Monday, November 12, 2012

Norway is learning and acting

This inspiring interview conducted by dr. Monika Žagar, professor of Scandinavian studies at The University Of Minnesota Twin Cities, with Timothy Szlachetko, an expert on welfare state, and a diversity and integration specialist, invites us to see beyond the ordinary. Invites us to think. To care. To challenge. To act. Within our private worlds, our communities, in public life. We simply need to start asking questions and insist on receiving answers over and over again. Until those that we trusted our vote to, respond with clear, thrivable and ethical answers. Some communities have done it, and they are doing well. They are getting out of the comfort zone. And that means re-adjusting, evolving, and co-creating. In public administration as well. I hope Tim’s story encourages more of us to make the next step. Thank you Monika for sharing it with us. 

Monika Zagar (MZ): I have many questions about Scandinavia in general, but perhaps mainly about Norway as a case study for what can be done for a relatively peaceful integration of global immigrants, including their specifics, while retaining Norway’s identity. Diversity, unavoidable in these times, enriches us but it also presents challenges, small and large.

Timothy Szlachetko (TS): Definitely, and I am here speaking on the basis of my personal and professional experience. I am not speaking on the background of my position in the Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity. We are what is called here a center of knowledge and competency on integration and diversity issues. We provide independent advice to the Government. We also provide substantial grants in the order of 6 billion plus Nkr, roughly a billion US $ to municipalities, NGOs, etc., in their integration work. We are a Government institution, we receive our mandate from the Government, which is always politically determined, yet our advice has to be independent and based on the latest research and factual information available. I am a senior advisor and project manager, and have worked in a number of capacities, from negotiating with various Norwegian government ministries, to being an advisor to the director general, more recent assignments are related to strategic policy development. 

Photo: Monika Žagar, personal archive
MZ: Your position is very important, and visible, as you give professional advice on sometimes delicate issues. Would you say that you are, as a Polish Australian, better suited for this position than somebody who is home-grown so to say?

TS: I’m not sure about that. But I know that one of the reasons why I was hired was my background. That is not to say that Direktoratet actively promotes people of immigrant background, but they are very aware that it is important that Directorate represents the diversity that exists in the community. It is true that the Director General who hired me and was very conscious of the issues, wanted somebody with an immigrant background. So this white upper-middle class Norwegian man wanted somebody who could say, “your reading with your Norwegian eyes goes this way, but it can also be interpreted this way.”  We actually have about 30% of our workforce with immigrant background, and a large percentage of management also comes from non-Norwegian background, and that is practically unheard of in comparable government offices elsewhere. Other departments don’t even come close to our numbers. Yet this reflects diversity in the country. This has not occurred by accident, the Direktoratet in 2006 decided that they would try to hire in the most neutral way possible. The way people are normally hired in other government institutions is standard white Norwegian background, but here the focus was away from that and more on hiring qualified people from all parts of the community. Our Director believes that diversity is our strength; that precisely because of the immigrant experiences our staff has, these employees sometimes facilitate contacts with organizations internationally and also domestically. I do actually believe that in some situations someone like me has added-value experiences that a standard educated Norwegian might not have.
TIM’s background: I grew up in Melbourne, and my parents are from Poland, Polish Australians. My mother came in the early seventies as a refugee, and my father in the mid-seventies. They came at the time when Australia became officially multi-cultural; only the second country in the world to do so (Canada implemented multi-cultural policy in 1971, Australia in 1973). In the sixties, Australia still had elements of what I would call the white Australian policy where immigration was controlled in such a way as to preference white Europeans. When my parents came to Australia, radical changes were happening in a short period of time. I am a child of immigrants, but also a child of immigrants who arrived at the time of multicultural diversity, so I am in a way a product of a very ideological time. And indigenous Australians were given full citizenship. Multiculturism in Australia is now more pragmatic, Australia is very diverse, it is a fact and you have to live with it, but at the time multiculturism was a radical decision by the Government and the Parliament, which changed the course of where Australia was going. I felt it in my schooling, and elsewhere as I was growing up.
MZ: Where did you study?
TS: I studied at the University of Melbourne where I finished my undergraduate education, my focus was political science and criminology, but I studied everything from domestic politics, international relations, gender politics, and European politics. In my honors work I focused more on European Union issues, and finally during my graduate work I looked at welfare state issues and that brought me to Scandinavia. In 1998 I had a one-year research position at University of Aarhus in Denmark, which is a very good research institution, with a great department of political science. I really benefited from the environment there, and I could observe that you can have a modern developed capitalist economy but somehow also promote equality. I was attracted ideologically to the social democratic model, and when I did my work there I was astounded how open society was, how easy it was to get access to influential people.
When I returned to Australia, I first worked part time in the government’s Department of Education. When elections were approaching, I was in the state of Victoria, which has a population of 6 million people. Then the newly-elected Labor government ordered a major review of education and training policies. I became part of the Commission on Education precisely because of my research in Denmark, and the Danish experience was put into policies. Suddenly I was working with the minister and her staff. I arranged a state visit for her to visit Denmark and Sweden. She met many of my contacts, she met some additional professionals, we finished a fairly radical report for the time with many recommendations, and then I worked on implementation of that report.

