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Posts tagged ‘Nordic Land of Norway’

Norway to Brazil: Curb deforestation or we stop the money

June 23, 2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway’s prime minister warned Brazil’s president on Friday to curb deforestation in the Amazon or Norway will reduce its financial contribution to the project this year. The announcement comes as the Amazon and Atlantic rainforests are being cut down at the fastest rate in nearly a decade, according to official Brazilian figures.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said Norway’s more than $1 billion contribution to the so-called Amazon fund is “based on results,” Norway’s NTB news agency said. Since 2001, Norway has donated billions to encourage the conservation of forests.

“If preliminary figures about deforestation in 2016 are confirmed, it will lead to a reduced payout in 2017,” Solberg said after meeting with Brazilian President Michel Temer in Oslo. Temer praised Norway’s contribution to the fund but declined to take questions from media after he and Solberg had made their statements.

“This contribution has enabled us to make a more effective impact to avoiding deforestation,” Temer said, according to NTB. Temer said Monday he had vetoed legislation to reduce the size of protected environmental reserves. However, the apparent victory for environmental groups most likely will be short-lived, as Brazilian Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho is working on similar legislation.

The legislation passed by Brazil’s Congress last month would have converted around 1.4 million acres (566,000 hectares) of protected land into areas open to logging, mining and agricultural use. However, last week, Filho announced plans to create a new expedited bill that would convert 1.1 million acres of protected land to other uses.

Last year, deforestation in the Amazon jumped 29 percent over the previous year, according to the Brazilian government’s satellite monitoring. That was the highest rate since 2008. Before his meeting with Solberg, Temer was met by protesters holding posters reading “Stop rainforest destruction” and “Respect indigenous peoples’ rights” as he arrived at the prime minister’s office in Oslo.

Purged from Turkish army, NATO officers get asylum in Norway

April 08, 2017

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Norway and Turkey — NATO’s northern and southern frontiers in Europe — have been pillars of the Western military alliance for more than 60 years. But the diplomatic temperature between the two has fallen steadily since Turkey recalled dozens of military officers as suspects in an aborted coup — and Norway became the first nation to grant some of them asylum.

The government in Oslo agreed last month to protect four Turkish officers who had been assigned to NATO and, like colleagues in Germany and Brussels, fear they could be imprisoned as terrorists if they go back to their country. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Norwegian ambassador for an explanation while the officers remain in Stavanger, a city on Norway’s west coast that lies 3,800 kilometers (2,360 miles) from Ankara.

“We see that this is a difficult decision for Norway because of the alliance, and it can cause big problems for NATO, so we appreciate that they have put human rights over political decisions,” one of the officers given asylum said. “Norway still says you are innocent until proven guilty … in Turkey, you have to prove your innocence.”

The men trying to forge new lives in Stavanger are among a cadre of commissioned Turkish officers who were working at NATO facilities around Europe during Turkey’s July 15 thwarted coup. The Turkish government suspects of playing a role in the failed coup, and the men have asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against their families in Turkey.

“Some of my colleagues in other NATO headquarters did return to Turkey. They were detained at the airport in front of their families, their children. It would be very difficult to go back to Turkey now,” one senior officer said. “We have small kids, and we have to save their lives.”

The former officers bristle at being branded “traitors.” Each man was on leave when the plot unfolded and claims he has a firm alibi. With their bank accounts frozen, their successful military careers suddenly cut short and hopes for fair trials in Turkey shattered, they say they had no choice but to seek asylum in Norway, where they filed for protection between August 13 and October 19.

One of the men was fired by telephone. Another received a call ordering him to leave Norway within three days. Two watched in horror as their names appeared on “blacklists” of soldiers commanded back to Turkey.

“When I saw the list and my name in the list, I tried to understand the reason … but there was nothing about this on the paper. There were just one or two or three sentences calling us back,” one said. “It was a terrible period. I knew I would lose my rights, my past, my family, everything.”

The men say they have seen social media videos of other Turkish officers being tortured in jail and have desperately tried to reach military friends back home. They say some have disappeared, while others were forced into giving confessions.

“After the coup, 160 generals and 7,000 military officers have been arrested,” one of the officers said bitterly. “If these persons were involved in this coup, the result must have been different.” The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleges that the coup was carried out by followers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies orchestrating a takeover. More than 150,000 people have been taken into custody, fired or forced to retire from Turkey’s armed forces, judiciary, education system and other public institutions since the coup attempt.

