Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, in an exclusive interview to The Hindu , strongly refuted some interpretations/allegations that his country is trying to create some kind of perfect state model on how people can live.
Asked what happens when there was an over-stepping of authority in a country such as Norway that has set itself high standards of transparency and public accountability, Mr. Store observed that any state intervention into the private sphere of people was extremely serious and a last resort business – it had to be. But in order to make these decisions also sufficiently transparent and accountable, they needed to be under the rule of law.
“And if ministers could intervene and block issues according to their political beliefs or their own assessments and even if the bulk of these decisions were reasonable, at the end of the day we would be sliding down the scale, not of family policies, but of the accountability of the legal system.
“In cases where there is intervention in families that are purely Norwegian, the situation is dramatic in itself. When we add cultural differences to that, it becomes worse, aggravated. In this globalised world people travel, they settle down in different cultural settings and I can see the curve of our own consular cases going up.
“Norwegians end up settling in different places and getting in trouble because the places where they have chosen to live have different traditions. We see the same thing here. One-third of all prisoners in Norwegian jails are foreigners. And that places a strain on our legal system and on our prison system. And when you live in Norway and you pay your taxes, you have equal rights in the Norwegian welfare state.”
Commenting on the massive adverse publicity against Norway in the wake of the Bhattacharya case in India, Mr. Store said: “The end station will be a legal decision, which I hope will lead to a satisfactory end to this story. And then I hope, that we will have mutual respect – in the sense that much of what I have seen in the papers and on the Blogosphere about Norway, frankly speaking, has not been very pleasant, especially for someone who, as Foreign Minister, has been driving our India policy in order to step it up.”