Solberg presents new ministers

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It’s official: Ine Eriksen Søreide is now Norway’s new foreign minister and the first woman to ever hold the post. Prime Minister Erna Solberg was visibly proud to formally announce her appointment on Friday, while also presenting the man who will succeed Søreide as defense minister and another woman who’ll succeed him as government minister in charge of EU relations.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg (left) presented her new ministers on the grounds of the Royal Palace late Friday morning. They took no questions, pending a press conference later in the day. From right: New Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen and EU Minister Marit Berger Røsland. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Frank Bakke-Jensen, who has been serving as EU minister, will take over as defense minister after Søreide was named to replace outgoing Foreign Minister Børge Brende. Bakke-Jensen will in turn be succeeded by a relatively new face in national politics, Marit Berger Røsland. All three are top politicians from Solberg’s Conoservative Party.

Speculation had been swirling that Søreide would be tapped to succeed Brende, who decided just after last month’s Parliamentary election to accept an offer to lead the World Economic Forum. Brende’s resignation set off the chain of ministerial changes that culminated in Friday’s appointments, right after they’d been ceremoniously approved by King Harald V at the weekly Council of State at the Royal Palace.

There were thus no big surprises when Solberg strode out of the palace with Søreide and Bakke-Jensen, who had joined Søreide on a visit to one of Norway’s major military installations in Finnmark this week. Bakke-Jensen is from Båtsfjord in Finnmark, an added advantage since Northern Norway and especially Finnmark, which borders on Russia, is more strategically important than ever for Norway’s defense.

Røsland is lesser known, but she has been working as a state secretary within the Foreign Ministry, has held several positions with the Conservative Party and with its youth organization. Now she’ll be responsible for issues tied to Norway’s relations with the EU, not least via its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) and matters related to the Brexit talks.

Søreide ‘a very good choice’
Søreide’s appointment as foreign minister was attracting the most attention. Solberg made a point of introducing her as “Norway’s first female foreign minister” but it’s her competence in international affairs that won her the job. The 41-year-old Søreide, educated as a lawyer, is already a long-time Member of Parliament and former head of its committee handling foreign affairs and defense issues. She’s articulate, speaks excellent English almost without an accent and has spent most of her political career specializing in security policy and defense issues.

“Shes a very good choice,” Janne Haaland Matlary, a professor in international politics at the University of Oslo, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday. “She’s highly competent, is known for studying issues closely and being very well-prepared.” She also has diplomatic talent and “lots of training in the international system,” making it easier for her to expand on that as foreign minister.

Her appointment was well-received by rival politicians as well, with Audun Lysbakken,  leader of the Socialist Left party (SV) among those calling her “extremely well-qualified.. I look forward to debate foreign policy with her.”

She’s the first woman to hold the role, but Matlary claimed that was “nothing to brag about. It’s about time.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund