Nepali Times Asian Paints
"Find solutions through consensus"

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig M?ller was in Kathmandu last week on a two-day trip during which he met with senior government leaders. He spoke to Nepali Times about his assessment of the peace process in Nepal as well as Danish development aid.

Nepali Times: What was your assessment of the status of the peace process after meeting Nepali leaders?
Per Stig M?ller: I felt positive about it. You have been through a sea change which normally is very difficult. You have done it through an election and it seems accepted by all parties. You have got a Maoist as a prime minister, whom I met this morning, although there isn't much Maoism left in him.

Did you tell him that?
I said that to him, yes, you don't sound like a Maoist? (Laughs) I also met the president and the foreign minister and they are all fully aware that they have to find solutions through consensus that will address the broad section of the country. I can see that there is the political will and the process is working. You have started the difficult process towards constitution building. You are in agreement that the judiciary shall deal with the perpetrators of past atrocities. It is very important that there is no impunity. You are dealing with the problem of restitution of property, which had been confiscated. I think you are dealing with the things you have to deal with, but how it is going to turn out I don't know.

So, did it worry you that there was no consensus among the political parties?
It's not for me to say if the Nepali Congress should join the government. In every parliamentary system you need a strong opposition to be the check and balance the policies of the government. It is not in itself a problem that you have a strong party outside the government. Also, people have something to choose in the next election. But of course there should be the rule of law, the confidence in the police should be restored and as long as you continue to not deal with corruption it will hamper development.

How much of an obstacle is army integration in your view?
You can have only one army in the country and it must be in the control of the government. You can't have armed groups outside the government control. So you have very very difficult challenges ahead of you.

Did the issue of federalism come up in your discussions?
Yes, of course. Our position is, and I think it is broadly shared here, that the policies and decisions have to be made as close to the people as possible- which means decentralisation or regionalisation. And, because Nepal is a very diverse country with a lot of different ethnicities and languages, you also need a strong centre if you don't want the country to fragment. Whether it is a strong president or a strong prime minister, it's up to you but you have different systems in this way to keep the cohesion of the country. Also, you can't be cohesive if parts of the country are excluded.

As one of Nepal's main development partners, are you satisfied with the way aid is being handled?
We have been very involved with helping the reconciliation process. We are also extending support to education and the environment. With the foreign minister and the prime minister we also discussed the climate change problem. Denmark is hosting the climate change conference next year and your prime minister said he would come, which I was very pleased to hear.

Denmark is one of the countries resettling Bhutan refugees. Doesn't this let the Bhutani regime off the hook for its human rights violations?
We have said we will take 500. It is a very, very difficult issue. In the Middle East, the problem has not been solved by keeping people in refugee camps. The refugees could wait a long time, and as long as you don't have an agreement their problems would not be solved. And it seems to be very difficult to get that agreement. So, with third country resettlement you are freezing the situation and also addressing the humanitarian issues in the camps. It is better for the refugees. We have tried to say that Nepal should also take some of the refugees besides the US, Denmark and others. But I have also spoken to the Bhutanese. The problem is 17 years old and the first time I took it up with the Bhutanese was back in 1990.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)