Photo: Timothy Szlachetko, personal archive
MZ: You settled in Norway for personal reasons. What was your first job in Norway?
TS:
I applied for a teaching job, with English as the language of instruction, on the Scandinavian welfare state at International Summer School at the University of Oslo. I got the job, and three weeks later I moved to Norway permanently, on a specialist work visa, and that is how my life in Norway began. At the time I spoke no Norwegian, I spoke a bit of Danish, I understood quite a lot of Danish.

MZ: Your Norwegian language skills are near-native fluency. How important is it for incoming immigrants to learn the language as quickly as possible and as well as possible? To use language in a nuanced way is important, and as some would say language is power. Or is it?
TS:
First, being a product of multiculturism of the time, as I explained earlier, I think, well, that language is not the most important thing. But my experience in Norway was different, although I was working in an English-language environment. I felt I was not part of the society. Being a person who is interested in culture, politics, and so forth, I wanted to understand the news, what people where talking about, be part of the conversation. I then made the effort to learn the language in a short time. Now, I have to say that it is probably fundamental in Scandinavia to learn the language--there is a greater emphasis here on learning the local language than in Great Britain or the US.  So Norway is different that way. I would argue that there is a closer bond—although this is unsubstantiated—a stronger bond between government, the people, and the social organizations, and language is part of that bond. And a group is more important in Scandinavia than an individual the way he or she is important in the US or Australia.

MZ: What does the Norwegian state offers to the newcomers in terms of language instruction?
TS:
It depends on what the reason for your residency is. If you are a refugee, up to 600 hours of free Norwegian language education. If you are a labor migrant worker from the EU you have no access to that. The specialist work visa comes with no free language education either but I got the courses for free through the university where I worked. I believe that it is important that you speak Norwegian as best as you can, both for yourself and other people. Still, I think maybe there needs to be an awareness in the majority population that for many people learning languages is difficult. And that some will never speak Norwegian perfectly or even very well. I’ve noticed that there has been a change at least here in Oslo, a willingness to understand others. It used to be that Norwegians got annoyed when foreigners spoke Norwegian, or they switched to English, but now they do not react, but listen for content. Finally, even if it is expected here to know Norwegian, I would turn things around and point out that all those languages add to the richness of Norway.

