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|Prime Minister of Norway|
| Assumed office:|
October 17, 2005
|Preceded by:||Kjell Magne Bondevik|
| In office:|
March 3, 2000 – October 19, 2001
|Preceded by:||Kjell Magne Bondevik|
|Succeeded by:||Kjell Magne Bondevik|
|Born:|| March 16, 1959 (age 49)|
|Political party:||Det norske arbeiderparti (DNA)|
|Alma mater:||University of Oslo|
Jens Stoltenberg (born March 16, 1959) is the Prime Minister of Norway. He took office in October of 2005; he was previously Prime Minister from 2000 to 2001. He has also been the leader of the Norwegian Labour Party since 2002. He has been a Member of Parliament from Oslo since 1993.
Early life and education
Jens Stoltenberg was born on March 16, 1959 in Oslo, Norway. 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. The late Marianne Heiberg, married to former Foreign Minister Johan Jørgen Holst, was his aunt on his mother's side.
He belongs to the Stoltenberg family which emigrated to Norway in the 17th century, from the North German village of Stoltenberg in Schleswig-Holstein (the Duchies were then in a personal union with the kingdoms of Denmark and Norway).
He was raised in the Waldorf Education system as formulated by Rudolf Steiner, and educated at the Oslo katedralskole and the University of Oslo.
Early political career
Stoltenberg was the leader of the Workers' Youth League (Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking, AUF) between 1985 and 1989 and the Oslo chapter of the Labour Party between 1990 and 1992. In 1985 he was elected into the central board of the Labour Party, and was appointed the deputy party chairman in 1992. He was the vice president of the Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) between 1985 and 1989.
Jens Stoltenberg was part-time journalist on the national daily Arbeiderbladet 1979-1981, information secretary at Oslo Labour Party 1981, executive officer at Statistics Norway 1989-1990 and lectured in economics at the University of Oslo 1989-1990.
Member of the Storting
Stoltenberg was elected into the Norwegian parliament (Stortinget) for the first time in 1993, after being a deputy member of the Storting 1989-1993 and a regular attendee from 1991. He was Labour’s parliamentary leader at the change of government (February and March 2000 and between 2001 and 2005), member of the Storting’s standing committee on social affairs 1991-1993, leader of the standing committee on oil and energy affairs 1997-2000 and member of the standing committee on foreign affairs 2001-2005.
He was deputy minister (statssekretær) in the Department of the Environment from 1990 to 1991 and Minister of Industry from 1993 to 1996 under Gro Harlem Brundtland’s third government, and Minister of Finance from 1996 to 1997 in Thorbjørn Jagland’s government.
Stoltenberg is also the leader of the Labor Party, an office he took over after Thorbjørn Jagland in November 2002 after having been first deputy since 1992.
First term as Prime Minister (2000–2001)
In 2000 the first cabinet of Bondevik resignated following a motion of confidence. Stoltenberg's first cabinet governed Norway from March 17, 2000 to October 19, 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 meet with instability for the labour party, because of the voters unhappiness with 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 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 was forced to resign, with the labor party suffering from its worst election campaign results since 1924. With the 98% votes taken, the Labor Party only garned 24%, falling from 35% percentage. Jagland the party leader of the labor party commented the results stating "We will have to make a decision about whether to continue in government after we know the full results". After the election Stoltenberg stated "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 didn't come as a surprise for many in the labor party. However, before any voting took place Jagland relinquished the post and gave it 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 labor party leader in Norway.
Second term as Prime Minister (2005 – )
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. Stoltenberg became Prime Minister for the second time on 17 October 2005. Since the election Stoltenberg’s cabinet has been hit by some scandals, and the Government has been far behind the opposition in most opinion polls. However, Mr. Stoltenberg's personal approval ratings have remained high throughout the term. The next General Election is due in September 2009.
Soria Moria statement
After the election victory on September 12, the three parties agreed to initiate governmental negotiations at Soria Moria Hotel and Conference Center. The negotiations began on September 26 and was concluded with a press conference where the government statement was presented on October 13.
Among the issues that were negotiated were:
- Petroleum activities in the Barents Sea,
- Norwegian agricultural conditions, including in connection with the simultaneously ongoing negotiations in the WTO,
- Norwegian military participation in Afghanistan and Iraq,
- Organization of public hospitals,
- Publicly funded school meals,
- The grades in school, and
- Opportunity for same-sex marriage and be assessed as adoptive parents
Same-sex marriage became legal in Norway on January 1, 2009 when a gender neutral marriage bill was enacted after being passed by the Norwegian legislature on June 11, 2008, approving by 84 votes to 41 a bill that would give lesbian and gay couples the same rights as heterosexuals, including church weddings, adoption and assisted pregnancies.
The Red-Green government's increase of taxes on petrol and diesel has resulted in a decline in support, which declined even further following suggestions by the Socialist Left Party of raising the prices on petrol and diesel to 18 NOK/Litre (2.65 USD $).
