Norway’s popular and hard-working foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, was allowing himself a slight break from his normally breathless schedule to celebrate his 5oth birthday on Wednesday. A quiet dinner is to be followed by a party this weekend complete with royal guests.
Among those invited to what Støre stresses is a private party on Saturday are Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit. Støre and his wife, Marit Slagsvold, also spent part of their summer holiday hiking with the crown couple on the pilgrims’ trail to the Nidaros Cathedral, an event that drew attention to their personal friendship.
“She’s invited, so is he,” Støre told newspaper VG on his August 25 birthday Wednesday, which also happens to be Haakon and Mette-Marit’s wedding anniversary.
He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he got to know “the young couple” shortly after their wedding in 2001, “when I wasn’t working in politics” and a few years before he was tapped to be foreign minister in Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s coalition government.
Støre said he was prepared to face some criticism over his personal association with the royals, who are supposed to remain uninvolved in politics. “Both the crown couple and I are very conscious of our roles,” he told NRK. He said he was “completely open” about his meetings with them outside their official roles.
“It’s an honorable issue for anyone wanting to criticize that, but it’s also an honorable issue to stand by your friends,” Støre said. He confirmed that an increasingly important Christian faith was among things he and the royal couple have in common.
VG reported that he planned a quiet dinner Wednesday with his immediate family and parents, followed by the party on Saturday with around 100 guests. He said he was suffering no signs of any “50-year crisis” and felt generally unaffected by turning 50.
“I didn’t need to turn 50 to discover that life is incredibly exciting and in no way winding down,” he told NRK. “I feel like I’m in a phase of life where I can receive many impressions and hopefully give many back.”
He said his family means “everything” to him, as his “best friends … and anchor” in his life. He sent out a message on Wednesday thanking well-wishers for their greetings “on a fine and completely normal day, that happens to fall on the same day 50 years ago when I was born!”
Støre was also feted by his political colleagues and employees of the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, with 50 sausages, songs and a gift certificate for an exclusive dinner with a private chef. Among those speaking at the party was one of his earlier bosses, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.