Even Gulenists who did not take part in the coup attempt are considered a serious security threat now and are being purged from Turkey’s military. The four former officers in Norway deny being Gulen supporters and think the government is using the coup as an excuse to crush its critics.

“We are hearing that people’s wives are accused of being plotters and traitors. If one of your relatives has money in a certain bank, or you were using certain social media on the day of the coup, you are accused of being involved,” one said.

Turkey responded angrily to Norway granting the officers asylum, protesting that a NATO ally offered the men “support to abuse the country’s political, social and economic opportunities” instead of ensuring their return to Turkey.

The men’s lawyer, Kjell Brygfjeld, thinks the four cases were fast-tracked through the sometimes clogged Norwegian asylum system. One of the former officers said his asylum petition was approved without his needing to provide documents proving he was in danger.

“Norway can see what is going on,” he said. As political refugees, they face the possibility of never returning to Turkey and uncertain futures in NATO’s northern outpost. Dressed in the casual cold-weather wear of Norwegian civilians during an early spring evening on the Stavanger fjord, the four officers joked that they’ve already embraced a Nordic lifestyle.

And even though the winter nights seem long in Norway, they know that their situations could have been much darker. “It’s impossible for me to disconnect from Turkey,” one of the officers said. “All of my friends — most of the friends are now in jail. And their families suffer because of this. And there is just one voice in Turkey, so no one hears their screams.”

David Keyton contributed to this report in Stavanger.

US to deploy 330 troops in Norway

Oslo (AFP)

Oct 24, 2016

The United States will deploy over 300 troops in Norway, the Norwegian government announced Monday, in a move set to upset neighboring Russia.

The 330 Marines, to be stationed on rotation around 1.000 kilometers (600 miles) from the Russian border, will be engaged in training and maneuvers in almost Arctic conditions, the Norwegian defense ministry said.

The announcement comes against a backdrop of increasing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine and the conflict in Syria, although Norway itself enjoys good relations with its giant neighbor.

The US already has vast amounts of military equipment positioned in NATO ally Norway — notably in tunnels dug into mountains — but no troops.

“This US-initiative is welcome and also fits well within ongoing processes in NATO to increase exercises, training and interoperability within the Alliance,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in the statement.

“The defense of Norway is dependent on allied reinforcements, and it is crucial for Norwegian security that our allies come here to gain knowledge of how to operate in Norway and with Norwegian forces,” she added.

Before joining NATO in 1949, Norway allayed Russian fears by pledging not to open its territory to foreign combat troops so long as Norway was not attacked or threatened with attack.

This pledge was later amended to allow foreign troops to conduct maneuvers in Norway.

The deployment, which will begin in January, is a US initiative which Oslo is presenting as a trial to be evaluated during 2017.

Last week the Russian embassy in Oslo expressed surprise as the idea of stationing US troops in Norway was mooted.

“Taking into account multiple statements made by Norwegian officials about the absence of threat from Russia to Norway, we would like to understand why Norway is so much willing to increase its military potential, in particular through the stationing of American forces in Vaernes,” embassy spokesman Maxime Gourov said in an email sent to AFP on Friday.

Former senior Norwegian army officer Jacob Borresen said the planned deployment “sends negative signals eastwards”.

The big risk, he told broadcaster NRK, is that the move creates a Cold War-style “confrontation zone”.

In July, NATO announced it would deploy, also on a rotational basis, four multinational battalions to Poland and to Baltic states to deter any Russian incursion.

Source: Space Daily.


Lithuania signs missile agreement with Norway

by Geoff Ziezulewicz

Vilnius, Lithuania (UPI)

Oct 24, 2016

Lithuania has signed an agreement worth $108 million with Norway for the procurement of the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS.

The deal, signed last week by the ministries of defense for each country, covers the sale as well as future support Norway would render to Lithuania in developing midrange air defense capabilities, the Lithuanian ministry said in a statement.

This acquisition and others will combine into an air defense system that offers Lithuania aerial surveillance and control, early warning for ground units and the ability to destroy targets if needed.

Two defense batteries will be acquired under the deal.

The midrange NASAMS equipment is scheduled to be delivered to Lithuania by 2020.

NASAMS was co-developed by Norwegian company Kongsberg and Raytheon…

Source: Space Daily.


Norwegian returns home after yearlong captivity Philippines

September 23, 2016

STOCKHOLM (AP) — A Norwegian man who was freed by militants in the Philippines has returned home after a year of jungle captivity. Kjartan Sekkingstad arrived in Oslo on Friday, six days after being released by Abu Sayyaf extremists who had kidnapped him along with two Canadians who were later beheaded and a Filipino woman.

