Jens Stoltenberg (born 16 March 1959) is a Norwegian politician, leader of the Norwegian Labour Party and the current Prime Minister of Norway. Having assumed office on 17 October 2005, Stoltenberg previously served as Prime Minister from 2000 to 2001.
Having first been elected to Parliament in 1993 for the Oslo constituency, Stoltenberg served as State Secretary in the Ministry of the Environment from 1990 to 1991 and as Minister of Industry from 1993 to 1996 in the Third Brundtland Cabinet, respectively. Following the resignation of Brundtland in 1996, Thorbjørn Jagland was elected leader of the Labour Party and became Prime Minister, while Stoltenberg was appointed Minister of Finance, an office he held until 17 October 1997 when Jagland and the entire government resigned. While in parliamentary opposition, Stoltenberg served in the standing committees on energy affairs. Following a motion of confidence against the First Bondevik Cabinet, Stoltenberg was appointed Prime Minister on 3 March 2000, despite being deputy leader of the party, and not the party leader.
After poor results in the 2001 parliamentary election, and the subsequent fall of his government on 19 October of that same year, Stoltenberg successfully challenged Thorbjørn Jagland for the party leadership in 2002, and led the party to victory in the 2005 election by forming a Red-Green coalition government with the Centre Party (Sp) and the Socialist Left Party (SV). He was re-elected in 2009 for another term as Prime Minister of Norway.
From 1979 to 1981 Stoltenberg was a journalist for Arbeiderbladet; between 1985 and 1989, he was the leader of the Workers' Youth League and between 1990 and 1992, leader of the Oslo chapter of the Labour Party. Until 1990 he had regular contacts with a Soviet diplomat who later was revealed to be a KGB agent. According to Stoltenberg he immediately broke off this relationship when he came to the knowledge that his contact was a KGB agent. Several sources have confirmed that Stoltenberg's code name within the KGB was "Steklov", a name Jens Stoltenberg used as his online alias when playing computer games such as Age of Empires.
Minister of Finance
Before becoming Minister of Finance, Stoltenberg was Minister for trade and energy in Gro Harlem Brundtland's cabinet between 1993–1996. In 1996 when Brundtland resigned, Thorbjørn Jagland stepped in for her and became the new Norwegian Prime Minister. In Jagland's government, Stoltenberg became Minister of Finance. On the 29 September 1997, Jagland resigned because of an ultimatum he had issued stating that the cabinet would resign should the party receive less than 36.9% of the popular vote. Labour only received 35.0%; true to his promise, Jagland resigned, and power was transferred to the first cabinet of Kjell Magne Bondevik. After Jagland's resignation, Stoltenberg served as the of standing committee on oil and energy affairs in the Storting.
AUF membership scandal
The AUF (Workers' Youth League) membership scandal refers to the police investigation and subsequent court cases in Norway in early 1998 where four members of AUF stood accused of deliberately inflating membership numbers of their organization in order to receive increased government funding. They were eventually found guilty of fraud and sentenced to jail. The unlawful practice of submitting higher membership numbers to city council offices had at the time become an accepted culture in various political youth organizations, and it is believed that the leadership of the parties involved were aware of this practice. Although only four members were prosecuted and jailed, other former members of the AUF and by that stage leading politicians were not prosecuted. Among these were Stoltenberg and former prime minister Jagland.
On 2 March 1995, the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) published the story. On 14 March 1995, twelve days later, Stoltenberg and former AUF leader Turid Birkeland admitted that 'advancing' money to pay for membership fees was a common and accepted practice at the time they were involved with the organization. However, on 17 March 1998, Stoltenberg was called in to give testimony in the case. He told the Oslo city court, under oath, that he was unfamiliar with the artificial inflating of membership figures which took place in the AUF. He also told the court that he was unaware of any form of fraud taking place in the organisation under his leadership, and stated that he had never heard of 'advancing' money to pay for memberships until VG broke the story. He also stated that in his opinion it was not necessarily wrong to 'advance' money for members provided that the members in question reimbursed this fee later on.
