Norwegian PM’s response: “more democracy, more openness”

The Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, has said that his country will “not be intimidated or threatened” by the attack by Anders Breivik on the Labour Party youth camp on Utoeya, which left at least 76 dead.  From the BBC report

Mr Stoltenberg said it was an attack on Norway’s “fundamental values” – democracy and openness – and that the response would be “more democracy, more openness”. He said he expected people to participate more broadly in politics.

He added it was too early to consider new security laws.

“Now is the time for comfort for those who have lost family members [and] friends, and to help those who are still wounded,” he said.

“Then afterwards, and especially after the investigation is finished, there will be a time for going through all the experiences, learning from what happened and then draw the conclusions regarding, for instance, security measures.”

As Simon Jenkins pointed out in a post at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Norway has already analysed the state of its democracy

In 2004 Norway celebrated a century of independence, not with fireworks and self-congratulation but a voluminous study of its constitution’s health. It took five years and yielded 50 books, forming an astonishing Domesday survey of democracy in one country. Like apiarists round a beehive, scholars studied every minute facet of political life and party affiliation, every local association, newspaper, lobby and minority group.

The majority of the scholars reached the conclusion that their country’s “democratic infrastructure” was in urgent need of repair. The traditional “chain of command”, from voters and localities to decisions of central government, had eroded. With just 4.9 million people – a population smaller than Scotland’s – Norway faced being run by a self-perpetuating oligarchy of Oslo officials, bankers, lawyers and media. They would be overseen by an ineffective rolling coalition of politicians elected under proportional representation and thus rarely out of office. Norway, since the advent of its oil wealth, was in danger of becoming a nation too comfortable to worry about politics. Democracy was suffering not from a lack of social cohesion but perhaps from too much.

The UK interpreter of the Norway study, the Oxford political scientist Stein Ringen, drew from it a controversial set of messages (reported in the TLS in April 2004). They included reform of proportional representation, which was neutering decisive elections; stopping subsidies to political parties, which cut them off from their members; withdrawing from Europe’s legal conventions, to make Norway’s parliament directly responsible for human rights; welcoming, not suppressing, multiculturalism; and rebuilding local democracy, which was active not passive.

Norway has yet to implement many of these suggestions. But their vitality shows it can debate them, and needs no patronising from more “mature” democracies, least of all ones that react to every threat with another turn of the illiberal screw.

Although, it’s worth countering parts of that post with the reported view of Norway’s domestic intelligence chief, Janne Kristiansen.

Kristiansen added that she did not believe the killer was insane, but was calculating and evil, and someone who sought the limelight.

And the constitutional analysis should be considered in light of Norway’s political history, which includes the Norwegian electorate’s rejection of membership of the EU – twiceAdded Wiki extract.

The EEA [European Economic Area] agreement grants Norway access to the EU’s single market while the country is to adopt most EU legislation related to that market. Additionally, Norway is a part of the Schengen Area, and has been granted participation rights (save voting rights) in several of the Union’s programmes, bodies and initiatives.[2] These include the European Defence Agency, the Nordic Battle Group, Frontex, Europol and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Whether or not the country should apply for full membership has been one of the most dominant and divisive issues in modern Norwegian political debate.