The 57-year-old Norwegian told reporters he had experienced “a year of terror,” with little food, long jungle treks and a constant fear of being killed. He recalled feeling “helpless” seeing his captors take away the first Canadian hostage to be executed “but there was nothing you could do.”

Abu Sayyaf released Sekkingstad last Saturday to a rebel group, which handed him over to Philippine authorities. Sekkingstad was kidnapped from a yacht club he helped manage in September 2015.

Norway’s Tande sets ski jump record, leads team to win

February 22, 2016

KUOPIO, Finland (AP) — Daniel Andre Tande eclipsed the 1998 record for a ski jump on Puijo hill in eastern Finland and spearheaded Norway to only its second World Cup team victory in 11 years on Monday.

Tande landed after 136 meters as the second jumper of four. He maintained the high standard with 132 meters in the second jump. The previous record, 135.5 meters, was set by Japan’s Masahiko Harada in 1998.

Norway amassed 1,057.2 points with the team of Kenneth Gangnes, Tande, Anders Fannemel, and Johann Andre Forfang. Germany was second at 1,002.8 points, and Japan third on 935.4. All eight of Norway’s jumps were high class. Tande’s 136-meter record jump was scored low in style, but the second of 132 meters was rewarded for its style. After his first jump, the starting gates were lowered and the chances of another record were diminished.

Tande scored 276.4, Forfang 267.1, Fannemel 262.7, and Gangnes 251.0. Gangnes was third overall in the ski jumping, Forfang fifth, Tande seventh, and Fannemel 10th. Germany, which won the first two of the season’s team events, was second with Andreas Wank, Richard Freitag, Andreas Wellinger and Severin Freund.

Japan clinched its podium finish when 43-year-old Noriaki Kasai jumped 125 meters on the team’s last attempts to hold off Austria by 3.3 points. Japan’s starting man, Taku Takeuchi, led in the second round with 132.5 meters. He has lived for long spells in Finland, and in Kuopio, and speaks Finnish fluently. Unlike most jumpers, who dislike the Puijo hill for the shape of its takeoff zone, Takeuchi speaks well of it.

“I like this hill very much, and it is my home hill,” he said. The event on Monday was moved on short notice from Lahti, where it was cancelled on Saturday. On Tuesday, Puijo hosts an individual competition, where the favorite will be World Cup leader Peter Prevc of Slovenia. He jumped 133.5 and 129.5 meters, and his 139.5 and 139.4 points were the best among all last jumpers on the nine teams.

Norway accused of unfairly taking away immigrant children

August 26, 2015

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — One August day, Airida Pettersen received the news many immigrant mothers have come to dread: School representatives told the Lithuanian that child welfare officials removed her two children from the classroom and placed them in a foster home.

She pleaded to know why — but she said nobody would give her a straight answer. Pettersen, who moved to Norway in 2008 after marrying a Norwegian, is one of hundreds of immigrant parents whose children were taken away by Norway’s Child Protection Service, or Barnevernet, ostensibly to protect them from mistreatment.

After a series of highly charged custody disputes, the oil-rich Scandinavian country now faces accusations of cultural insensitivity at best and child theft at worst, as increasing numbers of immigrant children are being seized by officials and handed over to Norwegian foster families. Of 6,737 children taken in 2012 — the latest available data — some 1,049 were immigrants or born to immigrant parents. That compares to 744 children of immigrants taken away, of a total of 5,846, in 2009.

The authorities insist they’re acting in the best interests of the children. But their perceived heavy-handedness has stirred diplomatic disputes with several eastern European countries and India. All Western European countries assert the right to place children, both of nationals and foreigners, in foster care when there is evidence of abuse. And complaints of unfair seizures, allegedly for cultural reasons, are known to arise. But Norway is the only country where it has become as major issue — both due to the scale of the phenomenon and the fierce criticism of the government.

A relative managed to spirit Pettersen’s children away from their foster family while they were at school and reunite them with their mother in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius — where they remain today.

Morten Moerkved, head of the agency in the small town of Malvik where the Pettersens lived, said he could not comment on any specific case but insisted that the sudden removal of children happens only in “acute” circumstances, including cases of abuse or “serious deficiencies” in the daily care of a child, citing persistent drunkenness or drug use by the parents or evidence of malnourishment.

