Jens Stoltenberg





Prime minister of Norway

Born March 16, 1959, in Oslo, Norway; son of Thorvald (a politician) and Karin (a politician) Stoltenberg; married Ingrid Schulerud (a diplomat); children: two. Education: Earned advance degree in economics from the University of Oslo.

Addresses: Home —Oslo, Norway. Office —Office of the Prime Minister, P.O. Box 8001 dep., (NO-)0030 Oslo, Norway.

Career

Part-time journalist for the Arbeiderbladet newspaper, 1979-81; Norwegian Labour Party, Oslo chapter, information secretary, 1981, central board member after 1985, chair, 1990-92, deputy leader, after 1992, and chair, 2002—; Labour Youth League, chair, 1985-89; executive officer, Statistics Norway, 1989-90; lecturer in economics, University of Oslo, 1989-90; Secretary at the Department of the Environment, 1990; member of parliament, 1993—; cabinet posts include minister for trade and energy, 1993-96, minister of finance, 1996-97; chair of parliamentary committee on oil and energy affairs, 1997-2000; prime minister of Norway, March 2000-September 2001, and October 2005—.

Sidelights

Norwegian politician Jens Stoltenberg ascended to the post of prime minister of his country in 2005. The election results signified a shift to the left for this Scandinavian nation of 3.4 million, which has prospered immensely thanks to its North Sea

oil exports, and Stoltenberg promised to use that wealth to boost Norway's already generous network of social services. The telegenic Stoltenberg is sometimes compared to British Labour Party leader Tony Blair because of his relatively young age as head of his country's leading party of the left.

Stoltenberg was born on March 16, 1959, in Oslo, Norway's capital. His father, Thorvald, would later serve as Norway's foreign minister, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and head of the Norwegian Red Cross, while Stoltenberg's mother, Karin, would be appointed to a junior minister post in the Norwegian government. Both were members of the Norwegian Labour Party ( Det norske Arbeiderparti, or DNA), which had been in power for much of the twentieth century thanks to consistently robust voter support for its democratic-socialist policies.

Stoltenberg joined the DNA as a teen, and studied economics at the University of Oslo. Between 1979 and 1981 he was a part-time journalist for the Arbeiderbladet, a national newspaper, and went on to serve as information secretary for the Oslo Labour Party in 1981. He headed the Labour Youth League after 1985, and spent a year as an executive officer for Statistics Norway, the government agency whose American equivalent is the U.S. Census Bureau. He also taught economics at his alma mater before advancing to the post of chair of the Oslo chapter of the DNA in 1990 and state secretary at the Department of the Environment. Two years later, he became a deputy leader of the party.

Stoltenberg was first elected to Norway's Storting, or parliament, in 1993, representing Oslo. That same year he was named minister for trade and energy in the government of Gro Harlem Brundtland, and served for three years. He switched portfolios in 1996 to become minister of finance in the government of Brundtland's successor, Thorbjørn Jagland. After 1997, Stoltenberg served as head of the standing committee on oil and energy affairs in the Storting, while Kjell Magne Bondevik, a Lutheran minister and Christian People's Party member, became Norway's first non-Socialist prime minister since World War II.

Stoltenberg served his first term as prime minister after Bondevik's government resigned in March of 2000. Stoltenberg's party had tried to push for a vote on building new power stations fired by Norway's rich stores of natural gas. Bondevik and his coalition government had opposed the bill, and responded with a proposal to further restrict greenhouse gas emissions. Storting members voted with the DNA, which had argued the country's demand for electricity necessitated the new natural gas-fired power stations.

Stoltenberg took over the government at a time when many significant reforms were already underway. These included the controversial privatization of several industries, and his administration struggled to maintain the public's confidence. At the time, some were clamoring for a reduction in the traditionally high taxes that Norway and other Scandinavian countries levied to cover their extensive social-service programs, which included universal health care and free university education. Norway's oil revenues went into the country's Petroleum Fund, and its coffers had swelled in recent years. Stoltenberg advised a cautionary route when he presented his government's first budget to the Storting later in 2000, warning that it would be imprudent to spend the oil riches for short-term gains. "Spain destroyed its economy when it discovered gold in Latin America," Financial Times journalists Valeria Criscione and Quentin Peel quoted him as saying. "You had the Dutch disease when Holland spent all its income from gas in the 1970s, and the same in Norway in the 1980s when we spent too much. We have learned our lesson."

In parliamentary elections held on September 10, 2001, Stoltenberg's party lost heavily, taking just 24 percent of the vote in its worst showing since 1924. Bondevik returned as prime minister to head a center-right government, and Stoltenberg concentrated on realigning the DNA to help it return to power. He won a hotly contested battle against Jag-land for the party leadership in 2002, and prepared for the 2005 elections. In that contest, the DNA secured a majority, but the Socialist Left Party and the Centre Party did well at the polls, too, which necessitated the formation of a coalition government.

Sworn in as prime minister for the second time on October 17, 2005, Stoltenberg presided over a country that had continued to prosper since his first term on the job. Norway boasted a four-percent annual growth rate and had one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the world. It was usually listed at the top of the United Nations' Human Development Index, which ranked the best countries to live in the world. Thanks to rising prices per-barrel on the world oil market, the Petroleum Fund held a staggering $190 billion. Stoltenberg and the DNA proposed to spend a little more than five percent of that, or ten billion dollars, on health care, education, and senior citizen services in the coming years. "Norway has great possibilities and we have to use these for everyone in our country," he wrote in an editorial in Norway's largest newspaper, Verdens Gang, according to a UPI International Intelligence report. "That means we must spend the big money on the big issues." A more problematic debate is likely to loom over the question of European Union (EU) membership—Norway is one of the last European countries choosing to remain out of the EU, a status supported by most of the leftist parties, but Stoltenberg has backed the pro-EU side.

Stoltenberg is married to Ingrid Schulerud, a diplomat who holds a high-ranking post within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They met while students at the Cathedral School of Oslo, when Schulerud beat him in a student-government election. They have two children. In 2005 Stoltenberg appeared in The Rich Country, a documentary film that tracked his path to a second term as prime minister. His wife and children did not appear in it, but in one segment he cooks a dinner of the national delicacy, whale meat, for his parents. The prime minister is reportedly an avid online gamer, and in multiplayer contests like Age of Empires he uses the name Steklov, which the Soviet Union's secret service, the KGB, once used to identify him.

Sources

Periodicals

Economist, September 17, 2005, p. 51.

Financial Times, October 4, 2000, p. 9.

Time International, September 12, 2005, p. 18.

Times (London, England), October 18, 2001, p. 19.

UPI International Intelligence, September 8, 2005.

Variety, March 20, 2006, p. 28.

Online

"Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg," Office of the Prime Minister, http://odin.dep.no/smk/eng lish/prime_minister/biographical_data/001001-160 093/dok-bn.html (May 21, 2006)

Carol Brennan



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