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Pakistanis’ role Norwegian development significant: Tore Nedrebo

ISLAMABAD, FEB 05 (DNA) – Ambassador of Norway Tore Nedrebo has said the large Pakistani Diaspora in Norway has contributed significantly towards Norwegian development adding counting some 40,000 individuals, means there is a lot of exchange between the two countries and considerable awareness of Pakistan in Norway.

Our current foreign minister visits Pakistan practically every year, and even the prime ministers meet regularly.

 The Norwegian Ambassador expressed these views in an exclusive interview with DNA.

“I think the Pakistani diaspora in Norway has adapted quite successfully and are making valuable contributions to Norwegian society in a variety of ways. Many of them have reached high positions as lawyers, medical doctors, researchers, business people, politicians etc”.

He said Ms Hadia Tajik, whose parents were born in Pakistan, was minister of culture in a previous government and is now deputy leader of Norway’s biggest political party, the Labour Party. Ms Laila Bokhari, whose father came from Pakistan, is currently a deputy foreign minister.

To a question the ambassador said the Norwegian authorities have implemented a number of measures to deal with challenges of forced marriages.  Crime in Norway is of course a matter for the regular Norwegian police.

There is also a Nordic liaison police officer attached to the embassy who is working on transnational crime.

To deal with forced and under-age marriages and related practices we employ a number of advisers in Norwegian schools, health services, child welfare services and also in the police.

At the embassy in Islamabad there is an advisor who works full-time to counteract forced and under-age marriages, through networking, giving advice in specific cases and by other means, he added.

To yet another question about Muslims living in Norway Ambassador Tore saidthe Norwegian constitution guarantees the freedom of faith, expression and assembly as well as the other fundamental freedoms. All parties represented in the Norwegian parliament accept and appreciate the presence of immigrants in Norway, although I cannot vouch for each and every individual Norwegian in this regard.

All these parties, including the right-wing Progress Party, have party members and leaders with an immigrant background and who are Muslims.

Muslims enjoy the same rights in Norway as people of any other denomination. There are strict laws against discrimination, and those who feel they have been discriminated against based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, disability or religion, can address their grievance to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud or the courts.

The big public debate over the last years has been about how many refugees and asylum-seekers we should accept. On this, even the immigrant community in Norway is divided.

To a question about living conditions in Norway he saidPersonally, I think the decisive factors behind the Norwegian success story have been our relatively protected, remote geographical location in Europe, abundant natural resources, of which petroleum has been particularly significant since the 1970s, an educated, hard-working and disciplined people, and a democratic system that has produced socially just and effective policies”.

He added, since the oil price has fallen considerably and our petroleum stocks are being depleted, we need to transition to a more diverse, less petroleum-dependent economy. Still, we have saved much of the petroleum revenues, and Norway continues to be one of the richest countries per capita in the world. The economic prospects for 2017 look quite good.

When asked to comment on Norwegian chances of joining the Europe Union the ambassador said Norway and Iceland are not only part of the Schengen co-operation, but also of the European Economic Area, or single market, which provides for the free circulation of goods, services, labour and capital among 30 European countries, including the EU.

However, a new Norwegian referendum on EU membership is not likely in the foreseeable future.

While replying issue of illegal immigrants Ambassador Tore said, this question has become more pertinent after the 2016 increase in the number of people seeking asylum or for a better life in Europe.

Among the measures Norway has taken is to temporarily reintroduce border control on its border with other Schengen states. We are also very vigilant in enforcing our visa regulations and refugee policies, he concluded. =DNA

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