Stoltenberg was also cross-examined by defense lawyer Tor Erling Staff, who pointed out that membership numbers for the AUF during Stoltenberg's tenure – 11,000 – were too high. According to Staff's calculations such huge membership numbers would mean that the AUF had to recruit several thousand members each year. The following day, March,18, Stoltenberg told the court that the government had accepted non-paying members in youth organizations as normal members for many years, provided that the membership was confirmed by word of mouth by the member in question.
In 2000 the first cabinet of Bondevik resigned following a motion of confidence. Stoltenberg's first cabinet governed Norway from 17 March 2000 to 19 October 2001. Stoltenberg was the deputy leader of the labor party while Jagland was the party leader. Instead Jagland was given the post as Foreign Minister. Again, Jagland made national headlines similar to the publicity about "The Norwegian House" and "36.9%", this time for the phrase "Bongo from Congo", originally coined as an internal joke in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the expense of the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo. Stoltenberg's first tenure as Prime Minister (2000–2001) was controversial within his own party, being responsible for reforms and modernisation of the welfare state that included part-privatising several key state-owned services and corporations. In the parliamentary election of 10 September 2001, the party suffered one of its worst results ever, winning only 24% of the vote.
The 2001 election met with instability for the Labour Party, because of the voters' unhappiness with the lack of nursery schools, retirement homes and a declining standard of public education in Norway. The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet stated: "We are heading for a political earthquake when the votes are counted tonight, if we believe the opinion polls." In an interview with The Associated Press Jagland stated "It is unstable and unpredictable." After the election in 2001, Stoltenberg and his cabinet were forced to resign, with the Labour Party suffering from its worst election campaign results since 1924. With the 98% votes taken, the Labour Party only garned 24%, falling from 35%. Jagland, the Labor Party leader, commented on the results saying, "We will have to make a decision about whether to continue in government after we know the full results". After the election Stoltenberg said, "What is clear is that this was a very bad election."
The disastrous results of 2001 were quickly followed by a bitter leadership battle between Jagland and Stoltenberg. In 2002, Jagland was replaced as party leader by Stoltenberg. This did not come as a surprise for many in the Labour Party. However, before any voting took place Jagland relinquished the post and gave it to Stoltenberg. because Jagland had recently been hospitalized due to general health problems, and had moreover felt "responsibility to end this destructive personal strife". The power struggle ended up with Stoltenberg becoming the new labour party leader in Norway.
Stoltenberg's second cabinet has governed Norway since 17 October 2005. The 2005 parliamentary election saw a vast improvement for Labour, and the party gained a majority in parliament together with the other "Red-Green" parties, the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party. This paved the way for a historic first in Norway, with Labour joining in a coalition government, the Red-Green Coalition, after a coalition deal with Stoltenberg was struck. Since the government's formation, key political issues such as Norwegian military participation in the current war in Afghanistan, petroleum activities in the Barents Sea, LGBT rights, immigration and the quality of standard education have been greatly debated by the public. Following Stoltenberg's re-election in 2009, the government has put further restrictions on immigration matters due to ongoing threats of terrorism, centralised and re-organised health care and public hospitals, dealt with the ongoing global recession and championed for environmentalist policies through private and corporate taxation.
A marine border dispute with Russia in the Barents Sea since 1978 was settled when Stoltenberg and President of Russia Dimitry Medvedev signed an agreement on 27 April 2010 in Oslo. The agreement is a compromise, which divides a disputed area of around 175,000 km2 (68,000 sq mi) into two approximately equally sized parts. However, the agreement still needs ratification by the State Duma and the Parliament of Norway in order to be implemented.
As a result of alleged government inefficiency, blunders, scandals and misquotations made by members of the cabinet, among them Centre Party leader and Minister of Local Government and Regional Development Liv Signe Navarsete, Stoltenberg's second term has attracted controversy and criticism from both conservatives and liberals. According to a recent polling, the three governing parties (combined) gained a 35.8 percent approval rating from the electorate.
