Norwegian minister resigns over commuter housing scandal

Labour deputy leader Hadia Tajik resigned from her role as Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion on Wednesday in the wake of a housing scandal.

File photo of Labour deputy leader Hadia Tajik
Hadia Tajik, pictured speaking in a file photo, resigned from her ministerial role over a commuter housing scandal. Photo by Arbeiderpartiet on Flickr.

Labour Party deputy leader Hadia Tajik has resigned after it was revealed that she received tax-free commuter housing between 2006 and 2010 on the basis of a rental contract that was never enforced.

“I’m sorry I made a mistake and have disappointed many. I apologise for that. I’m sorry I did not handle it better before. It is my fault,” she said at a press conference.  

She received the tax exemption because she said she was renting a studio from her parent’s neighbours, with the lease making her exempt from being taxed on the commuter home.

However, she never lived in the studio or paid rent for the property, newspaper VG reports.

Tajik had claimed that she was entitled to tax-free commuter housing as she had housing expenses while living at home with her parents in Rogaland.

She has said that she will pay back any tax owed and will continue serving in parliament as an MP for Rogaland as well as remaining in the post of Labour Party deputy leader.

Under certain conditions, MPs in Norway can receive housing covered by the state if they do not live close to parliament.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has said he agrees with Tajik’s decision to resign.

“As Hadia has said, she sees that she has made several mistakes related to the fact that she had tax-free commuter housing. I trust Hadia and believe her story, but I agree with her decision,” Støre told news wire NTB.

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Norway says it hasn’t breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

Norway is not breaching a century-old treaty covering the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard by blocking Russian cargo to the islands, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday after Moscow threatened retaliatory measures.

Norway says it hasn't breached treaty by blocking Russian cargo to Svalbard

“Norway does not violate the Svalbard Treaty,” foreign minister Anniken Huitfeldt told AFP. “Norway does not try to put obstacles in the way of supplies” to a Russian coal mining settlement in the area, she said, after Russia’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Norway’s charge d’affaires over the issue.

Moscow accused Norway of disrupting the work of the Russian consulate general on Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Norway has sovereignty over Svalbard but allows citizens of more than 40 countries to exploit the islands’ potentially vast resources on an equal footing.

Moscow has long wanted a bigger say in the archipelago — which it insists on calling Spitsbergen rather than the Norwegian Svalbard – which has been a haunt of its hunters, whalers and fishermen since the 16th century. The Svalbard Treaty handing sovereignty to Norway was signed in 1920.

Huitfeldt argued the shipment that was stopped at the Norwegian-Russian border “has been stopped on the basis of the sanctions that prohibit Russian road transport companies from transporting goods on Norwegian territory”.

Goods transport “does not have to go via mainland Norway by Russian truck”, she said, suggesting other solutions could be found to supply the mining community.

Svalbard was exempt from a ban on port calls by Russian-flagged vessels, “and we have clearly signalled our willingness to consider a dispensation from the flight ban”, the minister said.

The situation in the town of Barentsburg, home to the Russian miners, was “normal”, she said.

“Residents have access to food and medicine,” Huitfeldt said. “It is not Norwegian policy to try to force Russian companies or citizens away from Svalbard, or to put obstacles in the way of the business that takes place in accordance with Norwegian laws and regulations.

“At the same time, Norway’s necessary reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine may also have practical consequences for Russian companies on Svalbard, as in Norway in general,” Huitfeldt said.