Gro expects long mourning process

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Former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, often referred to landsmoderen (roughly translated, “mother of the country”) says she thinks Norway has a long way to go before it gets through its grief over last Friday’s terrorist attacks. She was one of the Norwegian terrorist’s targets, and survived by an apparent stroke of fate.

Gro Harlem Brundtland at Monday evening's memorial ceremony, which was carried live on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She's standing next to Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Crown Prince Haakon. PHOTO: NRK/Views and News

Brundtland, a former head of the Labour Party that was the terrorist’s main target, was a pioneer in getting women into top government positions. After stepping down as prime minister, she went on to become head of the World Health Organization (WHO) before reaching retirement age, and still does a lot of work for the United Nations.

“I think it will be quite a long time before we as a nation get through this mourning process,” she told A-magasinet on Friday. “I still see the faces (of the dead) before me.”

Brundtland had been on the island where Labour holds its summer camp for its AUF youth organization earlier on Friday, holding a speech about “Reflections from a life in politics” and listening to those of around 10 campers, many of them believed to be destined for a life in politics themselves. Instead, 69 of the roughly 700 persons on the island of Utøya were gunned down by Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik.

He had written before his deadly spree began on Friday, July 22, that Brundtland (whom most Norwegians simply call “Gro”) was among his targets. He blamed Labour and the political elite for allowing Norway to become a multi-cultural society.

Brundtland said she left the island around 2:45pm, less than an hour before Breivik’s bomb exploded at Norway’s government headquarters in Oslo and two hours before he arrived on the island armed and eager to shoot. Breivik’s defense attorney has indicated that something delayed Breivik but he wouldn’t elaborate.

Asked whether she thinks Norway will change, she replied that “we must stand firm with our fundamental values and attitudes, not let ourselves be scared by violence and threats, but instead build on our open, inclusive democracy.” When she was prime minister in the 1980s and 1990s, she had no security guards, with the exception of two weeks when the Gulf War broke out in 1991. Government officials now must accept guards around them at all times.

She thinks the huge and multi-cultural participation at memorial ceremonies all over the country this week illustrates a fellowship “that we will fight for the values we’ve built up.” She said the rest of her summer “will be different” but she hopes the current crisis will lead to “an even better Norway.”

Knut Brundtland, Gro’s son who’s a prominent lawyer and businessman in Oslo, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Friday that he “has seen and experienced” that his mother doesn’t take the danger she was in personally. He said his relief that she survived, along with his foster-daughter niece who was with her, is “blended with even stronger thoughts” for those who didn’t.

“It’s been very nice to see the sympathy the whole world has been showing for us,” he said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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