school leaders who managed to find such a location.

Across Norway, 8360 of the feared fire extinguishers were delivered between January 2006 and April 2011. In Europe, this concerns 94,000 units. Oslo does not yet know whether schools will reopen on Friday. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original in Dutch on 13 October 2011, previously unpublished)

Final Utøya Victim Released From Hospital

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The final wounded victim of the 22 July attacks in Norway was released from a Norwegian hospital on Wednesday, the University Hospital of Oslo reported.

A total of 39 severely wounded were kept under medical supervision for a longer period of time. Ten had been injured in the bomb attack in the government quarters in Oslo, the rest had suffered gunshot wounds on the island of Utøya.

The attacks killed 77 people, 69 of them on the island. Anders Behring Breivik is the only suspect in custody. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 12 October 2011)

Norwegian Government Takes Action Against Terror

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The Norwegian government is planning to make a substantial financial investment in combatting terror next year, with at least EUR 400 million additional funds for the police, the judiciary system, the army and emergency medical services.

This became apparent during the announcement of the budget plans for 2012 on Thursday. If it is up to the Norwegian government, the police will once again have a special investigation and intelligence service, anti-terror units will soon have new equipment, a reserve police helicopter will be purchased, the internal security service will gain almost 7 million euros, as well as 16 new search-and-rescue helicopters for the armed forces and almost EUR 218 million will go to the roll-out of a digital emergency communication network for emergency services across the country.

The budget proposal is a direct response to the attacks on 22 July 2011 in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. 77 people were killed. Some observers therefore refer to the government’s plans as a “terror budget”. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 6 October 2011)

Norwegian Terror Deaths in City Council

Published on : by Marcel Burger

At least three people killed in the 22 July shooting on the Norwegian island of Utøya were elected to Norwegian municipality councils on 12 September.

Data from the electoral commissions and Norway’s Labour Party on Thursday show that Bano Rashid, Diderik Aamodt-Olsen and Rolf Christopher Johansen Perreau were elected to council member. Like twelve other Utøya dead, they were on the electoral lists and their families did not want them to be taken off.

In Rygge, where the Norwegian army’s belated anti-terror unit is based, 17-year-old Jonas Lubinski Johansen has been elected to the council. He was hit by three bullets on Utøya, but survived the attack.

Anders Behring Breivik is the only suspect in prison for the massacre on the island and the bombing in Olso that preceded it. In all, 77 people died. It is not known whether the council seats of the dead will actually remain empty. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 12 September 2011)

Norwegian Police Catch Another Extremist with Explosives

Published on : by Marcel Burger

For the second time in two weeks Norwegian police has arrested a right-wing extremist with weapons and explosives.

According to a spokesperson of the Vestfold police district it concerns a 27-year-old man in the municipality of Larvik, 100 kilometres south-west of Oslo. Officers found several weapons in his home, including a modified machine gun, and materials for making a 200-pound bomb.

The suspect himself reportedly said during interrogation that he likes to build home-made rockets. The man denies committing a criminal offence, a police spokesperson says.

According to Norwegian journalists, the suspect was convicted in 2004 for illegal possession of weapons and is said to be very negative about immigrants and Muslims, including on internet sites. Neighbours reported hearing small explosions on a regular basis.

At the end of August, police in Oslo arrested a 33-year-old right-wing extremist after weapons, explosives and police uniforms were found in his home. It is not yet known whether the two cases are related. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 9 September 2011)

Norwegian Prison Vacancy after Terror Attacks

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The prison in Oslo, Norway, is struggling with unusual vacancy rates, as the Norwegian justice system has ‘delivered’ fewer convicts since the terror attacks of 22 July.

Prison director Stig Meisler Storvik confirmed this on Monday to the Norwegian national broadcaster NRK. 25 of its 392 cells are empty, while there is normally a shortage of cells. Oslo police say they are mainly engaged in investigating the terror attacks, for which Anders Behring Breivik is the only suspect in prison.

A senior police chief reported that perpetrators and victims of, among other things, sexual violence, murder and manslaughter must wait. Many departments have lost half their manpower to the terror investigation.

The police in Oslo employs more than 2,300 people, including nearly 1,700 ‘regular’ officers and 70 anti-terror specialists (code name: Delta).

Anders Behring Breivik is the only suspect in the attacks. He detonated a car bomb outside government buildings and killed youths at a socialist party rally. In total, 77 people died. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 29 August 2011)

Norwegian Police Stops Utøya Boat Sale

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Police in Norway’s Nordre Buskerud stopped the sales of the red ‘Utøya boat’ on Thursday, after a storm of criticism.