MZ: Could you briefly explain how Oslo is changing? In my lifetime, it has morphed from a very provincial town to a dynamic, much more beautiful and culturally rich city.
TS:
Oslo is a city in rapid development. And in space of ten years the population has increased dramatically both as a result of people moving from other parts of Norway and as a result of immigration. It is an extremely wealthy city: if Norway were a regular part of EU, Oslo would be the third wealthiest city in EU.  The wealth created in Norway is often created in Oslo where there are so many opportunities. Construction is booming, there is a shortage of housing, and we’re building cultural institutions, yea! Dynamic. In terms of demographics: in 10 years the percentage of population with immigrant background has increased by roughly 10 % points, which is dramatic. We’re now at 30 % of Oslo inhabitants of immigrant background, and maybe in 2040 will be around 50%, maybe higher. So yes Oslo is today a different city. Part of the story of Norwegian immigration is that it is very diverse: people come from different world regions, they come for many reasons, and it is both a terrific opportunity for Norway and quite a challenge for policy makers, because we need to have a range of measures in place in order to meet the needs of such diverse people. I would add that my institution, the IMDi, was established on 1 January 2006 to act as a competence center and a driving force for integration and diversity.

MZ: What are some of the policies for the benefit of the new groups, and policies that also dissolve some of the tensions that invariably arise among the incoming groups, and between ethnic Norwegians and the new immigrants? Of course there are many success stories of, for instance, Norwegians of Pakistani origins, who are today doctors, lawyers, and engineers, yet what prevails in the media is either crime stories, or stories about poor illiterate immigrants who come to exploit the welfare state.

Photo: Norway
Source: internet, photography with free access

TS: First about the media: we did a report here at Direktoratet and without a doubt, it showed that the media was dominated by immigration and integration stories, and that often some groups are more in focus than others. To put it crudely: people with Muslim background are more written about than others. At other times, for instance, the focus is on Groruddalen district, the Eastern suburbs with a heavy immigrant population, and poorer.

Policies: refugees benefit from the most intensive integration, they receive an introductory program for two to three years upon their arrival to Norway, which provides income support, language training, maybe vocational training, yet the most important range of policies are not even tailored to immigrants, they are part of the welfare state. Everybody who has a residency has access to the Norwegian welfare system – a system of an incredible support, healthcare, income support, child welfare support, housing support. It reduces the inequality. It reduces economic inequality, for instance, because immigrants are in general poorer. Such policies mean that people are provided with opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.

MZ: Let me be the devil’s advocate, and ask you to address critiques of these equality policies: first, that all these measures are expensive, and second, that immigration is happening too quickly. So how do you address the concerns of Norwegians who would like to slow down the process of immigration growth? When Breivik happened you could hear comments that he is one of those who would prefer a slower demographics change, and in addition, that when the slow immigration proponents voice their opinion, they are immediately labeled as right-wingers.
TS: Well, it is a difficult one, because Norway is a de facto member of EU, it is a member of the Schengen agreement–which means freedom of movement—so there is not much to be done about the labor migration from the Schengen countries, which amounts to about 50%. In addition, it is not even desirable – immigrants are contributing actively to economic growth. You could do something with granting the refugee status, where a lot has been done already, e.g. the policy is now tougher and more restrictive under the current center-left government. You could tighten a few measures that can further restrict the refugee status without actually compromising Norway’s international commitments which are legally binding.

MZ: And the cost? Just yesterday there was an article about the immigration being a huge money drain.
TS:
Yes, the cost-benefit analysis…I do have issues with the research that is mentioned in the article. It is a macro-economic analysis without taking in consideration other broader factors. In fact, its starting point may be wrong. It says at one point that all citizens are a cost: when you give birth it’s a cost, when you die, it’s a cost, and so on! To be serious: there are things that can be done. For instance: some argue that people should not have full access to the welfare state so quickly; others argue that we should pressure people to go to work more quickly; maybe some benefits should be reduced, and all this is a political debate which is occurring right now. I am from an ideological standpoint opposed although I see maybe some advantages in reducing some benefits that are deemed too generous and which don’t give incentives to people to actively look for work. Yet these reductions should be done carefully. For instance, if you reduce child support, then you are asking that a parent stays at home, and subsequently does not work. And so forth. We know that if you have an immigrant background, you have about a 25% reduced chance of getting the job. We know that many immigrants tend to be overqualified for the jobs they are in. This all needs to be addressed.

MZ: I talked to two adoptees from South Korea who are, of course, Norwegian citizens with all that entails. When they respond to a job ad, or call about the job, everything is fine. When they show up, and don’t look ethnically Scandinavian, there is always an initial shock. What about the immigrants?
TS: We know that a lot needs to be done in the workplace. Many employers say it right out that they are skeptical of hiring, for instance, workers with Muslim background because, for instance, there is going to be a Christmas party and wine will be served, and maybe pork, and what do they do? I don’t want to trivialize it, it is a major issue for many people, but it is discrimination. It is changing but we need to provide the employers with the right skills for managing diversity. There are many, too often undetected ways of exploitation. On the other hand, Norway has been one of the countries in Europe most active at combating these exploitations. It’s an issue but the labor unions and the employers’ federation have targeted it, and the government has been involved as well. But I was shocked at seeing how often the labor imgrants, let’s say from Poland or the Baltic area, are exploited, regarding the wages, that they would not be given a contract, that they would not be explained what their rights are, the housing provided is often at a level that is unacceptable, but I think this too is changing.  And not to forget that basic competitiveness is at play as well. The economy in Poland is continuing to do well and we cannot just assume that they would continue to stream to Norway. We should also consider Denmark: A very harsh debate about immigration and integration has been a part of public life for nearly two decades, which has actually resulted in that Denmark is now struggling to get the qualified labor that it requires. Research shows that some very qualified people do not want to live in Denmark because of the cultural environment, which is perceived to be unfriendly to foreigners. Let’s take the example of some couples or families who come to Denmark: one person would be hired, and while the partner would also be highly qualified, the labor regulation would not allow the partner to work, and both of them would end up leaving.

MZ: Now to something different. I was here for the Independence Day (or Constitution Day) on May 17th and it was huge in downtown Oslo, as it was in the entire Norway.  Because of Breivik many more people than usually wanted to participate in this event, and show support for the state. For many years I was uneasy about the Independence Day celebration —the procession of children, everything cute like in a fairytale, a bit naïve, everybody marching to the same tune. However, one can see such events as positive social glue creating felleskap (community) and celebrating your state. What are some of your thoughts on this felleskap? Thomas Hyland Erikson’s metaphor of integration as “kompott” seems very appropriate to me: the juice is the community, and the individual fruits come from all over the globe.
TS: Australia is very different, the National Day there is 26th of January when Captain Cook arrived at Sydney Cove, and is an unfortunate day because at the time the indigenous inhabitants of Australia were not recognized as human beings nor did they have the right to own land. I’d call it invasion day. I never grew up with a strong sense of the national day. In Norway, I have to admit, I was deeply uncomfortable with this notion of celebrating the 17th May. But it is incredible how the sight of children disarms you.

Photo: Coexistence and diversity of the natural ecosystem 
Source: personal archive of V. Bulc, 2012
MZ: Growing up in Eastern Europe, I have always been suspicious of state-organized affairs, but here in Norway it seems genuine.
TS: It is probably the best integration measure here, for who would deny children to be part of this day? It’s quite ingenious. You have these stories from the eighties: one of the schools from either Sagene or Sinsen was going to lead the parade, but because it was a school, which had majority of kids from immigrant background, it received bomb and death threats before the parade. That was an eye-opener for many, at least in Oslo. Efforts here are enormous to be inclusive, and maybe the schools in Oslo have anywhere from 30 to 50 percent children who are not ethnically Norwegian at this point. Dramatic.

Well, why does it work? It works because it is apolitical, no political speeches are held, no overt statements that Norway is so great. Political leaders are not posturing, in fact politicians have a very low profile that day; the emphasis is on human rights and inclusiveness. We could argue that there is a somewhat naive notion out there that human rights are intrinsically Norwegian, and I wish there was more reflection on that. And there are always the usual debates about which flags can be flown on that day, which really is a non-issue. But honestly, I haven’t really worked it out completely yet. Of course children are an important part of this ritual, representing the future of the nation rather than looking at the past, like in Poland. I was struck when I visited Poland recently, on every corner there is a monument and the Poles are obsessed with memory. I understand why that is so, but I also wonder how much of a trap this memory is.

