In a comprehensive administrative reorganisation, Norway's 19 counties have become 11. Meet Norway's new regional map, as of January 2020.
Norway’s parliament has implemented the country's most comprehensive administrative reform since 1662.
In a process that began a few years ago, the country’s 19 fylker (counties) have been replaced by 11. As of January 2020, the process is complete.
There has also been consolidation at the local level throughout the country. For example in the new Viken county, the 61 local authorities have become 49.
Why have the changes been made?
The government believes this move will strengthen each region and improve coordination between municipalities, regions and state. Norway's 11 regions will assume control of a number of areas such as infrastructure, education, culture, business development and outdoor life.
“The county structure will now be better adapted to the social challenges we face and facilitate a strengthened social development role for the counties,” said the government in a press release.
“Larger and more functional county municipalities will strengthen local democracy and growth opportunities. It lays the foundation for better cooperation with other regional players and strengthened social development.”
Norway's new county map
Here is the new map of Norway's counties, valid from January 2020:
Only Oslo plus three existing counties have remained the same. Oslo, Nordland, Rogaland and Møre og Romsdal will continue to use the same names and the same borders. However, the rest of the country has changed, as follows:
- Aust-Agder and Vest Agder have combined to become Agder
- Buskerud, Akershus and Østfold have combined to become Viken
- Finnmark and Troms have combined to form Troms og Finnmark
- Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane have combined to form Vestland
- Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag merged into Trøndelag
- Oppland and Hedmark joined to become Innlandet
- Telemark og Vestfold combined to become Vestfold og Telemark
The two Trøndelag counties became one soon after the reform was passed in Parliament. They had long worked closely together so the merger was relatively straightforward. The rest of the changes were implemented on 1 January, 2020.
Controversies and opposition
However, not everyone has been happy with the changes, nor the new names. In May 2018, Finnmark county conducted a referendum on the proposed merger with Troms county. An enormous majority of 87% voted against the merger, on a turnout of 58%.
There was also some controversy about Vestland's choice of name. The name Vestlandet is used to refer to the region of western Norway in tourism marketing, amongst other things.
Given that region typically includes Møre og Romsdal and Rogaland, neither of which joined Vestland county, it was felt by many that this could lead to confusion.
There have also been problems at local municipality level. In some cases, two municipalities with the same name became part of the same county, forcing one to change their name.
Also, there was opposition from some rural municipalities that have merged. In many cases, locals worry that they will now have to travel much farther to access services.
Norway's 7 new counties
Agder: The merger of West- and East-Agder was an obvious choice to make. The new county includes the cities of Kristiansand, Arendal, Korsvik, Vennesla, Grimstad, Mandal and Flekkefjord.
Innlandet: The area covering approximately 17% of mainland Norway is broadly consistent with the historical Oppland region. Innlandet consists of the former counties Oppland and Hedmark, with the exception of Jevnaker and Lunner municipalities that have joined Viken.
Troms og Finnmark: The new county's name reflects the dissatisfaction that many local politicians and people felt at being forced into the change. Many people in rural communities are upset that the sheer size of the new county (74,813 square kilometres) means they will be forgotten. The new county has an official name in the Sami language: Romsa ja Finnmárku.
Trøndelag: The new county also has an official name in the Sami language: Trööndelage. It was the first change to be made under the reform. While the mayor's office resides in Trondheim, the administrative functions of the new county are based in Steinkjer. This is to avoid too much power being centralised in Trondheim, by far the biggest city in Trøndelag.
Vestfold og Telemark: The new name was chosen to reflect the distinct histories and cultural identities of the two former counties. Most of the new county area (87%) consists of the former Telemark county. Administrative centres for the new county are in Skien and Tønsberg.
Vestland: The merger of Hordaland with Sogn og Fjordane brings together many of Norway's traditional fjord districts. Approximately 630,000 people live in Vestland. The official language form of the new county is nynorsk.
Viken: The only merger of three counties has seen Buskerud, Akershus and Østfold become Viken. With an estimated population of more than 1.2 million people, Viken is now Norway’s largest county in terms of population. The name reflects the former name of the region encompassing much of southeast Norway and parts of southern Sweden.