Norway is very concerned about the developments in Hungary: Ingvild Naess Stub
In a sit-down with The Oslo Times International News Network’s, Editor-in-Chief Hatef Mokhtar, on Wednesday, The State Secretary to the Minister of EA Affairs and EU relations, Ingvild Naess Stub, spoke on pertaining issues related to curbing extremism and radicalism and the anti-freedom developments in Hungary. The excerpts that follow are a brief and edited version of the interesting talk that had followed.
We would first of all like to thank you, madame for this exclusive rendezvous with The Oslo Times International News Network.
Could you please tell us about your roles and activities as the State Secretary of the External Affairs and EU Relations?
As state Secretary to the Minister for EU Relations and EA Affairs, what the minister and I do is, we are in charge of Norway’s relationship with the EU through the European Economic Area Agreement, which entails, among other things, making sure that we have an up-to-date EA agreement that gives market access to Norwegian businesses at the European market. It also entails Norway’s contribution to the EEA funds which is a quite a large sum of money. This is our contribution to social cohesion in Europe. This contribution goes to the countries with lowest GDP per-capita in the EU, and the funds are used important political areas such as social inclusion, justice sector reforms, minorities rights inclusion, cultural sector reforms, a number of important areas like that.
We are also responsible for coordinating European policies among all ministries, so we work closely with all the ministries on ensuring that we speak for Norwegian national interest in European Arenas where it is important.
Recently, we have seen a rise in extremism networks across the globe, Europe too has been affected by the IS, what are your policies against such organizations and networks?
Well, the government recently produced a national strategy on how to combat radicalization and extremism and the plan addresses both how to deal with and address radicalized and extreme groups and how to keep young people from being radicalized and running into and being “seduced”, by radical groups.
One of the things that my boss and I have tried to address is that this is not a uniquely Norwegian phenomenon as you say, and it is a global trend and there are many European countries that experience similar challenges of radicalism and extremism. And many of them have produced similar plans and strategies to the one that our government has produced and we are very eager to ensure that we cooperate with other European countries facing similar challenges, because we can learn from each other, our mistakes and from successful projects that have been initiated. There are several European countries looking at ways to providing an exit for young people who are radicalized and we would like to make sure that we are well connected through European discussions on that topic.
Could you tell us which countries are you more focused on, in terms of radicalization?
This is not strictly my remit either, the strategy was designed by the ministry of justice
and other ministries including the foreign ministry but mainly the foreign minister and not the minister of EU affairs. But there are several countries we would like to cooperate with and there are several countries that are of concern that are at the risk of being radicalized and exposed to extremist groups. But I think those countries are fairly well known to people.
One other issue we have is Hungary, where freedom of speech is being violated at a daily basis, do you have any comments regarding Hungary?
Well, we, of course, have an ongoing discussion with Hungary about the use of our EEA funds in Hungary. The EA countries had suspended the EEA funds to Hungary in May. There were several reasons for that- one was over the dispute of the running of the EEA funds and the other aspect has to do with the Hungarian investigations into the running of the NGO funds. Now the reason I mentioned that, is because we are very worried that the dispute over the NGO fund is based in the Hungarian authorities skepticism towards civil society and especially independent civil society actors.
So we are very concerned by the developments in Hungary, and our minister has asked Hungary repeatedly to respect the agreements that they have signed, when it comes to the roles of the NGO sector and of the Norwegian NGO fund in supporting of civil society. So, we are very concerned about the developments in Hungary.
Do you have a message you would like to share with our readers and our human right activists around the world?
Well, I would like to say that we very much support the idea of promoting public debate on human rights and the role of human rights. And one of the things is that we make sure to use the EEA grounds and the EU policy in Norway to support those common values and we look for ways to strengthen them in Europe and the rest of the globe.
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