Official guidelines also make a point of ensuring that the special needs of a sick or handicapped child are adequately met and that parents have to be able to take sufficient responsibility so that a child’s health or development is in no way “seriously injured.”

Pettersen believes officials took her children partly because of her 10-year-old daughter’s clothes, which she alleges authorities found too provocative for a pre-teen. “I dress my daughter in a pretty dress and make her comb her hair,” she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Lithuania. “They look at me like I’m from a Third World country. In my country if you don’t take care of yourself you don’t get a husband.”

The child welfare agency insists children would never be removed from their families unless they were considered to be in danger, but Moerkved said that if children were attending class badly dressed or in smelly clothes it would be a factor in considering a child’s welfare.

“There are some culture differences between families coming to Norway,” said Solveig Horne, Norwegian Minister for Children and Families. “All children who come to Norway have the same rights as Norwegian children … If they are neglected or abused or if there is violence in the family the (child protection) agency should protect the children first of all.”

Statistics show that children born abroad are more than three times as likely to be removed from their homes as native Norwegians, with nearly 3 percent of foreign-born children in foster care. In May, hundreds of people marched in the capital Oslo to protest alleged human rights abuses by child welfare officials. The demonstration was organized by Norwegian human rights campaigner Marius Reikeras, who has denounced his country’s child protection agency in television interviews in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Turkey.

Reikeras accuses the agency of depriving children and their biological parents of “their fundamental human rights.” “The aim should be to reunite children with their families as soon as possible,” he said. “But Barnevernet too often does the opposite and seeks to break biological bonds.”

Brushes with the authorities have led to several cases of foreign nationals escaping across borders with their children. Norwegian authorities estimate that almost 500 children have been illegally removed from the country in the last 10 years, usually by their parents.

In January, 7-year-old Gabrielius Bumbulus, a Lithuanian, was returned to his foster family after being caught fleeing through Sweden with his uncle. Three months later, a Turkish mother says she narrowly avoided having her small children removed from home after a tipoff. Instead of showing up at a meeting with officials, Sedef Mustafaoglu made a dash through Denmark to Germany with her two youngest children, aged 6 and 8, and boarded a plane to Turkey.

Speaking by phone from the Turkish capital, Mustafaoglu said an earlier visit from the agency, when her daughters were toddlers, left her terrified. “They came into my home and filmed how I woke up and how I woke my children, how I fed my children, how I gave them a shower and how I played with them,” she said. “Having a child in Norway is like being in a scary movie.”

Her husband, Feridun Mustafaoglu, who stayed behind in Stavanger, Norway’s rich oil center on the west coast, said their problems started in 2011 when their son started having severe epileptic fits, which he believes officials mistook for signs that the parents weren’t caring for the child.

Gunnar Toresen, head of the Child Protection Service in Stavanger, insists there was no plan to remove Mustafaoglu’s children but declined to discuss the case, citing confidentiality rules. He did recognize the fear many foreign families feel in dealing with officials: “Very many people come from other cultures with no government intervening in their domestic affairs. Then they come to Norway and the government intervenes in the family and they have no experience with this,” he said. “So I understand that this is a very emotional situation.”

In 2012, Toresen was briefly involved in a diplomatic spat between Norway and India when two Indian children were removed from their parents. After diplomatic and media pressure from India, they were returned to their uncle in India.

“The media said the reason for our intervention was that the parents were hand-feeding their children, and the child was in the bed with the parents, which of course had nothing to do with why they were taken away,” Toresen said.

He acknowledged that there had been a reference in an earlier case file about hand feeding and sleeping arrangements. However, he stressed the case revolved around much more and complicated family circumstances, thought he provided no details, in line with the privacy policies.

The child welfare service aims to provide in-home help for struggling parents before removing a child. But in the three years to 2013, the proportion of in-home measures decreased while the number of foster cases grew.

Campaigners and lawyers for parents say the decisions too often are rooted in cultural misunderstandings. “I have a lot of foreign cases. Often the lunchbox … is not good enough for school or there is problem with schoolwork,” said Ieva Rise, an Oslo lawyer representing several Latvian families in disputes with officials. “In Latvia and Russia, children help more in the home when they are quite small. This can be a problem as well.”

Gro Hillestad Thune, a human rights lawyer, says Norway’s strict attitudes against slapping — acceptable in some other countries — can also be a reason taking away children. “This zero tolerance (to violence) is a basic problem. Parents should be given a chance to learn through dialogue, not through having their children removed,” Thune said. “But the child protection officials take the children instantly … in too many cases.”

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