PM prepares to pay some calls

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will be packing his bags again after having accepted two important invitations on either side of the Atlantic. He’ll be visiting US President Barack Obama in the White House next week, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel the week after.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg shared the view from his own office with US President Barack Obama in December 2009. Stoltenberg's office on the top floor of Norway's government complex was later heavily damaged in the terrorist attacks of July 22, and he now works from temporary offices at Akershus. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

Stoltenberg had been waiting for an actual date to visit the White House for nearly two years, since Obama came to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize and indicated he’d like to reciprocate with a return invitation. It finally came last month and Stoltenberg will visit Obama at the White House on October 20.

Coincidentally or not, that’s also when King Harald V and Queen Sonja will be in the US as well, on what’s believed to be their last official tour to the US. They’re spending most of their time in the Midwest, where hundreds of thousands of Norwegian immigrants have settled over the past 150 years, and New York, though, and won’t be traveling to Washington.

It will be the first time that a Norwegian prime minister has visited a US president in eight years, since former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was invited to the White House by  US President George Bush in 2003. An official statement from Stoltenberg’s office reported that discussions with Obama will focus on the Arctic area, the international finance crisis and the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

“Norway and the US are close allies and cooperate on a range of international issues,” Stoltenberg said in the statement. “I look forward to meet Obama.”

Norway's prime minister will also have another meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, this time over dinner. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

A week later, Stoltenberg will head for Berlin, where he’s also been invited to “a working dinner” hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the German government’s official residence Schloss Meseberg on October 26 at 7:30pm. The main topic of their bilateral talks will be the international finance crisis, where Merkel has played a major role in trying to stabilize the euro and help tackle the huge debts of fellow EU member nations.

“Germany is the biggest economy in Europe and our biggest trading partner,” Stoltenberg said, adding that Norway and Germany also cooperate closely in a variety of areas such as energy, climate, global health, NATO and the UN. “We have many important themes to discuss.”

Merkel has also been in Oslo, with an official visit in the spring of 2008 that included the opening of Norway’s Opera House and a visit to the Munch Museum. That was before the first finance crisis hit later that fall, and Stoltenberg thinks the current situation is more serious. He has warned repeatedly that even though Norway’s economy remains strong, it can easily be hit by the problems plaguing most other European countries.

The timing of the two visits to the US and Germany, so close together, was coincidental, Stoltenberg has said, but he stressed the importance of “staying in dialogue” with leaders of both the world’s largest and Europe’s largest economies.

This week, meanwhile, Stoltenberg was heading for Estonia for an official visit on Wednesday with both Estonia’s president and prime minister. He’ll also take part in a gathering of Norwegian business leaders in Estonia, according to his office.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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