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Norway, balance between the coalitions

Easing the tax burden is one of the proposals that have enabled the center-to overcome Labor, but form the executive will be a difficult task



The appreciation towards Jens Stoltenberg seemed to have sheltered the Centre-Left from all the temptations offered to the Norwegians by the opposition, as the promise of easing the tax burden: things have turned out differently, more and more people have ascribed the economic prosperity enjoyed during the two terms of office (from 2005 to present) to events such as the new oil extractions in the Barents Sea or to the new reserves in the North Sea.

After eight years when the Labour Party (still in first place, retaining the thirty-one per cent of the votes) seemed to be back to its former identification with the state as in the fifteen years after World War II, on September 9th it was the turn of Conservatives (Høyre) to take over the government thanks to Erna Solberg, born 52 years ago in Bergen. The new leader reassures that the basics of the Nordic social model won’t be affected: “we are a liberal party, we do not make revolutions”.

In a country that keeps a growth of 2.5 per cent and an unemployment rate limited to 3 percent, everyone believes that healthcare and education should remain public, but impatience is growing about the tie that  binds the government to annually spend no more of 4 percent drawn from economic return of the sovereign wealth fund (that has now reached 750 billion dollars and that is devised to deliver to future generations a welfare comparable to the existing one). Showing different degrees of caution, Centre-Right’s political parties plan to use a larger portion of annual revenues of the fund to improve infrastructure, healthcare, public services and education.

Aldo Ciummo

Dubai sentence, unacceptable violation of human rights

The victim of the assault, a Norwegian citizen, was not protected by local institutions that on the contrary caused her imprisonment with a decision determined by religious conservativism

A worrying sign for Westerners that live in countries where the legislation is affected by the intervention of religious confessions has come from the injustice suffered by a Norwegian citizen, who after she has been a victim of violence in Dubai during a business trip (from Quatar where she worked) and having reported this to the local police, found herself sentenced to sixteen months in detention, due to the fact that Islamic laws of the United Arab Emirates do not protect the victims of violence, considering only men as witnesses.

The victim of this worrying story remains in a Norwegian center in Dubai, avoiding her so at least the detention (after the release agreed by the local authorities with the Oslo diplomacy) but what had happened is seriously disturbing for Westerners who work in similar contexts and describes what is the grave and unacceptable situation of women’s rights in many countries. Instead of being protected as a victim of violence, the Norwegian citizen has been accused of adultery.

There is a clear violation of the human rights by the local courts, conditioned by a reactionary interpretation of the Islamic religion. The incident has rightly drawn the attention of organizations of based in the UK and in other European states: people coming from the United Arab Emirates reveal (also following the case which is discussed) the intolerable situation of women in many Arab countries. The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide, underlined the extraneousness of this sentence to the principles of protection of human rights.

Aldo Ciummo

Sweden, main character at the Festival of Literature in Bologna

Many authors represented by publishers and the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Arts Council and the Swedish Institute for Children’s Book will be present at the event on the agenda at the end of March

The Festival of Literature in Bologna approaches in the debate on children’s literature, in the middle of an interesting season for the Swedish culture,  with Daniel Gustafsson Pech (The Swedish Institute), Susanne Bergstrom Larsson (The Swedish Arts Council) Asa Warnquist (Swedish Institute for Children’s Book) and the major publishing houses interested in the field represented by Annakaisa Danielsson (Alfabeta publishers/Agency), Lena Stjernström (Grand Agency), Kerstin Öberg (Rabén & Sjogren/Agency), Katharina Lantz (Natur & Kultur/Agency), Jeanna Eklund (Bonnier Carlsen / Agency), Marie Tomicic (Olika Publishers) which have already taken part in Rome to some appointments. After the presentation, which was held in Rome at the end of 2012, there will be in Bologna on the 25th March a huge presence of the Swedish publishing houses, with a large number of Swedish authors and initiatives organised by the Nordic country.

Sweden is in fact the guest of honor. On the occasion of the initiatives that were previously held in Rome, Eva Ottosson, project manager, presented the strengths of the Swedish literature in this area, while Susanne Bergström larrsson, the Swedish Arts Council and Pech Daniel Gustafsson (Swedish Institute) presented supports to the publication of Swedish literature in Italy. In the implementation of this project for the event 2013 in Bologna cooperate among the other the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Film Institute, Hamelin, Sala Borsa, START, Teater Testoni with projections and workshops.

Among the authors, Stefan Casta, Petrus Dahlin and Lars Johansson, Olof and Lena Landstrom, Pija Lindenbaum, Sara Lundberg and Ulf Stark, Frida Nilsson, Henrik Tamm, Anna-Clara Tidholm. They will also discuss the award “Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award” (Alma) in its tenth anniversary. The director of the award, Helen Sigeland, will present the international prize of literature for young people. For the year 2013 there will be two hundred and seven candidates coming from sixty-seven countries and the winner will be announced on the 26th March in Vimmerby, the birthplace of Astrid Lindgren. Asa Warnquist reported that “the number and the titles of the books are: Rabén & Sjogren, Egmont, Bonnier Carlsen, B/Wahlstroms.

In recent years, a significant phenomenon in the field has been and is the one of young female authors who write stories about fantasy worlds; then there is a literature for young people that explores the urban environment as an unknown universe. Other editorial experiments encourage readers accustomed to new technologies and investigate on alternative lifestyles. A clear trend is that of strong female characters, transformed into characters from the world of magic. Jeanna Eklund of the Bonnier Group recalled titles like “The Lasse Maja & Detective Agency,” written by Martin Widmark and illustrated by Helena Wills. The Swedish Arts Council (Kulturradet) is the government authority that supports, among other initiatives, the Swedish culture in the world, translating into any language works written in Sweden. The Swedish Institute cooperates with other institutions that represent Sweden abroad and universities.

Aldo Ciummo

Anne Jensen (Denmark): EU has to promote economic recovery

The European Parliament, with its guidelines for the budget in 2014, intends to ask to all the European institutions a budget capable of fighting the crisis and stimulate the employment in the EU

During the plenary session of last week (voting session of Wednesday, March 13, 2013) the European Parliament approved in the guidelines for the 2014 budget the proposals of Anne Jensen (“Venstre”, Liberal Party of Denmark). Year 2014 opens the Multiannual Financial Framework, the result of which will be closely linked to the negotiations between the European Parliament and the EU Council for the period 2014-2020.

The definition of the budget for 2014 will depend very much on the correct execution of the budget for 2013: in this regard Anne Jensen expressed concern for the insufficient level of payments in the current year (as well as the delays of payment regarding 2012). The intervention of the Danish MEP is part of the orientation of the political group to which she belongs, the “Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe” (“Alde”).

Anne Jensen said that, although it is unusual to speak about the budget in 2014 while it is still unknown what will happen to the budget of 2013, nor what the outcome of the difficult negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the European Union on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) will be, it is important to set iis guidelines, as also required by the budgetary procedure.

Policies with respect to the 2014 budget, said Jensen, fall into three categories: consolidating the legal basis of common policies to ensure financing the payment appropriations (underfunded because of the budget deficit in 2014 to be launched) in any scenario; ensure that savings are an end in themselves and ensure that growth and employment are promoted.

Anne Jensen stressed that European citizens require European institutions which are active in supporting the efforts to overcome the economic crisis, suggesting therefore that the budget will be aimed primarily at increasing the efficiency of infrastructure, transportation and research, and ensures the presence of a social orientation of European policies, reducing youth unemployment and strengthening education and training.

Aldo Ciummo