It was a good week for Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Not only did he finally get to help settle a long-standing border dispute with Russia, he could look forward to a rare weekend eating tacos with his family.
Støre, who turns 50 in August, maintains a schedule that gives “busy” an entirely new meaning. He’s constantly traveling, and when he’s back in Norway, he’ll move from one top meeting and issue of national or global importance to another, generally with the greatest outward appearance of ease.
On Monday morning he was at the airport to welcome Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Norway for a state visit that ended up with the triumphant settlement of a 40-year-old border dispute between the two neighbouring nations. Monday and Tuesday were packed with top-level meetings, royal pomp, serious negotiations and fancy luncheons and dinners.
As soon as Medvedev and his wife Svetlana moved on to Denmark, Støre flew up to northern Norway (a journey as long as it takes to get to Rome) for another round of important meetings with local dignitaries and a speech in front of 700 at the university in Tromsø, to explain the border settlement and its significance.
It marked another triumph for the popular and respected foreign minister, and he was met with spontaneous applause and even a standing ovation, reported newspaper Aftenposten. “Now it’s northern Norway’s turn,” Støre told his audience. “Now it’s up to you who live here to develop business and take advantage of the opportunities that will emerge.”
He also made it clear he strongly supports efforts to get build a new polar research vessel, a project that appears to have been delayed by an internal government power struggle. If anyone can break the deadlock between quarreling ministries, it’s probably Støre.
On Friday, Støre could finally head south again and he told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he planned to spend Saturday celebrating his youngest child’s 11th birthday. Tacos were on the menu. Otherwise, he said he hoped to take a run in the woods and then go along with his wife’s program.
“I think this week can be allowed to be stamped ‘approved,'” Støre told DN in a mastery of understatement. His brief respite wouldn’t last long, though. When asked what’s the first thing he’ll do Monday morning, Støre replied that he’d be meeting the president of Serbia.
“There won’t be any agreements of geopolitical significance,” Støre said. “But Serbia is an important nation, and we’ve had connections for a long time.”