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Norway’s new Government drops Lofoten oil

Norway's new Conservative government will not open the waters outside Lofoten for petroleum activities.

Conservative leader Erna Solberg forms a minority government with the Progress party with parliament backing from the Liberals and Christian Democrats based on an agreement not to open for controversial Arctic oil drilling.

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Erna Solberg, leader of the Conservative party and to-become Prime Minister did not manage to form a center-right majority government consisting of four parties after the landslide parliamentary election victory in September. The two parties forming the new government have, however, full support in form a written agreement with the Liberal party and the Christian Democrats.

“The agreement is the most comprehensive and binding agreement any government has had with other parties. It ensures that the new government will be dynamic and provide predictability and stability, and ensuring the Christian Democrats and the Liberal party influence,” Erna Solberg told reporters at the four-parties’ press conference in the parliament Monday evening.

The agreement, valid for the next four years, lists several tens of political topics the parties agree on and which will form the basis of the support to the new government.

Among the topics is halting oil drilling in the most controversial parts of Norway’s Arctic waters.

The new government will not go on with any planning or drilling in the waters outside Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja, and will not open for drilling in the areas around Jan Mayen or close to the ice-edge in the High Arctic. 

The Arctic waters already opened for oil and gas planning and development in the southwestern and southeastern part of the Barents Sea will remain open for petroleum activity. Several discoveries of both oil and gas have been announced in these areas over the last two years. 

General Director of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, Gro Brækken, says the decision to stop any new impact assessment studies for oil and gas development in the northeastern Norwegian Sea is a democratic problem.

She sent out a press-release pointing to the fact that three out of four deputies in the new parliament is elected on a program that says yes to study the impact of oil activity in the waters outside Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja.

“It is a democratic problem that a clear majority in the parliament that supports such an impact assessment study again is overrun by a small minority. The representatives from the Christian Democratic and the Liberals, both parties without a single parliament member from Northern Norway, has got too big influence on this issue which has great importance for business development in this region,” says General Director Gro Brækken.

Environmental groups are praising the decision to stop further planning for controversial oil drilling. 

“This is really fantastic news, and it is just to praise and honor the Liberals and Christian Democrats for managing to receive approval for this,” says head of Nature and Youth Silje Lundberg in a press-release

Also the local public pressure group for oil free Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja hails the new government’s agreement. “This is a victory for the fishermen, the environment, climate and the regions that now can continue to develop sustainable and future-oriented businesses,” says Bjørn Kjensli, Head of the public pressure group in a press-release.

Norway’s new Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, is expected to announce the members of her new two parties minority government on October 15. The new government takes over after Jens Stoltenberg’s three-party majority government that has been in office the last eight years.