Foreign Minister sets priorities

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This week’s re-election of Norway’s Labour-led government coalition also means that Jonas Gahr Støre is more than likely to continue as the country’s Foreign Minister. A commentary he wrote in a major Oslo newspaper last week offers insight into what his priorities will be over the next four years.

The Labour Party is widely viewed as owing much of its victory to its popularprime minister candidate, Jens Stoltenberg. Even though Norwegians vote for parties and not people, Stoltenberg himself has consistently ranked high in public opinion polls and clearly helped return Labour to power.

Almost equally popular, and perhaps even more highly respected than Stoltenberg, is Norway’s incumbent Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Stoltenberg and Støre have a close relationship and were the “dynamic duo” who helped fend off a challenge from the non-socialists. Even though both Stoltenberg and Støre say they’re committed social democrats, they’re seen as “modern” Labour politicians with a sense for private initiative and global affairs.

Støre won a seat in Parliament in this week’s election but is expected to turn it over to another Labour colleague and continue as Foreign Minister. He spent much of his own time on the campaign trail talking about foreign policy and has identified 14 “important areas” over the next several years.

Writing in newspaper Aftenposten , Støre said Norway will give highest priority to issues “that touch on Norwegian interests and where Norway can make a difference.” The most important among them, he wrote, is the Nordområdene (northern areas) where Norway wants to address climate change, better manage Arctic resources and maintain good relations with Russia. Støre’s “building blocks for the north” include investment in the environment, culture and infrastructure.

Støre’s number-two issue is “saving the climate,” calling it a form of “modern national security policy.”Like Stoltenberg has said,Støre said Norway will work for a “strong and fair” international agreement to halt climate change, through major emissions cuts and by setting a price on carbon.

His other priorities include:

** Cooperation with the European Union and maintenance of the EØS agreement on trade with the EU;

** Fighting poverty and nurturing development through more “efficient and directed” foreign aid;

** Promotion of a “stronger and reformed” United Nations, with a “more representative” UN Security Council;

** Promotion of new strategies for NATO, of which Norway is a member;

** Development of Afghanistan’s own ability to run the country;

** Being a strong international voice for human rights and battling discrimination;

** Continuing international vaccination efforts to save children’s lives;

** Getting countries in the Nordic area into the G-20 as a single voice;

** Promotion of ongoing disarmament and the fight against cluster bombs;

** Peace brokering efforts where Norway can help bring together countries and organizations in conflict;

** Promotion of a new global agreement for fair trade, to secure a new WTO pact;

** Continue the foreign ministry’s role as looking after Norwegian interests and Norwegians abroad, and strengthening Norwegian business and culture internationally.