Norway to choose yet another fisheries minister
Norway is looking for its fourth fisheries minister in the space of just 18 months following Geir-Inge Sivertsen’s decision to resign.
Sivertsen, who was only appointed on January 24, announced his decision late on Friday afternoon.
The Conservative politician had faced mounting pressure to quit following media revelations that he had agreed a severance deal from his job as mayor of Lenvik in Troms when he became a junior trade minister in Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s coalition government in November.
Such packages are meant to compensate people who suddenly leave political office and are without income, often because of a “quarantine” period which prevents former elected officials from immediately taking up influential jobs in the private sector.
In Sivertsen’s case no such quarantine was necessary as he was moving to a full-time ministerial post with pay of more than NOK 1 million a year.
Political opponents and media outlets had criticised Sivertsen for the move, and Red Youth (Rød Ungdom, or RU), a communist youth league, asked police to he broke the law by collecting NOK 120,000 (£9,955) in severance pay.
Pressure mounted further when it was revealed that Sivertsen was also still collecting allowances for being a member of Troms and Finnmark county council.
‘Reduced moral capacity’
“We have a fisheries minister with a reduced moral capacity,” Terje Lien Aasland, deputy chairman of the Norwegian Parliament’s industrial committee and a member of the Labour Party (AP), told media outlet VG after Sivertsen’s extra income streams came to light.
“First, he arranges double pay as mayor and vice minister and then he is bold enough to apply for severance pay which should probably be reclaimed krone for krone. We are asking big, big questions about how Prime Minister Erna Solberg can have confidence in her fisheries minister.”
Sivertsen was promoted to fisheries and seafood minister, which includes responsibility for salmon farming, after Harald Tom Nesvik stood down.
Nesvik had to hand over the reins after the Progress Party to which he belongs withdrew from Norway’s coalition government in a row about whether an Islamic State bride should be allowed back into the country with her two children. The Progress Party’s decision has left Solberg leading a minority government, and therefore less able to resist demands for Sivertsen to quit.
Prior to Nesvik’s appointment in August 2018, Per Sandberg was forced to resign following the trip to Iran with his partner, Bahareh Letnes, a former Miss Iran.
He broke rules by taking his government mobile phone with him and failing to inform the Prime Minister of his trip.
According to several experts, the phone was likely to have been hacked by Iran during the trip.
Sivertsen won’t be officially replaced until Friday, when the government holds its weekly meeting with the Norwegian king, Harald.