On the Hurdal platform, the government promises to try to obtain exemptions for parts of the fourth EU rail package. – Now we can see what room for maneuver the regulations offer, says Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre today.
The EU rail package was incorporated into Norwegian law on September 24 this year. The Hurdal platform promises the government that it will “enter into a dialogue with the EU as soon as possible with the aim of guaranteeing Norway an exemption of parts of the provisions of the fourth EU railway package.”
What the Labor Party has put into the wording is unclear.
– Now we take control of a country that is as it is today. So we must begin by understanding what the situation is and what our room for maneuver is. This fourth EU package has been adopted and now applies to Norway, says Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor).
The next meeting of the EEA Committee will take place on Friday, October 29. Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a response to Rødt’s Bjørnar Moxnes that Norway “will make the EU side aware of the government platform at this meeting.”
But it does not promise that Norway will request exemptions from parts of the rail package. This will be the first time that the EFTA countries, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, make such a claim to the EU.
And no one knows how the EU will react and if it will have consequences for Norway in other areas.
Støre explains to Aftenposten why it is not certain that the government will follow up on exemption demands.
– We need to fully understand the rail package to see what room for maneuver we have. It gives a lot of room for maneuver to make national decisions, says Støre.
Støre: Does not conclude
Støre says that “the ambition is to develop and strengthen Norwegian railways” in the areas of passenger transport, freight transport and climate.
– We will make the most of those opportunities. We have been critical of the division that has taken place under the previous government, he says.
– Should Norway ask for a waiver of the agreement or should we simply interpret the agreement giving us transitional provisions?
-Yes, we will see that as a result of the review we have now. If there are areas where we are subject to policies that we believe conflict with the opportunities we have to develop Norwegian railways, then we must raise this with the EU.
– But now I do not conclude that it must be the answer. Because, like any room for maneuver in EU directives, it is possible to take into account some of the peculiarities of each country. And Norway has quirks when it comes to railways and geography, Støre says.
It confirms that it has not concluded whether they should require an exception.
– No, I haven’t finished there. But we must review this. Norwegian legislation was formally introduced just a few weeks ago. And it is natural to notify the EU that we have an ambition to develop Norwegian railways.
– In some areas of transport policy, the previous government has made decisions with which we did not agree, for example, New Highways. But that doesn’t mean we’re shutting down New Roads. The new roads have done a lot of good. They have brought with them a host of new ways of doing things that we don’t want to reject in the first place, says Støre.
Red: gallop away from Hurdal
SV’s foreign policy spokeswoman Ingrid Fiskaa says the Hurdal platform is “very clear.”
– What Støre says today is not very clear. If it is the case that the Prime Minister is already running away from the Hurdal agreement on an issue that is very important to SV and LO, then he is not making it easy for him, says Fiskaa.
The package means that the train offer, as a rule, will be exposed to competition. But until the turn of the year in 2023, authorities can still award direct contracts to train companies like Vy without a tender. These contracts can last up to ten years.
Rødt leader Bjørnar Moxnes says “it is very clear on the platform” that Norway should apply for an exemption from the rail package as soon as possible.
– Based on what Støre is saying now, it shows that he is at full gallop away from the Hurdal rig formulation. There is a big difference between simply using the exceptions contained in the directive and actually defending the red-green parliamentary majority, joining the trade union movement and working to stop further tendering for passenger traffic.
– Is it so bad to first find out how big the room for maneuver is?
– There is little doubt about what the EU directive requires: that passenger transport be put out to tender. This is the right-wing politics established in the system. We are in favor of using any opening of the directive to secure the railway against the liberal market system.
– But now the red-green majority has a chance to prevent the railway from being tendered forever. If Støre doesn’t support the Hurdal platform even once, I think many in the union movement and among voters will be disappointed, says Moxnes.
The rail package was also discussed in the Storting’s European Committee on Wednesday morning. The chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ine Eriksen Søreide (H), says they did not receive “very clear answers from Chancellor Anniken Huitfeldt about their concerns about getting a waiver.”
– There were also several questions about how far one was willing to go to get such kind of exception that I know has not been done before. But there were no very clear answers.
– I think they still do not have that position completely clear. Then he would also wait to go to the EU until he knew what he could ask for and what consequences it could have, he says.