The Washington Post appeared to know what they were writing about a few weeks ago when they published the article Meet the Donald Trumps of Europe. The article is suppposedly a presentation of some “far-right voices gunning for power in Western Europe.”
They had picked out The Progressive Party as the Norwegian target. This party was founded in 1973 and is currently serving its first period in government, as a part of a coalition together with the Conservative Party. I am not a fan of the party myself, but calling it right-wing and comparing it to National Front in France proves that the Post haven’t done an honest analysis of Norwegian domestic politics. They have probably listened to what other people say about them, and hearsay is never precise. The Progressive Party is strong on individual freedom and market liberalism, but have a tendency to be populist on immigration issues. It is interesting that the other parties usually come to the same conclusions. It sometimes takes them several years, but it turns out that these unpopular populists aren’t as bad as many claim. I wouldn’t trust them to run the country alone, though
I wasn’t really surprised about The Washington Post story. Norwegian media, and the entire opposition in parliament have built up a strong pressure against the government, and in partricular Sylvi Listhaug, the migration minister. I don’t know where the American newspaper got its information from, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the journalist had quickly browsed some of the headlines from Norwegian papers without really thinking critically.
There are many headlines to choose from and almost none of them are positive. One of the first things Listhaug did after she had been appointed in December last year was to present a list of suggestions for how to deal with the refugee crisis. Her goal was to make Norway less attractive, which was a relevant strategy as the majority of the refugees are migrants from other countries than Syria.
One of the proposals was to increase the period asylum seekers had to live here before getting a permanent residency, from three to five years. People called this inhumane ans accused Listhaug of turning Norway into a colder society. This doesn’t mean we deport people if it’s still dangerous where they came from, but asylum doesn’t necessarily mean permanent protection. The Norwegian Immigration Act defines a refugee as a foreigner who has a well-founded fear of persecution due to ethnicity, descent, religion, nationality, membership in a pareticular sosial group, or political opinion. The law also states that refugees are not entitled to stay in Norway if they can get effective protection in another region of their own country. In other words, the law favours the government’s desire to help the refugees in the region they come from.
The government also wants to restrict a temporary resident’s chance of family reunion. It appears that many families are sending children and young men so that they can get the government to bring the rest of the family later. This is not unproblematic if it turns out that many of the refugees are from other countries than Syria. That would actually reduce the number of Syrians we would be able to help.
Listhaug wanted to issue prepaid cards to prevent refugees from sending money home. I understand her reasoning, but I think we should encourage them to send money because that would be good for the local economy. The question is where we envision this money ending up. There is also a good chance that many migrants and refugees have loaned money for the trip to Europe, so the first money they send back might be to pay back loan sharks.
The most controversial proposal may have been about language. The Progressive Party wants a certain level of Norwegian oral skills, and the asylum seekers need to support themselves for three years before they can get permanent residency. This is not likely to get majority in parliament, and I can see why. Learning a new language as an adult is hard, and the fact is that despite all this talk about how much we welcome refugees, most of them will never work. It’s not because they don’t want to, but because many Norwegians don’t want to hire people with an Arabic or African name. So I’m not in favour of this particular suggestion, but we need to see it as a part of the message the government wants to send to migrants and smugglers.
I mentioned in Norwegian greed that the Norwegian Oil Fund, although it will help us, shows a dishonest side of us. It’s one thing that the government sometimes invests in immoral companies, but the people working in the oil fund also rejoice in human tragedy. It’s during a recession that people with a lot of money can make good investments. I have therefore asked myself how far we have to go to finance the current altruism. How far do we have to go to fund our pensions, health care and social security? Can we afford to be sympathetic? Can we afford to give up oil ? (including north of the Arctic circle, which hasn’t been allowed yet).
The development we have seen in recent years makes me wonder if we are good nazis. Most people adopt the opinion media say they should have. We have been told that Listhaug is both ridiculous and evil, and many don’t question this. The thruth is that many support a relatively strict immigration because they realize that anything else would be too costly. There’s also been a lot of criticism of the Prime Minister and media gives the impression that the current government is the biggest threat against Norway. If this had been 1940 we probably wouldn’t have seen as many Norwegians oppose the Nazis as we clearly saw 76 years ago. They would have helped the Nazis and not the government on its spectacular flight to London.
It’s difficult to find a middle position. It’s hard for people living in extreme poverty, or in war, to fight oppression. It has proven to be just as hard if you are comfortable. We need to find the intermediate position where we can express the opinions we have. I hope we have some.