MZ: Slovenia too seems to be frozen in time, and bitterly divided over the recent past. There are still poisonous debates as to who was on which side during Second World War and it has paralyzed much of the public debate. My interest in the 17th May celebration is to understand how one can transcend the past and move on, while being proud of your community.
TS: This day is a very important integration measure, but unintentional one. Maybe that is why it works so well! Because it is not made what it isn’t, it is what it is and nothing more, and it is what people make it to be.

MZ: And then there is the king, and the royal family, as positive role models. After 22nd of July, they have made it even more of a point to be inclusive.
TS:
We indeed have a royal family who stand on the balcony for hours and wave. From the integration and diversity perspective, they are highly involved and active. For fear of sounding like a royalist, the royal family is actively involved in integration and diversity issues, extremely involved. They have in fact, been criticized by the more centrist and right wing people in the country for being political about it.  For example, the debate on the use of hidjab as part of the police uniform became very heated and unpleasant, and during the debate the Queen visited one of the big mosques in Oslo, or the Islamic Centre, and it was not a visit that had been planned or scheduled. She was accused of being political, but I am certain that it was a sign of the royal family’s support for diversity. The King too: for instance, he mentions explicitly in his New Year’s speech the diversity of Norwegian society. The Queen celebrates the 8th of March, the International Women’s day, by inviting women with an immigrant background to the palace, for tea. These are all small things that add up, and if nothing else, it’s good PR. By and large, Norwegians with an immigrant background adore the royal family; they are like rock stars to them!

M: Right after Utøya, there was some harassment and attacks on Muslims. In general, have hostilities against Muslims increased?
T:
We in Direktoratet, fund every other year, a survey of attitudes towards integration of immigrants, called Integreringsbarometer. There has been quite a marked change in a positive direction. We don’t know whether this is due to 22nd of July but we assume that. Without a doubt there is a skepticism towards Muslims and immigrants; but we’re seeing that with time that the more people have contact with immigrants the less skepticism there is.
Timothy Szlachetko is a political scientist and public policy practitioner. He undertook his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the University of Aarhus in Denmark. He has been a guest researcher at the Centre for Labour Market and Social Research in Aarhus, the Danish Centre for Social Research in Copenhagen and the University of Oslo in Norway. He has worked in social policy development for government in both Australia and Norway, specialising in education and multicultural affairs. Timothy was also Program Director of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs’ (HECUA) Scandinavian Urban Studies Term at the University of Oslo. He has most recently worked on a major cross-disciplinary review of multicultural policies in Norway, the findings of which were presented to the Norwegian government in 2011. Timothy is currently project manager and senior advisor in the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion.
MZ: Antirasistisk Senter’s invitation to tea—that Norwegians should invite others to tea—was extremely positive. It was a practical measure, concrete, with real people inviting other real people over.
TS:
Yes, people are people and most often have similar hopes and fears, they have families, and when you see that, it is disarming. I would say though that the public debate does not reflect these changes that we think we see in the communities.

MZ: Does the media negatively influence the debates?
TS:
It’s interesting how Norway is paying the price for being a small country: we have self-appointed experts and spokespersons on different issues who get a lot of coverage and color the debate. I think too that a lot of debates online through social media tend to be more extreme. People feel they can say anything. I would also argue that Norwegians could learn from countries that have a longer history of diversity, and media debates in general. Norwegians working in public policy criticized, for instance, several Australian states and their policies regulating what can be said in public, in effect regulating hate speech. In the state that I come from, you are not allowed to say anti-Semitic, racist, or islamophobic utterances in public. I’m not saying that Norway has to implement that legislation, but rather ask the question, why do we need to offend each other in order to prove that we have freedom of speech, or to treat each other in such disrespectful ways. It is similar with the anonymous hateful comments on line. It’s unproductive. And it’s not freedom of speech; it’s really bad, uncivilized behavior. It does not contribute to community. It’s one thing to be critical, which you have to be, quite another to be offensive.

