Theater of Cruelty

- The others are wrong

Åslaug Haga goes straight to the throats of those who suggest that regional reform is not solid and historic.


Municipal Minister Åslaug Haga boasts a "solid and historic regional reform". Yet criticism from neither political friends, enemies nor commentators has been lacking. It's been a couple of weeks since the press conference, maybe Haga is a little less generous with the superlatives?

- It is historic that we now manage to transfer so much power and authority to a popularly elected level. We must assume that people have tried this for over 20 years. So no matter how you turn it around, it is historic that we now turn the trend around, says Haga.

- But both red-green politicians, political opponents and political commentators believe that this is too bad. There is talk of a gift package for those who want away the county municipality?

- This is the best it has been possible to achieve. And this represents a clear strengthening of the regional level.

Thus, Haga has presented the first part of a regional reform. It tells something about what kind of tasks the new regions (which will replace today's counties) should have. Among other things, more responsibility for transport and the environment. How many regions we end up with, and what the new Norwegian map should look like, we only know when everyone who thinks something about it has made a statement. The spring of 2008 comes second part. Will there be five, seven or nine regions? Or will it be so much quarrel and clutter that our 19 counties are only shrinking into 16-17 regions. Many fear the latter. Haga too, though she won't say it. She says it rather like this:

- In Sogn og Fjordane, for example, people are very concerned that the borders should not be changed. Well, then they do not get the biggest tasks either. Such as a transfer by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration. Then they have to think about then, if they think it is as important to keep the borders as today. And I am absolutely convinced that through this process, a completely different realism arises. Then we do not have to hear county mayors say: "We want big tasks, few regions, but we do not want to do anything with our own borders."

Thus, Haga does not hide the fact that she wants the regions to get bigger tasks, and clearly emphasizes that this only happens when we get fewer regions. But she will not answer the question if she wants fewer regions. She will first wait for the answers she gets from the hearing. But what about disagreement within the government?

- I never talk about internal matters in the government.

- You talk loudly about disagreement when it comes to the state war system. Why not talk out loud about this?

- I'm not talking about the discussion we have.

- But again, why have you not got more?

- Well, when it comes to the hospitals, no one is surprised that the Labor Party does not want to transfer the hospitals. There we have different views, but it was clear already at Soria Moria.

So when our county politicians now think that it is possible to include the hospitals, they follow the lesson very poorly.

When Ny Tid again touches on the criticism that has come against the reform, Haga answers the following:

- I think it is an idea that you go home and read the comment to KS (Kommunenes Sentralforbund, Editor's note). Have you read it?

- No, but I will call more…

- No, not true! And maybe it would be an idea that you look a little at what they say, those who are actually in the sector. I hear that you are extremely biased, and I strongly doubt if you have read the message.

- I have, but has anyone patted you on the shoulder and said: "This is really good!"

- Yes!

- Who?

- There are many who are happy that we take this break with the past.

- But who says that the content of the message is good?

- What does it mean to establish five regions in Norway. What does this mean for the centralization of Norway? Have you thought about it?

After the interview, Haga emphasizes that the question of whether Ny Tid had done homework was to illustrate that many others have not done so, and that is why they come up with the criticism.

- I'm not convinced that everyone has thought through all aspects of this. But gradually that understanding will come. So I stand so upright in this storm because I know we have taken historic steps. I see that this will change the discussion in the future. And I would love to go out in a municipal election campaign against the Conservatives and the Green Party to defend three levels of government. Then we can witness the Conservatives and the Liberal Party defending their position in Norway. Experience from Finland shows that there will be greater bureaucracy if we remove the county municipality, Haga concludes.

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