OSLO: A meeting with Russia’s foreign minister in Tromsø, climate talks in Glasgow and NATO talks in Brussels are some of what awaits the new government.
On Thursday, Labor leader Jonas Gahr Støre will come out on the castle square in Oslo with his new government team.
Just a week later, the government has its first international mission: a two-day NATO defense ministers’ meeting. This will take place at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on 21 and 22 October.
Then it goes hand in hand:
October 26Norway is hosting a meeting of the Barents Council. This is happening in Tromsø, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed that he is coming.
12th November The UN’s major climate conference COP26 kicks off with a summit in which well over 100 world leaders are expected to attend, including US President Joe Biden. NTB receives confirmation that future Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre also plans to attend the meeting, which will take place in the Scottish city of Glasgow.
November 3 The prime ministers of the Nordic Council gather for a summit in Copenhagen.
Counterparty with long experience
A source in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the meeting of the Barents Council as “large and important” for Norway.
At the same time, it is a very experienced counterpart the government meets when Lavrov comes to Norway, points out former Conservative Foreign Minister Børge Brende.
– You must always be well prepared when you meet Lavrov. He always knows the cases from A to Z, says Brende.
-He has been Foreign Minister since 2004, and before that he was UN Ambassador. So he has seen many foreign ministers come and go. And he is a powerful and insightful defender of Russia’s foreign policy.
Brende says that he himself had several discussions with Lavrov as foreign minister, both after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine and about things like Storskog and Svalbard.
– But we always managed to keep a conciliatory tone, even if we had to deal with issues that we did not like.
Well-prepared civil service
NUPI director Ulf Sverdrup, for his part, is unsure of how important the meeting with Lavrov will be.
– There is considerable continuity in Norwegian foreign policy, and the government is well prepared for this. So it is not certain that it will mean that much, he says.
According to Sverdrup, one of the characteristics of good foreign ministers in Norway is precisely the ability to utilize the competence that lies within the civil service at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the same time, both Sverdrup and Brende state that they are favorites for the post of Foreign Minister – Anniken Huitfeldt (Labor Party) and Espen Barth Eide (Labor Party) – both have long experience and know the field well.
– There are strong candidates, says Brende.
– So regardless of who Støre should choose from, Norway and the competent foreign minister will get it.
And expertise is needed. Because even though Donald Trump has left the White House, there are still and turbulent times internationally.
– It is unrest in Europe, which is now in a transition after Angela Merkel, after Brexit and on its way out of the corona pandemic, says Sverdrup.
At the same time, crises and unexpected events can always arise that must be dealt with, warns the NUPI chief and recalls how Støre got cases with the Russian trawler “Elektron” in his lap just a few days after he took office as foreign minister in 2005.
For his part, Brende points out how in the course of a few months in 2015 and 2016 he had to handle 5,500 asylum seekers who came to Norway via Storskog.
– You have to deal with many demanding conditions at once, and when you think it is calm, then something completely unpredictable happens, Brende says by phone from Geneva, where he is today president of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Important partners in Europe and the USA
When Brende became foreign minister in 2013, it was Stockholm he traveled to first. There he met Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.
– We had dinner in the evening and exchanged a lot of information, says Brende, who highlights Sweden as a crucial partner for Norway, also against the EU.
Another key partner is Germany, and Brende believes that the incoming government should give high priority to building up and good relations with the new government that takes over in Berlin.
– For me, it meant a lot to have a close relationship with Frank Walter Steinmeier, who is now president, and who was then foreign minister, Brende says.
He also draws on EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as important contacts.
UN Security Council
In addition, Norway is a member of the UN Security Council in 2021 and 2022, and in January Norway will hold the presidency. Judging by all this, this means a visit to New York for both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State.
At the same time, Norway is engaged in many important peace and reconciliation missions around the world, Brende points out.
– And it is an important door opener, he states.
At the same time, Brende strikes and strikes for so-called quiet diplomacy on the Norwegian side:
– The impact is sometimes inversely proportional to the decibel level you get out of the meetings with.
According to Sverdrup, the new government also benefits from world politics now that it is on its way out of the corona pandemic.
In a period of few physical meetings, politicians have probably been more dependent on established networks than otherwise, he believes. But now it will be possible to meet colleagues and build networks quite quickly.
International diplomacy has almost ceased during the corona pandemic. But now it is picking up at full speed, says Sverdrup.
– That way it makes it a little easier to take over now, but it would have been during the pandemic.