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Cablegate: Progress Party Leader Siv Jensen Discusses


DE RUEHNY #0778/01 3511217
R 171217Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Siv Jensen, leader of the right-wing Progress
Party (the largest opposition party in Norway) told the Ambassador
December 15 that the most important aspect of President Obama's
Nobel speech was his success in communicating to the younger
generation, which does not recall World War II's lessons or the
relevance of NATO, that war is sometimes necessary, as it is
Afghanistan today. Asked for her views about the President's West
Point speech articulating Afghanistan/Pakistan strategy, Jensen said
her one regret about Norway's response to it is that PM
Stoltenberg's left-leaning coalition government should have offered
to contribute more Norwegian troops instead of "trying to buy its
way out of its obligations by financing" Afghan trust funds. End
2. (U) Ambassador White, Pol/Econ Counselor, and POL LES met with
Progress Party (FrP) leader Siv Jensen at her office in the
Parliament December 15 for an initial courtesy call, just days after
the President's visit to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. Jensen, who
is a member of the Parliament's newly combined Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, was accompanied by her party's international
affairs secretary Kristian Norheim.
Afghanistan and President's Nobel Speech
3. (U) Jensen and Erna Solberg (leader of Norway's second largest
opposition party, the Conservative Party (Hoyre)), had just returned
from the U.S. on December 9. Jensen was impressed with a talk she
attended by Madeleine Albright, emphasizing the need for more open,
democratic debate within NATO countries on the importance of NATO in
a historical context. Obama's Nobel speech was excellent in many
ways; the most important, in Jensen's view, was his success in
communicating with younger generations the historical context for
NATO's vital role in Afghanistan today.

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4. (SBU) Jensen and her Progress Party are supportive of the new
increased financial contribution that PM Stoltenberg announced after
meeting President Obama December 10. She said her one regret was
that the government of Norway "bought its way out of" its
obligations by contributing financially instead of offering more
troops, as she would have liked. She acknowledged that Norway's
cadre of internationally deployable troops was "not where it needs
to be," but added, "Norway is involved in Afghanistan for the long
term. We will not bail out."
5. (U) Jensen praised the President for raising the subject of
Somalia in his Nobel speech. NATO and the EU are both involved in
counter-piracy operations (and Norway was involved in the EU
ATALANTA mission), but "piracy is just a symptom of a larger problem
that needs to be addressed." She was glad to hear President Obama
mention Somalia in the broader context, and she expected more
attention on Somalia from the world community. (The President
said: " a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions
more complex, America cannot act alone. America alone cannot secure
the peace. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed
states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine
and human suffering.")

Iran and MidEast Peace
6. (SBU) The Ambassador mentioned the USG's concerns about Iran and
its nuclear program, noting the U.S. would be looking to Norway and
other partners for help in keeping the pressure on Iran at the
United Nations. Jensen said her party was very concerned about
Iran and the threat it posed to the broader region. She would bring
up Iran policy when Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari visited Norway's
parliament the next day.
7. (SBU) Asked for her views on the GON's role in the Middle East
peace process, Jensen explained that the Progress Party tried hard
to provide public "balance" to the currently unbalanced picture of
the Israeli/Palestinian conflict provided by the Norwegian media.
She said the Progress Party stands up for Israel and its right to
exist as a secure, democratic state in a non-democratic region which
is hostile to it. She was glad the Red-Green coalition government
spoke out publicly against the recent proposal at NTNU University in
Trondheim to boycott Israeli academics. She worried, however, that
anti-Semitic ideas were too present in some quarters of Norwegian
society, and said unbalanced media reporting on the Middle East was
contributing to this phenomenon. She said the tendency was most
obvious during unprecedented, violent riots that broke out in Oslo
during the Gaza war in January 2009. For example, she explained, in
January she gave what she thought was a balanced speech seeking
security for both Israelis and Palestinians at an "Israel for Peace"
rally outside the Parliament during the Gaza conflict, and she
needed civilian police protection for months afterward as a result.

The Ambassador asked if Jensen had any specific ideas for ways to
encourage balance or neutral coverage of the Middle East conflict in
the media or public/academic discussions in Norway. She replied,
"if you (the U.S.) can find a way to do something about that, it
would be wonderful."
Opposition's chances better in 2013?
8. (SBU) Turning to domestic politics and her party's future plans,
Jensen said that the Progress Party had grown steadily in recent
years, and was a natural ally with the Conservative Party. The
three Red Green coalition parties (Labor, Socialist Left, and the
Center Party), pulled off a narrow victory in September's elections,
winning 86 seats to the opposition party's 83 seats in Parliament.
She wished the four "non-socialist" opposition parties could have
stood together in support of a change of government instead of
bickering and in-fighting, which she feels cost the opposition the
election. Her party remains open for cooperation with the Liberals
(Venstre) and the Christian Democrats (KRF); it was those parties
which turned that invitation down. Jensen said her main priority
for the 2013 elections will be to unify the opposition around the
idea of establishing a formal coalition as a clear alternative to
the current government. The change of leadership of the
Liberal/Venstre party in recent days could open the way for future
cooperation that was not possible when Lars Sponheim headed the
party, she noted.
9. (SBU) Jensen explained the Progress Party's stand regarding the
need for stricter Norwegian immigration and asylum policies, stating
that Norway maintained the most liberal policy in Europe in recent
years, even as "every other country" tightened entry rules. She
stated that many come to Norway with false pretenses, claiming to be
refugees. Her belief was that the Labor Party itself now understood
the problem, and a majority of Norwegians favored a tightening of
entry requirements, but that the Socialist Left Party was blocking
the coalition government from implementing desired reforms. She
thought Norway could learn from how the U.S. system integrates its
citizens, whether immigrants or refugees. Women who come to Norway
as immigrants or refugees from repressive societies ought to be able
to assume they're coming to a liberal, democratic country with all
the freedoms and rights associated with it, she said. Instead,
women in many minority communities here are facing forced marriage
and other human rights abuses, she said. "That should not happen
Expanding U.S.-Norway Educational Exchanges
10. (SBU) Finally, the Ambassador mentioned he would continue to
place a priority on expanding U.S. - Norway educational exchanges,
including the goal of having more Norwegians study at the
undergraduate level in the United States. The Ambassador described
the obstacle posed by the Norwegian government's rule of funding
only three years of undergraduate study abroad, not four, which in
practice, inhibited many Norwegian students from choosing the U.S.
for their studies. Jensen said she fully supported the Ambassador's
effort and had tried to get the current government to alter the
rules and fund all four years, including the freshman year. "It
wouldn't be that expensive for the government to fund the full four
years," she said. She suggested the Ambassador might usefully raise
the matter with, among others, Socialist Left party leader Kristin
Halvorsen, who was Minister of Finance from 2005-2009 and is now
Minister of Education in the Stoltenberg III government. (Note: The
Embassy will also continue to work this matter with Tora Aasland --
also from the Socialist Left party -- who is Minister of Research
and Higher Education. Her department handles education above the
secondary level and hosts the TransAtlantic Education Forum, which
promotes U.S.-Canada -Norway educational exchanges.)

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