Prime Minister Erna Solberg presented not just two but three new ministers on Tuesday to take over political control of issues related to oil and energy, Norway’s relations with the EU and justice and preparedness. One of her new ministers is not particularly welcome by her government’s support parties, which claim Solberg’s cabinet is moving too far to the right-wing side of Norwegian politics.
Tord Lien and Anders Anundsen of the Progress Party both resigned from their top posts at the oil and justice ministries, as tipped earlier this week. They were formally replaced at a Council of State at the Royal Palace on Tuesday by Per-Willy Amundsen, who is taking over as Norway’s new justice minister, and Terje Søviknes, who will assume duties as oil minister. Both are also from the conservative Progress Party, so there would be no change in the political make-up of Solberg’s Conservatives-led government.
Amundsen, however, is rooted in the most right-wing side of the Progress Party, and is on record as being both anti-immigration and skeptical that climate change is a result of human activity. That upsets the leaders of both government support parties, the Liberals and Christian Democrats, who are constantly fighting for more centrist policy.
Solberg also replaced Elisabeth Vik Aspaker with Frank Bakke-Jensen as government minister in charge of EU issues. That post is part of the foreign ministry, where Bakke-Jensen of the Conservatives will now work with his party fellow and foreign minister, Børge Brende.
News of that ministerial change didn’t emerge until Tuesday afternoon, just before all the new and former ministers gathered at the palace on a dark and chilly Tuesday afternoon. Aspaker, however, had been expected to eventually leave the government after winning what she called her “dream job” as fylkesmann (county administrator) in her home district of Troms back in 2014. There was a condition, however, that she not assume that post until after the current government term ends next year, in the fall of 2017.
That means Aspaker will likely return to her seat in Parliament until then, while Bakke-Jensen takes over as EU minister. That’s become an important post since Norway is not a member of the EU and thus has no vote on EU rules and regulations but must conform to them through its trade agreement with the EU. Britain’s decision to leave the EU has also created the need to form new or modify trade agreements both with the EU and Britain, and Solberg clearly wanted a minister who’ll have experience in the post prior to next fall’s re-election campaign.
Bakke-Jensen was thus the surpise of the day. He comes from Båtsfjord in Norway’s northernmost county of Finnmark, and has held a seat in Parliament since 2009. He also is a member of the parliamentary committee handling trade and business issues. Before joining Parliament he worked as a teacher in Båtsfjord and since 1999 ran a travel business in his remote home town, Båtsfjord Reiseservice AS.
The now-former oil minister, Tord Lien, meanwhile, is expected to become a regional director for national employers’ organization NHO in his home area of Trøndelag. The now-former justice minister, Anders Amundsen, had earlier indicated he would not stand for re-election to Parliament, where he’s held a seat and headed the justice committee for 12 years. He’s expected to move home to Tønsberg after saying he wanted to resign from politics for personal reasons.