- A will to political priorities versus a market-driven development. Therein lies the main difference between Labor’s desires for the High North versus the government’s High North Strategy.
Eirik Sivertsen (Labor) is clear: - Labor’s will and ability to make use of political priorities as a tool for reaching our goals in the High North is a defining difference between us and the government’s High North Strategy.
Taking strategic measures
- We want to take grips and point out which industries we consider it strategically wise and important to develop, whereas the government says it wants to facilitate business development and let the market drive developments. We think these decisions are too important to be left to the market alone.
That applies both domestically and internationally, Sivertsen says in an interview with High North News.
- When the government wants to let the market drive development and only ‘facilitate’ this, as they say, then that is a botched policy. You have to want something. Take for instance the Fram Centre in Tromsø.
A world-class research community related to research on Arctic issues has been created in just a few years, not because of a market, but because of a political decision.
Norway’s significant export of knowledge in the petroleum sector is another result of political decisions. Pure market-based thinking would have made us an exporter of oil and gas.
What happened was that conditions about learning and transfer of knowledge were introduced, so that we could create a Norwegian industry related to the oil and gas activities. Political decisions have resulted in Norway’s being in the lead of the offshore industry on a global scale, Sivertsen argues.
High North in a separate party program chapter
The political program that the Labor Party Congress recently adopted, the High North has its own chapter.
- We do not distinguish between domestic and foreign policy, unlike the government’s new strategy. It is important for Labor and for the region to be clear about the High North Strategy being a national strategy, not a regional one. We made it the most important strategy of our foreign policy.
“The lesson about the ocean”
- So why does the High North get its own chapter in the Labor Party Program, whereas the remainder of the program is ‘national’?
- Exactly because it still is a core commitment for the nation. Then we’re back to the lesson about the ocean; the ocean is in the north, and that’s where the opportunities lie. The ocean is one of the pillars of our program as well as of the future of the nation.
We have six times as large ocean as land areas, and 80 percent of the ocean areas we have lie north of the Arctic Circle, Sivertsen clarifies.
Building industry in the North
Balance is vital for the developing of the northern regions, as for the rest of the country. Norway has also expressed that we can or shall be “the green battery of Europe”.
The Labor Program argues for an “industrial exploitation of the water energy resources available in Norway, as this allows for higher value creation and employment than export alone”.
Always a balancing act
- This is an expression of a tension, or disharmony, between goals about industrial development and environment protection?
- Well, this is all a balancing act, between participating in an energy market and also preserving what is a competitive advantage for Norwegian industry. The advantage of having an everlasting and no-emission resource, like hydropower, must be managed wisely.
- But what kind of industrial development do you envision for Northern Norway?
Hydropower and wind power
- First and foremost based on energy, hydropower and wind power. That is an input factor, however, it is also an industry in and of itself; a technologically advanced industry. Due to hydropower we have also established a competitive advantage in the processing industry.
This competence exists in many places, especially in Nordland. You find companies there that compete and leave their mark on a global scale.
Then there is the ocean, fish. Fish is important because we have managed it well through the years. There is aquaculture, like fish farming, and we see new industries and species developing – often further down in the ecologic food chain.
Tension in minerals
Many have warranted a stronger emphasis on mineral industries in recent years, also in Northern Norway. It is hard to envision a green change without this industry.
- The green change as it is today is totally dependent on technology that includes computer processors and everything that follows digitalization and nanotechnology – it is all mineral based.
And Eirik Sivertsen is very clear; we cannot just sit down and leave exploitation of minerals to Africa or China or anywhere but here. At the same time, one needs to recognize the fact that the mineral industry – or mining in general – leaves a heavy load on the local environment through noise, dust and emissions.
No blank proxy
- It is also problematic as it may conflict with other industrial interests, such as e.g. reindeer herding, farming and tourism. Dilemmas will occur, and we cannot have a system in which the mineral industry gets a blank proxy, whatever the costs involved.
That is not a policy option, Sivertsen says, and once again stresses the issue of balance and that conflicts like these require clarifications.
Planning time must be reduced
- However, it is obvious that we can do something about the extent of the planning processes. Clarifying plans in relation to vital interests of the society – there must be space for doing things faster, also when it comes to clarifications for mining activities, Eirik Sivertsen argues.
- The way in which the authorities use the management regime in this sector is not very industry-friendly. We have to be able to do this better, and there is room for what within the existing legal framework.
Area conflicts live on
Sivertsen is, however, also clear that we will have to live with area conflicts, also for other industries than the mineral industry. This applies in particular to the fish farming industry, where new fish farms many places face opposition.
- Yes, and Labor has recognized that the Ocean Farming Fund, which was created following an agreement in the Parliament, does not work according to intentions. We must start looking at how the local municipalities can have larger local ripple effects and positive effects from their making areas available for economic activities.
Labor has always meant, and will always mean, a unified policy, Sivertsen says, acknowledging that it may not always appear very ‘sexy’.
- There is, however, no quick-fix. It is not a given that one particular regard shall precede all others. The Labor slogan ‘Include everyone’ expresses a clear value demonstrating how we think.
Work for everyone is about the individual, that each person shall be allowed the opportunity to take care of himself or herself, of his or her own dignity. However, it is also about the creating of values. Work for everyone in Northern Norway is also about taking care of and making the most of the opportunities we have for building society.
A society with minor differences
A core value of the Norwegian society is our having relatively minor class differences. This is best maintained through our building societies, local communities, together – and on closing the gaps where they grow too big.
What, then, separates our policies from that of the current government? The main distinguishing feature is our ability and will to make use of political tools. While the government wants to facilitate for business, without saying which business or industries, we have a clear understanding of what would be strategically correct – particularly in the north, Eirik Sivertsen says. Sivertsen is listed at the very top of the list of Nordland County Labor Party nominees for this year’s parliamentary elections.