A month after the massacre on Utøya, the corps wanted to get rid of its ‘black sheep’: the rubber boat with which a SWAT team tried unsuccessfully to reach the island on 22 July 2011. A lawyer for one of the Utøya survivors, among others, did not think that was a good idea.

“The boat is a piece of evidence. The sale is part of a long, incomprehensible series of actions by the police during and after the events of 22 July,” lawyer Arne Seland told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.

The Zodiac II 550 from 1998 became world news partly thanks to amateur images. It showed the clearly overloaded boat. The 75-horsepower engine gave out. Private boats came to the rescue and brought the officers to the island, where they detained gunman Anders Behring Breivik.

According to the French manufacturer, the dinghy can handle a maximum of ten adults, not counting extra kilos of bulletproof protection and weapons of an arrest team. According to a spokesperson, the old boat is ideal for recreational divers and had to yield at least 550 euros. More than 2500 euros had already been offered.

The Nordre Buskerud corps hoped the sale could cover part of the costs of two better boats purchased at the end of July. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 25 August 2011)

Oslo Starts Cautiously with Reconstruction

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The Norwegian capital of Oslo has started cautiously with the reconstruction of the administrative heart on Thursday. A car bomb severely damaged six government buildings and the Supreme Court on 22 July.

Workers first placed reinforced wooden walls of 3.6 metres high around the affected area with a total length of several hundred meters. Only employees with the correct access passes can enter the area, through revolving gates in sea containers and through undamaged department entrances of facades that were on the ‘shadow side’ of the explosion. The government quarter will remain closed for a long time for ‘ordinary’ visitors.

“It will be years before all affected Norwegian ministries are in new permanent offices,” Renewal and Administration Minister Rigmor Aasrud ​​acknowledged on Thursday. She is responsible for the reconstruction. The Supreme Court, which is relatively slightly damaged, will certainly be restored.

There is still no concrete plan for the badly damaged buildings, including the important ministries of Justice and Police, Oil and Energy, Economic Affairs, Finance and the Prime Minister’s office. Not even if they will be restored or demolished. “We are also considering spreading the officials more across the city,” said the minister. “We have to weigh safety, reconstruction costs and efficiency against each other,” the minister said. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 18 August 2011)

Norway’s police plagued by lack of money

Published on : by Marcel Burger

Five days after at least 76 people were killed in a double terror attack in Norway, the Norwegian police has admitted that they are unable to respond quickly to incidents directly outside the capital due to lack of funds.

After much criticism in recent days, Anstein Gjengedal, the chief of police in the the Oslo district, admitted to public broadcaster NRK on Wednesday that operational deployment is suffering from dwindling budgets. “We no longer have the capacity today that we had a few years ago.”

Police air support, according to experts essential to be on the scene quickly in a large country with little police density, was completely absent on Friday. Norway’s only police helicopter was not airworthy. Because there was no money for spare parts and sufficient staff, the deployability of the aircraft dropped from 24 to less than 18 hours a day between 2006 and 2010, an internal police report showed. A spare helicopter was cut out last year.

The Norwegian government responded quickly to the criticism on Wednesday by immediately giving the country’s police approximately three million euros (NOK 20 million) extra. The money is intended to hire 100 new agents, 95 in Oslo and five in Nordre Buskerud where the island of Utøya is located.

“Money should not stand in the way of police work,” said Justice Minister Knut Storberget. In ten years’ time there should be 2700 new officers, more than two extra per thousand inhabitants. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (originally published in Dutch on 27 July 2011)

Norway’s Rescue Service: Do Not Use an iPad To Navigate On Water

Published on : by Marcel Burger

The Norwegian rescue association (Redningsselskapet) warned against the use of digital navigation via iPad or mobile phone on the water, a day and a half after authorities believe a well-known Norwegian millionaire was killed in a boating accident.

“The paper map is absolutely necessary for navigation on the water. Digital solutions can not only fail, they are more inaccurate in representing the geographical position, up to boat lengths difference,” the information chief of the Norwegian rescue service told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

According to a Norwegian boat expert, the problems become serious above 40 knots (more than 70 km/h). Digital navigation would often be unable to keep up with boat speeds, resulting in errors of judgment by boat operators.

Norwegian authorities have given up hope of finding Per Erik Burud (estimated net worth 128 million euros) alive. In the night from Tuesday to Wednesday he crashed with his fast rib boat in a fjord 80 kilometres south of Oslo. Burud’s wife and another woman were killed. A fourth person on board survived, swam to land and alarmed the emergency response services.

Burud (48) owned the Kiwi supermarket chain, with more than 500 stores in Norway and about 70 in Denmark. The official cause of the accident is not yet known. | © 2011 Marcel Burger for ANP News Agency (original published in Dutch on 14 July 2011)