Norway is growing wealthier by the minute as the conflict in Ukraine boosts its gas revenues, but it is not a ‘war profiteer’, its prime minister insists.
Norway has grown richer by the minute as the conflict in Ukraine boosts its gas revenues, but the country is not a war profiteer, its prime minister said.
Hinting that Norway would soon become one of the world’s biggest donors to Ukraine with an upcoming aid package, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store dismissed the unflattering allegation made by those who want Oslo to do more for Ukrainians.
“It’s a notion that I flatly refuse”, Store said Tuesday after visiting a liquified natural gas plant near Hammerfest in the Arctic.
His government is putting the final touches on a “multi-year support package” to be announced in the coming days, designed to help Ukraine and poor countries affected by the knock-on effects of the war, such as soaring grain prices.
The amount and details will be announced “early in February”, Store said.
Since last year, the Scandinavian country has increased its gas deliveries to help compensate the drop in Russian gas supplies to Europe.
It is now Europe’s biggest supplier, helping the continent stay warm this winter.
As a result its coffers are overflowing, thanks to gas prices that remain high after hitting record levels last year due to the war.
This year, the government has forecast its biggest ever budget surplus of 1.12 trillion kroner ($113 billion), to be placed in Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, already the world’s largest with more than 13.4 trillion kroner ($1.34 trillion) worth of assets.
Calls have mounted in Norway and abroad for the country to redistribute at least part of the windfall to Ukrainians, or risk being called a war profiteer.
Store rejected the notion, put forward by Poland’s prime minister among others, that Oslo was, albeit involuntarily, taking advantage of the war in Ukraine for its own financial gain.
“Norway has for 50 years been an explorer, at some risk, and seller of energy resources, oil and gas”, he said. “Norway does not fix those prices”.
The higher gas price, he noted, has also led to soaring electricity bills for Norwegian families and companies, which is “politically a big challenge for us” in a country that relies heavily on electricity, for its industry, heating and transportation.
Compared to the dizzyingly-high revenues generated indirectly by the war in Ukraine, Norway’s donations to Kyiv can seem modest.
Oslo says it has donated 10.7 billion kroner in civilian and military aid.
When it comes to the country’s aid as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), Norway comes in 15th place in a ranking by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
“I think that league will change quite soon”, he said.
The support package will help Ukraine “in maintaining their civil infrastructure, hopefully one day rebuilding a free Ukraine and in the meantime also supporting them militarily”, he said.
The war in Ukraine and Europe’s altered energy landscape has bolstered Norway’s desire to continue oil and gas production, despite the climate emergency.
Last year, the country’s gas deliveries to Europe rose by 8 to 10%, helping the continent avoid electricity blackouts.
“That represents 100 terawatt hours. It’s a considerable amount of energy”, Store said.
The prime minister recognised his nation’s ability to make a difference.
“Norway is a fortunate country”, Store said after visiting the plant in Melkoya, near Hammerfest in the Arctic.
“We have a possibility to make a difference and I feel that responsibility”. AFP