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Norwegian Newspaper: Statoil in a brutal conflict in Ireland

By: 
Klassekampen

Front Page: Statoil in a brutal conflict in Ireland

[This is a rough translation only]

Foreign investment: In a revealing recording Irish policemen joke about raping environmental activists. This has further polarised the conflict about bringing gas from the Corrib field onshore. Opponents have made 111 complaints about police brutality. Statoil owns about a third of the field, where Shell is the operator. Pages 28 and 29.

Statoil: Not on our behalf

Press spokesman Baard Glad Petersen in Statoil stresses that Irish authorities have approved the project and the pipeline.

"Construction permits are now being dealt with by local authorities in Mayo. It is Shell which is the operator for the project, and in relation to the licence it is up to them to make a statement. The Irish police are of course not acting on behalf of Statoil but on behalf of Irish authorities."

"The incident referred to in your email is a relationship between actors which the Norwegian state cannot take a position on", says Trude Borge Iversen, communications adviser in the Department of Oil and Energy.

"It is Statoil's leadership which is responsible for questions of development and operations. The government requires that Statoil engage with the various authorities and their requirements in the countries in which it operates", she says, and underlines that the government expects that all companies with state-owned shares follow the laws and regulations of the country.

"Companies with international activities are also expected to respect the UN's global compact, follow the OECD's guidelines for multinational companies and the ILO's core conventions."

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The second is from SV (Socialist Left), one of the current government parties (p. 29 bottom right):

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SV: Statoil's board must take responsibility

"With the reservation that I do not know all the details of this case, it does sound like a very unhealthy form of conflict management", says SV's business spokesperson Alf Holmelid.

The state owns 67% of Statoil. Holmelid stresses that the new ownership declaration emphasises that state-owned companies must be leaders in environmental and social concern.

"The new ownership declaration places greater weight on the board's responsibility to follow up such issues. For this reason I want to encourage the board of Statoil to look closely at this issue and form a clear opinion on whether it is really in the company's interest not to do anything about the escalation of conflict."

Holmelid feels that since Statoil has such a large share [in the project], they would be well advised to become involved, and that it is worrying for Statoil's reputation if they are involved in too many cases with a negative environmental profile and a high level of conflict.

"In the first instance, it would be appropriate for Statoil's board to look at the issue. In the next instance, perhaps Statoil's main owner, the Department of Oil and Energy, should get involved", says Holmelid.

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S2S people: SV is part of the Nordic Green Left Alliance so has no Irish sister parties (the main government party, Arbeiderpartiet, is a social democratic party affiliated with Labour, while the SWP's Norwegian sister party IS is part of another far left alliance which is not in government). Nevertheless it is possible that SV would respond to a request from the ULA or perhaps more likely from SF (who they would recognise) if there was a clear goal - perhaps calling for an international inquiry, or for Statoil / the Norwegian Dept. of Oil and Energy to review its participation in the Corrib project and in particular the land-based pipeline.

Here are the two box interviews with Helge Ryggvik and Alf Nilsen (again in rough translation only):

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Ryggvik interview (headline not fully visible in the PDF but p. 28 bottom L):

Oil researcher Helge Ryggvik's report "The Norwegian oil experience" was launched in Ireland this week.

"While Statoil was built up to give Norway [technological] expertise, Ireland is in the situation where they have not built up any national expertise in this area", says Ryggvik.

"So if Statoil / Shell say that the pipeline must be put precisely there, Ireland has no indigenous experts who are in a position to say that it can be done differently. Ireland's weak negotiating position works in two ways. They cannot say much about how the extraction is to proceed, and they will lose out in that the state will not receive any of the wealth produced from exploiting the gas."

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Nilsen interview (headline not fully visible in the PDF but p. 29 bottom R):

Alf Nilsen, a researcher at the University of Bergen, says that what is happening in Rossport is a good example of how neo-liberal policies lead the state to follow policies which do not benefit the state but rather involve high expenditures, in this case expensive police actions.

He feels that the state does this in order to present itself as an attractive investment area in the global market.

"This is one example of how neo-liberalism furthers what we call accumulation by dispossession, which means turning commonly-owned goods into private capital and into something which only a few people can benefit from, and where most people lose out."

"Does Statoil really want to be part of this kind of politics, which is so different from the policy we have followed in Norway? Does Statoil really want to take part in a project where the Irish police are using patriarchal techniques of power like threats of rape?" asks Nilsen.

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Posted Date: 
16 April 2011