Alta: Two North Norwegian counties are to be merged against their primary will. The result may very well be a weakened High North policy. That would be a massive paradox, given the current Norwegian government's intense pursuit of stronger regions.
First a minor clarification.
Finnmark has wanted to continue as a county on its own, and has flatly denied any merger.
Troms has wanted a merged North Norwegian region, but will have to settle for only a partial merger.
Nordland, which also wanted to remain on its own, is the only county that appears to have its primary goal fulfilled.
In addition, the resistance against the suggested merging of Troms and Finnmark is so strong in Finnmark that especially the Labor party has promised a re-match following an eventual victory in the upcoming elections in September.
Silly from Toskedal
The most worrying thing about this is nevertheless that members of the Parliament's Standing Committee on Local Government already are questioning whether a merger of Troms and Finnmark will also involve a change of the national High North strategy. One of the representatives who was quick to praise its suggested solution was Geir Toskedal of the Christian Democratic Party. Toskedal, who is on the Committee, said in a separate press release:
"Troms and Finnmark counties constitute Norway's single most important foreign policy area of interest and has a prominent position in the High North and represents Norway's border towards the Arctic and Russia."
If Toskedal's press release is correctly quoted, he is not only ignoring common comma rules.
He is also ignoring his own government's High North Strategy.
Only two weeks following the government's release of its new High North Strategy he defines a new content for the term when he limits this area of interest to only apply to Troms and Finnmark.
Toskedal is elected from Rogaland on Norway's west coast, however, when he is competent enough to decide how the geographical map of Northern Norway shall look, he should also have some insight into the government's High North Strategy.
One of the characteristics used on the Norwegian High North by shifting governments over the years, is that they are the most populated ones from an international point of view. Almost ten percent of the Norwegian populations lives in the North.
Strife in Labor
Yesterday morning there was a debate about the Region Reform, a debate where neither Finnmark nor Nordland were on the list of speakers. Leader of the Troms County Government Cecilie Myrseth hurriedly shared her minutes on the stand with County Mayor-elect Ragnhild Vassvik of Finnmark.
Without the two Labor politicians agreeing any more on a merger.
A merger of the three northernmost counties could have led to a stronger High North policy.
Yesterday's solution might mean the opposite.
It is hard to envision a High North Strategy that does not include both Nordland and the future merged Troms and Finnmark.
It is, however, sadly very possible to imagine that that may be the outcome if cooperation in the north is not strengthened beyond just adjusting the county borders.