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Norway’s FM: Many Questions Yet to Be Answered on Attacks

August 15, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
The deadly attacks in Norway on July 22 marked the country's worst violence since World War II. Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the nation is coping, how the Internet is affecting extremism, the state of the investigations into the attacks and the many issued that have been raised.
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mr. Minister, thank you very much for joining us.

Your country went through such a terrible shock. In a nation with fewer than five million people, where so many must know one another, is it harder to get through something like this?

JONAS GAHR STORE, Norwegian foreign minister: Well, I think it’s hard for any country experiencing the effects of terror on civilians.

The strength of my country is, I believe, that we come out with a sense of togetherness when something like this happened, because the killed ones came from all over Norway. So almost every community in one way or another was affected. So, there was a strong sense, you know, quite quickly that across all imaginable dividing lines, it was time to come together to support those who — who were left behind and those who survived.

So, you know, terrible for all, but there was also a strong sense in the response.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Your government has just appointed a commission to investigate what happened. Is the main question out there what the media reported as a slow response, or what?

JONAS GAHR STORE: This is not an investigation.

I mean, police will deal with the — the suspect, who has admitted to the crime. But we need to know as a country — a number of questions need to be answered: response time, emergency preparedness, how the media reacted, how we were able to follow up and care for the people who were hurt, how the hospitals responded. So, it’s really about digging deep into all aspects and ask all questions, so that we can be certain that we have turned every stone.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Is there a better understanding now of why Anders Breivik did this?

JONAS GAHR STORE: I mean, my answer is no.

I mean, he left a manifesto. He has apparently, according to police, been explaining why he did it. What they say, the police, is that they are pretty certain he was alone, he planned it and he executed it himself. And I think the whole rationale of this man, as we read it, comes from somebody inside the bubble who has launched his own war.

So, yes, the writing is there, but I think it’s quite unimaginable for most Norwegians to understand.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You had a recent election there. The election results show that there is clearly some opposition in Norway to immigration. How do you draw the line between natural and acceptable political debate and the kind of extreme action that he took?

JONAS GAHR STORE: Well, that’s a challenge for any democracy.

You know, I think integration in Norway is, by all standards, going relatively well. People are working, taking education, learning the language. But, yes, it is a challenge. And democracy and democratic debate has to be open to take that debate openly, and not push questions aside.

Those who experience fear should be asked to come forward and express it. That, I think, generally is working well. But, you know, I think what we are discovering here, in the midst of the Norwegian society, that the Internet community can create kind of virtual worlds for people who would nurture ideas and bring them forward, which in itself is not something you should condemn. But here you see that the step from such ideas to violent action happened.

And that, I think, is a whole new source of knowledge, which we have to study very closely, defending the freedom of expression, but looking after constantly, how does a society protect itself?

JUDY WOODRUFF: So you think the Internet has made it worse?

JONAS GAHR STORE: Well, the Internet is making a lot better, but what we have seen here from the blogging society, from these kind of closed circuits, where ideas are developed and ideas changed — exchanged in a different interaction than the one you and I have now, where we hold each other kind of accountable in the debate.

And the electronic traces of this person shows that, you know, it’s a kind of a virtual community, which we — which we have to understand better.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Your prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said — at one of the memorial services, he said — and I’m quoting — “It’s important to affirm that we respect one another’s beliefs. Against that backdrop, diversity must be allowed to blossom and to color the picture of the Norwegian ‘we.’”

How does your government plan to do that, when there is clearly some opposition to immigration?

JONAS GAHR STORE: That’s democracy. And I think it’s fair to have questions and fair to have — have those, you know, concerns about it.

The notion of “we” is very important. I think, for any family, any community to be able to say “we” in this family, it means something. It’s dangerous to society when somebody will place himself or herself on the outside of “we.” “I’m not included. I don’t have responsibilities.”

And we live in the age of migration. And that also reaches to Norway, although we have a small immigrant population. What we have to reach out is say that all citizens, be they immigrants or not, have rights and obligations.

And we all should, you know, be part of that “we,” which needs to be larger and more inclusive now with a more diverse society than the one I grew up in. These changes have happened fast. Norway has a secure economy, but, in other European countries, where the economy is more vulnerable, this is more dangerous ingredients to the political climate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what about the broader European picture? Because it isn’t just Norway. Is it a function of — in immigration, of so many people coming in so quickly? Is that what’s happening here?

JONAS GAHR STORE: I think, you know, that partly coupled with poor integration, you know, language, education, the labor market, housing. You get double — different standards in society.

And if there are economic slowdowns, you know, you quickly get the issue, you know, whose fault is this? Who is taking my job? And these are dangerous trends that we have to address. The prime minister’s response and the government’s response has been to say that our prime source is democracy, is openness, is debate. And we’re not going to close in the society and shy those debates to the side, but take them openly.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Having said that, do you think your country has been changed by what happened?

JONAS GAHR STORE: You know, my take is the following.

We will be marked forever after by the 22nd of July. Such an experience collectively has marked us, in addition to the terrible suffering of those who were directly hit. But we have pledged, I think, as a society, as a country, that we will be recognizable. Norway will be recognized as an open democracy with the rule of law, with the universal human rights, and with the broad international engagement on the international scene taking upon ourselves responsibilities, because we are a privileged country.

We are in a peaceful corner of the world living in peace. And we will shoulder part of that responsibility after the 22nd of July and even more so, because these values are our prime instruments to deal with a tragedy.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, the victims, most of them were young people at that camp on the island. What do you think the effect is going to be on the younger generation in Norway?

JONAS GAHR STORE: Well, we are three weeks after.

You know, I have been saying when I go to these memorials that I was there the day before. I spent the day with the kids, the youth, such a fantastic group of people, when you meet these teenagers who kind of slowly decide that: I will engage. I see that, if I want to change in my local community, it’s through politics.

And they get them there to learn more about it, in addition to having the fun of a summer camp. And then they are being massacred. What is the message? What we have seen during these three weeks is that membership in youth organizations across the board has gone up sharply. We have seen that intentions to vote in the regional elections on the 12th of September has gone up sharply.

So I’m happy to see that, because that is a democratic response to a highly undemocratic challenge, which is violence and terror. And, again, it’s the best way we can show our back to the ideas and the actions of this man is to do precisely that.

So, you know, the youth is the hope and the way they respond to it. And they have said very clearly — you know, this notion has gone around the world. If one man can hate that much, imagine what we can do together with our combined love. It’s the sentence of a teenager, but I think it’s a good message after the massacre that will inspire us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, Mr. Minister Jonas Store, we appreciate your being with us. And, again, our condolences to you and to your country men and women.

JONAS GAHR STORE: Thank you so much.