MZ:  I’d like to talk about the so-called happiness report. While problematic in many respects, the report can help us reflect on what it means to be happy here and now. Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Netherlands are the countries where people can find happiness fastest. The 158-page report, published by Columbia University's Earth Institute, was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness. In addition to income, the following indicators were taken into account: family arrangements, job security, health, political freedom, corruption, a sense of engagement, strong communities, trust in institutions, etc. While the starting point of the report was to show that happiness does not equal high income, the results actually confirm that material security is crucial, for European countries lead the scale while such African countries as Sierra Leone and Togo are last. Still, provided that a certain material security has been met, what factors in your opinion influence happiness? What do you think goes into being a happy Scandinavian?
The 158-page report, published by Columbia University's Earth Institute, was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness. In addition to income, the following indicators were taken into account: family arrangements, job security, health, political freedom, corruption, a sense of engagement, strong communities, trust in institutions, etc.
TS: The welfare state has been fundamental in this regard, it has taken away many of the risks that can make life very hard for many people. Extreme poverty, for instance does not exist here, people don’t have to struggle with basic things. Further, that one has a relatively humane labor market, access to health care, to a relatively good and free education from kindergarten to university, access to influence in society in which your voice is heard, that the distance between citizens and politicians is not that great, all these factors are extremely important. From my own perspective, I really like the level of trust here, and subsequently that life is not that complicated. Also, work/life balance is excellent here, the welfare state enables people to have time to do other things in their life than work, to focus on family for instance.
If you look at the World Social Value Survey report, problematic perhaps but still a barometer, it shows that basic economic independence and progressive values allowed Scandinavians to develop personal qualities that they would have not been able to do otherwise. Since this is not really my field, I’m not quite sure how the connection works exactly, but we could look at research by a group of scholars at the Senter for sivilsamfunn, that argues strongly for that. Dag Vollebæk for instance, has written how there is a connection between trust in the government/and/or politics, and active participation in the civil society, with values and feelings of happiness. They would also argue that the role of religion, or more specifically the lack of religion in Norway, contributes to happiness in Norway.

M: Slovenians are at present in a deep crisis, unhappy and complaining, often rightly so, but there is also a sense of entitlement without active engagement, as if the state is not each of us. In addition, complaints about corruption among politicians are rampant, and consequently, the level of distrust of the governing elites is sky-high. In Norway, it seems that, in spite of some scandals, the level of trust in government is solid, which contributes to happiness. Too simple?
TS:
There is something to it. Here people are certainly skeptical of politicians whom they watch carefully, but there is trust in the state and state institutions. The state is something larger, the state is your friend, everything from the kindergarten to school to the maternity health nurse, represents a larger framework that we are all part of. People generally are willing to pay high taxes here because they trust that they get something in return. If people see that there is effective use of the money collected, and that they benefit, they will contribute even more. What worries me at this point is research that questions whether or not the welfare model is sustainable with a very diverse community, so we’ll have to see how this develops.
Here people are certainly skeptical of politicians whom they watch carefully, but there is trust in the state and state institutions.
MZ: We cannot avoid the Breivik murders. He killed ethnic Norwegians not the immigrants, yet he holds the ruling party accountable for the course Norway is in right now. Is he part of a larger network, or is he a loner?
TS:
For me it is still very hard to talk about the 22nd of July, and strange. It is hard to say what effect it had on our society. I wonder how it was possible at all. I guess he was a loner in the sense that he did it alone, and that there are perhaps only a few others who would go as far as he did. I was astounded, however, at how people were shocked over what he had written in his manifesto, and how they were asking where he was getting these ideas from. Well, he quoted from other writers from Norway and used their thoughts for his argument. Fjordmannen and some organizations that have similar voices have existed for a while, and people in general now wonder where have they come from!!!  Here in Direktoratet we know fully well that there are those opinions out there--you just need to read the online media. A number of very good books have been published since then, for instance Det mørke nettet – om høyreekstremisme, kontrajihadisme og terror i Europa by Øjvind Strømmen, a book with an self-explanatory title, and Lars Gule, from Oslo and Akershus University College wrote how these extreme forces have been overwhelming in many public debates. A friend of mine recently said to me, “you’ve been so politically correct when you spoke about these right-wing groups in public debates and online,” and it’s true. We have not really come to terms with them here in Norway, and they are dangerous. I’m afraid to say that I don’t think we will soon come to terms with them, no signs of that. These people who hold very similar views to Breivik’s, have managed to distance themselves from Breivik, saying that they would never espouse violence, and this is astounding and depressing. I was hoping there would be a greater focus on such groups and individuals. I do know that the Antirasistisk Senter is now monitoring the right-wing movements closely.

