Støre in a bit of a pickle

FM Støre, or as we call him here, Teflon-Støre, now has found himself in a bit of a pickle; In 2008, the Foreign Ministry awarded NOK 6 million for a development project in the High North, ostensibly initiated by the Norwegian Shipowners Association, but in reality a project where his close friend was CEO and prime beneficiary in as much as the ‘project’ in reality gives this person a good head start in the race to exploit the rich natural resources of the High North region.

This story has now blown up in Støre’s face and gobsmacked Norwegians can read about the many maneuvers the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have mounted in order to create an impression that this transfer was clear as water, a strategic investment to ensure Norway’s interests in this resource rich region of the world, has been exposed as ‘shambolic’, if not straight forward fraudulent. As a result of these maneuvers, the powerful Standing Parliamentary Committee on Scrutiny  and Constitutional Affairs has opened up an open hearing into the affair, and FM Støre has been issued an invitation he cannot turn down to appear before the Storting to explain himself.

But there is more, skeletons just keep falling out of his closet, first his claim that billionaire friend Felix Tschudi in reality was a mere social contact was thrown back in his face when leading newspapers checked around a bit and found that – lo and behold – the two were actually on quite intimate terms, celebrating each others birthdays, the occasional vacation together, celebrating 17th of May, our independence day (a very big and important celebration in our national calendar of feasts).

Then it emerged that our FM has a very good money maker through his family company Trestø AS. Through this company, he owns shares in shipping companies that own gas tankers which are then leased to other shipping companies. Støre has only partially complied with his obligation to declare ownership and commercial interests in as much as he correctly did declare his family company (companies in fact) and stepped down from the boards. However, he failed to declare his shipping ownerships. The MFA frequently deals with matters which directly or indirectly  are related to shipping, such as Norwegian ownership interests abroad, maritime Law, etc. This has not amused members of the previously mentioned Parliamentary Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional affairs. They think Støre is entitled to his ownership, but feel that his failure to declare his interests fully have created a sensation that he has tried to conceal essential information.

And – just to heighten the feeling of massive embarrassment – now it has emerged that some of the ships Støre owns parts in, have been docking at blacklisted ports in Iran, ports controlled by the powerful but oh so cruel Revolutionary Guard. The ports have been blacklisted over the suspected nuclear arms program in Iran. Last time a ‘Støre’ ship docked at a blacklisted port, was in November last year, half a year after the ports were put on the list by the US. As is pointed out in the article which is linked above, Støre is a mere shareholder and does not take operative decisions.

That being said, for all the money he makes, it would have been prudent of him to hire a smart PA who could ensure that our FM does not commit these embarrassing faux pas’. Also, in solidarity with the many hundreds who are savagely murdered by the Iranian government, it might have been even more prudent to sell these shares, realizing that Norwegian ships frequently dock in Iran, and that he, with his “humanitarian” profile, perhaps could have invested his money in something less controversial – in stead of gas tankers he could have served as an example and invested in something less polluting too.

All of this might explain his curious silence in the aftermath of events where he – judging by his general interest int the matter – tend to voice his opinion, relevant or not. However, not a pip was heard from him to protest the fate suffered by  Palestinian refugees who have had their asylum applications rejected. Not only were they evicted from their makeshift refugee camp in Oslo, but were also made to dismantle it, surely an unusual practice in a country besotted with the idea of being a humanitarian superpower.

We all know the ‘strong condemnation’ he so easily eructs if and when Israel does something not to his liking.

He was also very quiet following Jordan’s decision to revoke citizenship for about 1,6 million Palestinians who live there. A planned visit on April 24 by HRH Crown prince Haakon in relation to a mine clearing project the Norwegian People’s Aid has been managing has not been cancelled in the wake of this scandal, and nor has State Secretary Gry Larsen, who is an ardent boycott Israel supporter considered to remain in Norway for this occasion.

We do not have to wonder what the reactions would have been if Israel had revealed such plans. There would have been riots in Oslo with politicians proudly parading under strongly anti-semitic banners! And Støre would have been drumming them on!