The majority in the Norwegian parliament has directed strong criticism at the government for its handling of the planned sale of Bergen Engines.
On Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense supported a so-called reprimand in the case – the strongest form of criticism that parliament can direct at the government without declaring no confidence.
“We have had a situation where Russians almost gained control of a strategically important company in Norway. The government slept on its post and did not take up the matter until they received an external tip, which appears to be a pure coincidence. It is very serious,” Emilie Enger Mehl (SP) told NTB.
Stopped after prolonged pressure
The parliamentary majority believes that the case has revealed serious deficiencies in the government’s security routines and that the government has not had the necessary control over national security and emergency preparedness.
In December last year, the current owner, Rolls-Royce, entered into an agreement to sell the engine factory to Russian-owned TMH International for NOK 1.6 billion.
During the parliament’s hearing of the case, it emerged that the government’s security work was initiated as a result of an external tip to the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries on January 11.
Mehl believes the government has failed national security interests in the case.
“We have had a Conservative government that has not, on its own initiative, had control over the routines that will uncover and stop foreign acquisitions that could threaten national security,” she said.
The parliamentary majority also agrees on three measures to ensure that the same error is not repeated:
* a full review of security expertise in all ministries
* a public report on the scope and vulnerabilities of the Security Act
* an evaluation of the security understanding and interaction in and between the ministries
“There has been a generally weak understanding of security and weak cooperation between the ministries about this,” Jette Christensen (AP) said.
No motion of no confidence
The parliamentary majority will nevertheless not go so far as to declare no confidence in the case. The most important thing is the follow-up that will now take place, Christensen believes.
“Secondly, this is a case where four ministers and a prime minister have not done their job. As a responsible parliament, we cannot allow the solution to this issue to be no confidence in the Prime Minister and four ministers when what we really need is a review of Norwegian security policy,” she said.
Christian Tybring-Gjedde (FRP) also pointed out that the responsibility is shared between several people.
“So, it is difficult for us to blame one minister. It would be wrong, too,” he told NTB.
Conservatives understand criticism
The Conservatives, for their part, emphasize that the case had the right outcome in the end – the sale was stopped.
“This was a case that had to be thoroughly considered from different points of view. The government has done that, and the government has landed on a very solid result,” Hårek Elvenes (H) told NTB.
He nevertheless added that he understands the criticism from the parliamentary majority.
“They could have interacted better at an early stage. But this is a case with many sides, and it had to be assessed against a law that has not been practiced on this point before. New paths had to be built,” he said.
The government has so far refused to comment on the criticism from the parliament.
Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews