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Posts tagged ‘Nordic Land of Norway’

F-35s for Turkey on hold as U.S. approves sales for Australia, Norway

By Allen Cone

APRIL 2, 2019

April 2 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin was awarded a $151.3 million contract to sell 15 F-35 Lightning II aircraft to Australia and six to Norway.

The contract for the 21 planes comes in the wake of the United States halting delivery of equipment related to the F-35 jet to Turkey because of the nation’s decision to purchase the Russian-made S-400 missile system. As a NATO partner in the development of the fighter jet, Turkey makes parts of the fuselage, landing gear and cockpit displays and was expecting the first of the $90 million jets to arrive in November.

The sale to Australia and Norway, which was a modification to a previously awarded advance acquisition, was announced Monday by the Defense Department.

Work is expected to be completed in December 2022 in U.S. and foreign plants. Thirty-percent will be performed in the company’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas; 25 percent in El Segundo, Calif.; 20 percent in Warton, United Kingdom; 10 percent in Orlando, Fla.; and 5 percent each on Nashua, N.H.; Nagoya, Japan, and Baltimore, Maryland.

Australia will pay $108.2 million and Norway $43.1 million under a cooperative agreement. The international partner funds in the full amount will be obligated at time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

Australia received its first F-35s last December, and Norway received them in November 2017.

Australia and Norway are among six NATO countries that have received the planes, including the United States, Britain, Italy and the Netherlands. Two other nations that also participated in the aircraft’s development — Canada, Denmark and Turkey — are scheduled to receive the F-35.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2019/04/02/F-35s-for-Turkey-on-hold-as-US-approves-sales-for-Australia-Norway/3891554217447/.

Beluga whale with Russian harness raises alarm in Norway

April 29, 2019

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A beluga whale found with a tight harness that appeared to be Russian made has raised the alarm of Norwegian officials and prompted speculation that the animal may have come from a Russian military facility.

Joergen Ree Wiig of the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries says “Equipment St. Petersburg” is written on the harness strap, which features a mount for an action camera. He said Monday fishermen in Arctic Norway last week reported the tame white cetacean with a tight harness swimming around. On Friday, fisherman Joar Hesten, aided by the Ree Wiig, jumped into the frigid water to remove the harness.

Ree Wiig said “people in Norway’s military have shown great interest” in the harness. Audun Rikardsen, a professor at the Department of Arctic and Marine Biology at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsoe, northern Norway, believes “it is most likely that Russian Navy in Murmansk” is involved. Russia has major military facilities in and around Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula, in the far northwest of Russia.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the mammal was being trained for, or whether it was supposed to be part of any Russian military activity in the region. Rikardsen said he had checked with scholars in Russia and Norway and said they have not reported any program or experiments using beluga whales.

“This is a tame animal that is used to get food served so that is why it has made contacts with the fishermen,” he said. “The question is now whether it can survive by finding food by itself. We have seen cases where other whales that have been in Russian captivity doing fine.”

Hesten told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the whale began to rub itself again his boat when he first spotted it. Russia does not have a history of using whales for military purposes but the Soviet Union had a full-fledged training program for dolphins.

The Soviet Union used a base in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula during the Cold War to train the mammals for military purposes such as searching for mines or other objects and planting explosives. The facility in Crimea was closed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, though unnamed reports shortly after the Russian annexation of Crimea indicated that it had reopened.

The Russian Defense Ministry published a public tender in 2016 to purchase five dolphins for a training program. The tender did not explain what tasks the dolphins were supposed to perform, but indicated they were supposed to have good teeth. It was taken offline shortly after publication.

Lessons for Brexit from Norway’s hard border with Sweden

February 10, 2019

ORJE, Norway (AP) — With fresh snow crunching under their boots and a handful of papers to be checked and stamped, truck drivers from Latvia, Sweden and Poland make their way across Norway’s Orje customs station to a small office where their goods will be cleared out of the European Union and into Norway.

While many border posts in Europe have vanished, Norway’s hard border with the European Union is clearly visible, with cameras, license-plate recognition systems and barriers directing traffic to customs officers.

Norway’s membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) grants it access to the EU’s vast common market and most goods are exempt from paying duties. Still, everything entering the country must be declared and cleared through customs.

Technological solutions being tested in Norway to digitalize customs procedures for cargo have been seized on by some in Britain as a way to overcome border-related problems that threaten to scuttle a divorce deal with the EU. But the realities of this northern border also show the difficulties that persist.

A divorce deal between Britain and the EU has stumbled over how to guarantee an open border between the United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland after Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.

The Irish border area was a flashpoint during decades of conflict in Northern Ireland that cost 3,700 lives. The free flow of people and goods across the near-invisible Irish border now underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process.

The EU’s proposed solution is for Britain to remain in a customs union with the bloc, eliminating the need for checks until another solution is found. But pro-Brexit British politicians say that would stop the U.K. from forging new trade deals around the world.

Technology may or may not be the answer, depending on who you talk to. “Everyone agrees that we have to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland, and … technology will play a big part in doing so,” said Northern Ireland Minister John Penrose.

But EU deputy Brexit negotiator Sabine Weyand said on Twitter: “Can technology solve the Irish border problem? Short answer: not in the next few years.” The Customs office at Orje, on the road connecting the capitals of Oslo and Stockholm, has been testing a new digital clearance system to speed goods through customs by enabling exporters to submit information online up to two hours before a truck reaches the border.

At her desk in Orje, Chief Customs officer Nina Bullock was handling traditional paper border clearance forms when her computer informed her of an incoming truck that used the Express Clearance system.

“We know the truck number, we know the driver, we know what kinds of goods, we know everything,” she told The Associated Press. “It will pass by the two cameras and go on. It’s doesn’t need to come into the office.”

That allows Customs officers to conduct risk assessments before the vehicle even reaches the border. So far, only 10 Swedish companies are in the pilot project, representing just a handful of the 400-450 trucks that cross at this border post each day. But if it’s successful, the plan will be expanded.

In the six months since the trial began, Customs section chief Hakon Krogh says some problems have brought the system to a standstill, from snow blocking the camera, to Wi-Fi issues preventing the border barrier from lifting, to truck drivers who misunderstand which customs lane to use.

“It’s a pilot program, so it takes time to make things work smoothly before it can be expanded,” said Krogh, who still felt the program could have a long-term benefit. The program also limits flexibility for exporters. If a driver calls in sick and is replaced by another, or extra cargo is added to a shipment, then all the paperwork must be resubmitted online.

Yet a greater barrier to digitalizing the border is the complexity of international trade. The Svinesund customs office, 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of Orje, is Norway’s major road border, with 1,300 trucks each day carrying goods into the country from all over Europe. Customs section chief Kristen Hoiberget has been following the Orje pilot program with interest but warns of systematic challenges to its expansion.

“It’s very easy to deal with a digital system when the goods are uniform,” said Hoiberget. “If you have one kind of goods in a lorry, it’s less complicated. But if you have a lorry that picks up goods at ten different places abroad, the complexity arises rapidly.”

He said most of the export information needed is available digitally but Customs, clearance houses and exporters all use different computer systems. “There are a lot of prerequisites to a digital border,” he said. “A frictionless border would need development and lots of legislation.”

Back in Orje, vehicles entering Norway are randomly checked, with officers mainly looking for alcohol and cigarettes, which are cheaper in Sweden. Border changes are coming, but certainly not in the tight two-month timeframe that any Brexit border changes would need.

“If you look 15 years ahead, I guess this office won’t be here. I won’t be sitting here stamping papers,” said Bullock. “But customs officers will still be on duty, to prevent goods coming into Norway that are not supposed to.”

As an AP journalist waited in the snow to watch a truck at Orje use the Express Clearance lane, a truck driver made his way across a large parking lot to the customs office. “You must be doing a Brexit story,” he joked. “They’ll be in the same boat soon.”

Lawless contributed from London.

Norway demands Israel explain seizure of boat bound for Gaza

July 31, 2018

Norway has asked Israel to explain the legal grounds for detaining a Norwegian-flagged fishing boat seized while activists tried to sail with aid to the Gaza Strip, Norway’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry said its diplomats in Israel had been providing consular assistance to five Norwegians who were among the 22 passengers and crew detained onboard the vessel Kaarstein on Sunday. Two Israelis on board were quickly released.

