Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is open to granting temporary protection to refugees fleeing Ukraine but is still waiting for the EU’s proposal.
“We could face the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in Europe since World War II,” Støre said in a statement in the Norwegian parliament (Storting) on Thursday.
He emphasized that Norway should be ready to provide assistance in the refugee situation and that it should take its share. Still, he did not mention an exact number of refugees that the government would be ready to take in.
An almost united opposition is demanding that refugees from Ukraine receive temporary collective protection in Norway. Only the Progress Party (FRP) is opposed to using the scheme.
“There are good reasons to use the scheme,” Støre said. He added that the government is waiting to see what the EU will propose and how the system will be set up. EU interior ministers will meet to discuss the issue on Thursday, and Norway’s Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl (SP) will also participate.
Støre said that the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration and the police are in the process of strengthening their plans with a view to receiving a larger number of refugees.
“The Storting must be prepared for the fact that a large number of refugees may be demanding to deal with – but we will manage that task together,” he said.
Støre reiterated that Norway strongly condemns the invasion. The Ukrainian people are fighting a heroic battle, he noted.
Støre had invited the Ukrainian Ambassador Yurii Onischenko to be present in the Storting to express Norway’s solidarity.
“Ambassador, your people have our full solidarity,” Støre said, and spontaneous standing ovations broke out in the packed Storting hall.
The invasion of Ukraine has led to European countries and NATO coming together in a way not seen before, Støre pointed out.
He also mentioned the military exercise Cold Response, which will be held in the second half of March. A total of 30,000 soldiers from 25 countries will participate.
Støre emphasized that the exercise has been planned for a long time and that it is not a reaction to the war. Nevertheless, the exercise can emphasize that Norway is part of NATO, he pointed out.
“We know that Cold Response will be closely monitored by Russia,” Støre said.
Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews
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