COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre met with Indigenous Sami reindeer herders Friday after more than a week of protests against wind farms that activists say endanger the herders’ way of life.
The prime minister acknowledged “ongoing human rights violations” in the situation.
At the same time, the activists, many of them teenagers, said they would pause their blockade of the entrances of several government ministries in Oslo, Norway’s capital, because the government had made a public apology.
“We need a pause. We are stopping now,” activist Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen said. “We are ready to restart the actions if we deem it necessary.”
The activists assembled one last time outside the royal palace in Oslo Friday but stressed they would not block access as Norwegian government officials attend a regular briefing of the Norwegian monarch, which is a formality.
“We must have protection against system abuse and abuse of power,” Silje Karine Mutoka, the speaker of the 39-seat Sami Parliament, told dozens of people gathered on the square outside Norway’s national legislature. The crowd cheered.
Outside the Norwegian royal palace, another group dressed in traditional Sami garments sat on the ground on reindeer skins in below freezing temperatures.
After a breakfast meeting with the Sami herders, Gahr Støre said that “there is an ongoing violation of human rights.”
“The reindeer owners are not allowed to exercise their culture in line with the traditions,” he said, adding the aim of the morning meeting ”was to repeat the apology we gave yesterday, and at the same time look ahead.”
At the center of the dispute are 151 turbines at Europe’s largest onshore wind farm in the Fosen district, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) north of Oslo. Norway’s Supreme Court ruled in October 2021 that the construction of the turbines had violated the rights of the Sami, who have used the land for reindeer for centuries.
After the Supreme Court ruling, the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy had asked the owners of the two wind farms to establish whether measures could be taken to preserve reindeer herding near the turbines. But the Sami have refused to take part in such a process.
The windmills are still operating. The activists say a transition to green energy should not come at the expense of the rights of Indigenous people.
On Thursday, Norway’s oil and energy minister apologized on behalf of the government for failing to act despite the Supreme Court ruling.