“We have asked the Israeli authorities to clarify the circumstances around the seizure of the vessel and the legal basis for the intervention,” the spokesman for the Norwegian foreign affairs ministry in Oslo said. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Torstein Dahle, head of the group Ship to Gaza Norway which organised the shipment, said it was the first Norwegian aid vessel to attempt to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The captain had been struck on the head by Israeli soldiers who ordered him to sail for Israel, but no one was seriously hurt, Dahle said.

“This is a peaceful boat; it’s impossible that it can threaten Israel’s security,” he said.

The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which has fought three wars against Israel in the decade since taking power there.

Israel, citing security concerns that include fears of Hamas weapons smuggling, maintains a naval blockade of Gaza, and along with Egypt also restricts imports by land.

The territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly the stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel at its founding in 1948. Under the blockade, Gaza has suffered an economic crisis creating what the World Bank describes as a “collapse in humanitarian conditions” including access to clean water, medicine and electricity.

Numerous activist ships have been prevented from reaching Gaza in recent years. An Israeli raid on a Turkish flotilla in 2010, in which ten activists were killed, caused a serious rupture in relations between Israel and Turkey, one of Israel’s few friends in the Middle East.

Audun Lysbakken, leader of Norway’s opposition Socialist Left party, called on the foreign ministry to protest against what he described as Israel “hijacking” the Norwegian boat in international waters.

Among those detained is Mikkel Gruner, a Danish citizen who lives in Norway and is the Socialist Left representative in the municipal council of the Norwegian city of Bergen. Lysbakken said the activists had legal rights to protest against Israel’s blockade, demanding the release of Gruner and the others.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180731-norway-demands-israel-explain-seizure-of-boat-bound-for-gaza/.

Norway’s king hospitalized with infection

November 19, 2017

HELSINKI (AP) — Norway’s royal palace says King Harald has been hospitalized with an infection and remains in satisfactory condition with improving health. The royal palace said in a short statement Sunday that the 80-year-old monarch is being treated at an Oslo hospital where he was taken Friday but didn’t disclose further details.

In January 2016, Norway celebrated Harald’s 25th anniversary as monarch of the Scandinavian country. Harald became king when his father Olav died on Jan. 17, 1991. The Norwegian king has a ceremonial role and isn’t part of the government.

Harald celebrated his 80th birthday in February.

Right holds onto power narrowly in Norway

September 12, 2017

STOCKHOLM (AP) — The center-right grouping that has governed Norway the past four years retained a narrow hold on power in national elections, according to near-complete results early Tuesday. With 95 percent of the votes counted, Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s Conservatives, coalition partner the Progress Party and two support parties, the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, looked likely to win a total of 89 seats in the 169-seat parliament, the Storting.

The election was a bitter disappointment for the leftist Labor Party. It remains the largest single party in parliament with 49 seats, but other likely coalition partners or support parties didn’t add enough to put the left in power.

There was no immediate announcement about forming a new government, but the four-party center-right alliance appeared almost certain to continue. “We delivered on what we promised,” Solberg said at party headquarters. “It seems that there will be a clear non-socialist majority in this election.”

Labor leader Jonas Gahr Store was chastened. “As it seems now, it just did not happen,” he said, according to the Norwegian news agency NTB. Although the center-right grouping had steered Norway through crises over a sharp influx of migrants and the decline in global prices for the oil and gas that are the backbone of the country’s prosperity and comfort, some analysts were surprised that Labor lost significant ground. Its 49 seats were a loss of six from what it held in the previous parliament.

“Labor had a sensationally bad election. It is quite unusual for an opposition party to go back this way,” NTB quoted political analyst Svein Erik Tuastad as saying. The election was a contest over national values, including how welcoming the wealthy country should be to migrants and asylum-seekers and how close it should be to the European Union.

Many Norwegians see the Britain as a model for severing ties to the 28-nation EU. Although not a member, Norway has access to the EU’s single market of a half billion people, accepts the free movement of EU workers, enacts reams of EU laws and pays a membership fee to do that.

The rural Center Party, which was the election’s single biggest winner with a gain of 10 seats, has called for a public inquiry into the country’s relationship with the EU. But both Labor and the Conservatives are committed to the current arrangement. They also have ruled out ending oil and gas exploration — a demand of the Greens who remained static with a single seat.

Associated Press writer Jim Heintz reported this story from Moscow and AP writer David Keyton reported in Stockholm.

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.

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