Protests force Norway's energy minister to cancel UK trip
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norway’s energy minister on Wednesday canceled a trip to the U.K. because of a protest against a wind farm that campaigners say hinders the rights of the Sami Indigenous people to raise reindeer in Arctic Norway.
The activists, mainly teenagers, have been blocking the entrance to several ministries in the Norwegian capital since Monday. They are protesting against a wind farm that’s still operating despite a ruling by Norway’s Supreme Court in October 2021 that the construction of the wind turbines violated the rights of the Sami, who have been using the land for reindeer for centuries.
Activist Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that they were “escalating another couple of notches. We have said we will shut down the state of Norway, department by department.”
Using a bullhorn, Hætta Isaksen told cheering activists later Wednesday that “we continue the blockade.”
"We cannot solve the energy crisis by ignoring the rights of Indigenous people," she said.
A dozen activists were forcibly removed from the Finance Ministry on Wednesday, including Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Some of them chanted “let the mountains live,” the Norwegian news agency NTB said.
Oil and Energy Minister Terje Aasland “has chosen to reprioritize his calendar and will therefore not travel to the U.K. as planned,” his office said.
He was due to take part in a two-day visit starting Wednesday with the Norwegian crown prince and his wife. The ministry said that Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt will replace him.
“Let me say that it is regrettable that we have come to the point where we have an Indigenous people who feel that their rights have been violated,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre told NTB.
On Tuesday, Aasland spoke with the activists, some of whom donned the Sami’s traditional bright-colored dress, saying the government will make a “new decision” on the wind farm, but he couldn't give any specifics “until we have a sufficient knowledge basis for it.”
That infuriated the activists who said in a statement that “our will to fight is only growing after Terje Aasland’s visit with the same empty words as always.”
The activists have been protesting outside the Energy Ministry since Thursday. They began blocking the entrances to other ministries on Tuesday.
In a letter to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, José Francisco Calí Tzay, the Sami Parliament of Norway urged the U.N. body to “consider communicating with the Norwegian authorities.”
In the letter which was posted on the parliament site, its speaker Silje Karine Mutoka said “the windmills must be demolished, and the area restored to reindeer grazing land.”
She is due to meet with Aasland on Thursday to discuss the wind farm.
The 39-seat Sametinget is a representative body in Norway for people of the Sami who live in Lapland, which stretches from northern parts of Norway through Sweden and Finland to Russia.
They once faced oppression of their culture, including bans on the use of their native tongue. Today the nomadic people live mostly modern lifestyles but still tend reindeer.
Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press