22 July 2011 terror attacks
On 22 July 2011, a bomb went off in Oslo outside the government building which houses the prime minister's office, killing at least eight people while wounding others. About an hour later, a shooting spree, which killed 69 people, was reported at Utøya, an island forty-five minutes away where the ruling Labour Party was holding its annual youth camp. The PM was due for a visit at the youth camp the next day, and was at the time of the Oslo explosion in his residence preparing his speech.
On Sunday 24 July, Stoltenberg spoke at the church service in the Oslo Cathedral. He named two of the victims at Utøya, Monica Bøsei who was the camp's leader, and Tore Eikeland who was the leader of the youth chapter in Hordaland. He again vowed to work for more democracy, openness, and humanity, but without naivety. He also said that "No one has said it better than the AUF girl who was interviewed by CNN: If one man can show so much hate, think how much love we could show, standing together." The AUF girl mentioned is Stine Renate Håheim interviewed by CNN's Richard Quest on 23 July 2011. Håheim again quoted her friend Helle Gannestad, who had twittered this from home, watching events unfold on TV.
After 22 July 2011
On September 3, 2012 Klassekampen wrote that the Gjørv Report "is the hardest verdict against a Norwegian cabinet since the Fact-Finding Commission of 1945 ensured that Johan Nygaardsvold's political career was abruptly halted."
Stoltenberg grew up in a political family. His father, Thorvald Stoltenberg, is one of the most prominent politicians in Norway and a former Foreign Minister; his mother Karin Stoltenberg was a junior minister. Stoltenberg lived in Serbia from 1960 to 1963 while his father was ambassador to Yugoslavia. The late Marianne Heiberg, married to former Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst, was his aunt on his mother's side. Stoltenberg is married to the diplomat Ingrid Schulerud and has two children, Axel Stoltenberg and Catharina Stoltenberg. He was raised in the Waldorf Education system as formulated by Rudolf Steiner, and educated at the Oslo katedralskole and the University of Oslo. He likes to spend his summer vacations on the Hvaler Islands in the Oslo fjord. In the winter he is an active cross-country skier. He has two sisters: Camilla, a medical researcher and administrator who is one year older than him; and Nini, four years younger. Nini is a recovering heroin addict, and the Norwegian media have covered the family's efforts to cope with this challenge. Jens Stoltenberg has admitted to using cannabis in his youth. He has recently asked the department of Justice to evaluate his impartiality in the upcoming government treatment of the Stoltenberg Commission's (headed by his father, Thorvald Stoltenberg) report on drugs.
Radical teen years
Stoltenberg's first steps into politics came when he was in his early teens and was influenced by his sister Camilla, who at the time was a member of the then Marxist-Leninist group Red Youth. Opposition to the Vietnam War was his triggering motivation. Following raids of heavy bombing against the North Vietnamese port city Hai Phong at the end of the Vietnam War, he participated in protest rallies targeting the United States Embassy in Oslo. He threw stones at the building and broke several windows. He escaped arrest by the police, though several of his friends were caught.
The parking incident
In 2001, shortly after he had quit after his first term as prime minister, Stoltenberg gained some negative media attention when he crashed into a parked car in a parking lot. According to an eye witness, an employee of the Norwegian High Command with a security clearance, Stoltenberg went over to check on the other car twice, and the eye witness thought he fastened a note to the windscreen of the damaged car. Then Stoltenberg took off in his car, a Saab 9-3 leased to the Labour Party, and the High Command employee approached the damaged vehicle to check what had been written on the note that was clamped under the windscreen wiper but discovered it was just a blank parking receipt. The damages to the parked car amounted to NOK 8,000 (about US $1,300). The day after the story broke in the media Stoltenberg said he had made a blunder which he regretted. He explained not leaving a notice with having been unable to find a pen.
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