'Super minister' calls it quits

Bookmark and Share

Bjarne Håkon Hanssen, who has handled some of Norway’s biggest government reform projects in his years as cabinet minister, says he needs a break and won’t be part of the new cabinet now being formed. His resignation comes in the midst of his latest undertaking: A sweeping reform of public health services.

Hanssen, from the Labour Party, has been one of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s most trusted cabinet ministers for the past four years. He has taken on pension reform, reform of the state unemployment and social services department (NAV) and, most recently, health care.

The 46-year-old politician from Trøndelag has served as Norway’s minister of agriculture, labour and, currently, health. Just last week Stoltenberg called upon him to also oversee the labour and integration ministry once again, when its current leader was nominated to be the new president of Norway’s parliament. Hanssen’s many assignments have given him the nickname of “super minister” from time to time, as he’s taken on important and varied tasks.

Now, however, Hanssen says he needs a break. He’s spent the past 18 years as a full-time politician and says he’s no longer “100 percent motivated” to tackle a new term.

“I have worked for the past four years with many major structural changes (of government services),” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Thursday morning. “It takes a lot out of you.”

He said he wants to recharge his batteries and, after a few months of quarantine, probably get a job in the private sector. He didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to government service at a later point.Hanssen has been a portly and popular government minister, known for his ability to listen and handle many huge issues all at once, from immigration controversies to current hospital woes. He worked briefly in psychiatric services before becoming active in local politics in Fosen and Nord-Trøndelag County. He was elected to Parliament in 1997 and also was a member of a Labour- and Stoltenberg-led government from 2000-2001.

One political analyst at NRK called his resignation “a loss for the government, a loss for Jens Stoltenberg” and said it would be difficult to replace him. Stoltenberg is due to name the newly re-elected coalition government’s ministerial line-up next week.