MZ: They have to be taken seriously. Breivik is an alarm for this kind of activism that can quickly cross the line.
TS:
Yes, maybe we compare ourselves too much to Sweden where a well-organized underground Neo-Nazi movement exists, while in Norway it is unorganized. Maybe we had therefore thought that it does not exist here at all, and now this nut. He is a product of a relatively well-to-do family, in western Oslo, which is far less diverse than eastern Oslo, he went to good schools, and what happened? Why did not anybody see it coming? How on earth was it possible for him to carry out this attack, the devastation to people’s lives, the destruction of young people who witnessed their friends being executed? All because the Labor party is allegedly the architect of Multiculturism, which we don’t even have here. We have integration and diversity. No radical policies here, yet Breivik was convinced that young people belonging to the Labor Party should be punished and executed. We need more focus on the people on the far right who make these astounding claims about the immigrants, about integration and about the Norwegian politics, particularly on those on the left and in the center. The right-wingers need to be taken seriously and taken to account.

MZ: How has it changed Norway, or how will it change Norway?
TS: The government precinct will not be returned to normal for a few years, and it isn’t clear whether it will be renovated or totally rebuilt. Utøya was not the summer camp this year, although last year the party vowed to do so. The reality is that the memories would be overwhelming. A group of young people from all over the country, are so profoundly damaged and traumatized, and that has not been fully apparent yet. The entire debate around whether Breivik is psychologically sane or not, has been interesting: the first psychology report found him insane in part because of the ideology, the commission members did not consider that that could be normal! They are out of step with what has been happening. If you were to peruse some of the widely read dailies, or look at some of the websites, you’d see that the rhetoric resembles that of Breivik. I hope that he is held accountable every single day for his crimes. I have full confidence in the Norwegian justice system. I have been most affected by the horrifying accounts of the Utøya survivors. But in the long run, I have a positive outlook when it comes to Norway’s future. Let’s say in 2040, we will look back and wonder why we were so worked-up about diversity.
We neither have ghettoes in Oslo nor really bad discrimination. Unless something dramatic would happen, for instance a deep economic crisis, and all indicators show that the economic miracle will continue for some time, then things will steadily improve. No matter what you might think of the center-left coalition government, the economy is very well managed, rationally and thoughtfully. The government is now looking more closely at anti-discrimination policies, tightening the measures, but otherwise Oslo is a fantastic city to live in, with high quality of life, with increasing diversity. This vibrant and dynamic city is my home.

MZ: It seems indeed that the Norwegian government is taking a prudent, long-term view of economic growth and is managing its extreme wealth responsibly. You do need prosperity for sound integration measures. It is not lulled into believing that the oil revenues will continue for ever, but it supports research on growth measures, entrepreneurial measures, new technologies, competitive edge, and sustainable development. That bodes well for Norway.

Diversification. Awareness. Dialog. Immigration. Responsibility. Not being naïve. Take a long-term perspective. Progressive values.  Trust in the system. Close monitoring of politicians.

Thank you Tim in Monika. 


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