War on Terrorism
As according to the Soria Moria statement, the Red-Green Coalition has been in favour of strengthening the Norwegian participation in the ISAF force in Afghanistan, and as of February 2009 has 455 Norwegian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. However, some of the old members of the Socialist Left Party have criticised Halvorsen for being too benign towards Labour, especially on the issue about the conflict in Afghanistan and NATO.
The Red-Green Coalition and the opposition parties in the Storting unilaterally supported the military intervention in Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur. However, Stoltenberg was criticized by some politicians in the Socialist Left Party for participating in a operation under a COD-NATO mandate, and not a mandate led by the United Nations.
Muhammad cartoons controversy
Not long into his premiership, the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad became one of his most serious international issues. On January 10, 2006 the Christian newspaper Magazinet reprinted Jyllands-Posten's Muhammad cartoons which, according to the editor, was made in the name of freedom of speech. The printing of these drawings resulted in attacks on Norwegian installations in some parts of the Muslim world. On February 4, 2006, the buildings containing the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria were set ablaze. On February 7, the Norwegian embassy in Iran was attacked with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and on the same day the Norwegian-led ISAF base in Maymana, Afghanistan was attacked by a furious crowd, leaving four people dead and 22 wounded.
Stoltenberg was praised for his calm leadership during the crisis.
In January 2009 Centre Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete started the so called blasfemisaken, when she proposed changing the Norwegian penalty law by removing the old and almost dormant blasphemy paragraph (blasfemiparagrafen), but instead expand the so-called racism paragraph (rasismeparagrafen) to include "qualified attacks on religion or beliefs", with the goal of protecting the "different religions, and the individual's religious feelings." The proposition was supported by both Prime Minister Stoltenberg and Finance Minister and SV party leader Kristin Halvorsen, but faced criticism within their own parties.
The issue began to receive much media attention when an statement by Navarsete published by the Centre Party's communications chief Torvild Sveen saying that "I'm good with that we have won this case and forced Ap [Labour Party] to its knees" ("Jeg står godt med at vi har vunnet denne saken og tvunget Ap i kne.") was posted on the Centre Party's website. While the statement was quicky removed, it was too late to prevent the controversy from escalating. In the following days the intellectuals, the media, the opposition parties and members of the coalition parties alike criticized the proposed change of the hate parapraph.
On February 4, 2009 the chairwoman of the Centre Party, Liv Signe Navarsete, announced that they would withdraw the suggestion of the new addition to the Racism paragraph in the new penalty law due to be introduced in 2011. Despite the withdrawal, the Red-Green coalition parties (Labour Party, Socialist Left Party and in particular the Centre Party) dropped sharply in the opinion polls, and is now heading for a defeat in the next General Election due in September 2009.
Debate over hijabs in police uniforms
On February 4, 2009 the Justice Department announced that the Police Directorate had decided that it will be permitted to wear hijab with the Norwegian police uniform. Police Director Ingelin Killengreen stated that the move is part of a desire to secure broad recruitmet. The decision were to approved by the Minister of Justice, Knut Storberget, and was supported by the Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party, the Christian Democratic Party and the Liberal Party. However, the decision caused a political storm. The head of the Policemen's Union, Arne Johannessen, was surprised and disappointed by the decision, saying that "We have a police force which is supposed to symbolize neutrality while in uniform". This position was supported by the two opposition parties, the Progress Party and the Conservative Party, but as well as by Ola Borten Moe of the Centre Party, which was a member of Stoltenbergs red-green coalition. Storberget commented that there was broad bipartisan support for the proposal, and aligned Moe with the Progress Party. However, Over two thirds of the Norwegian population voiced their opposition to allowing hijabs in the police uniform, and the other coalition parties (Labour Party and Socialist Left Party) were split on this issue as well. Due to the fierce opposition Storberget withdrew his support from the issue, and proposed a new debate over the issue on February 10. Stoltenberg was open for allowing hijab in the police uniform, but asked Storberget to withdraw the decision following internal opposition, mainly from Minister of Health Bjarne Håkon Hanssen and state secretary Libe Rieber-Mohn. Hanssen's opposition was noticeable, as he had between 2005 and 2008 served as Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, whose responsibilites include integration, immigration, asylum and ethnic minorities.
The storm did not calm, however, and on February 18 the government-owned public broadcasting company NRK reported that the announcement by the Justice Department of the permission of wearing hijab with the Norwegian police uniform was brought forward by the Labour Party politicians Astri Aas-Hansen and Hadia Tajik without Justice Minister Storberget's consent or knowledge. In response to this, the Progress Party and the Conservative Party have both stated that Storberget should consider resigning as Justice Minister for negligence in this matter. The government parties were split on the issue, which in turn resulted in growing support for the Progress Party, who opposed political and religious symbols in police uniforms.
Stoltenberg is married to the diplomat Ingrid Schulerud and has two children.
He likes to spend his summer vacations on the Hvaler Islands in the Oslo fjord. He has two sisters, Camilla who is one year older than him, she is a medical researcher and administrator, and Nini who is four years younger. She is a recovering heroin addict and the family has been portrayed in Norwegian mass media on their struggles to cope with this problem.