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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Støre drops controversial book plans

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre has been in hot water during the past two weeks over some alleged conflicts of interest. Now he’s decided to drop a ministry-financed book project that featured himself, after realizing it violated government purchasing and competition rules.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was to feature highly in the book project, in conversation with world leaders. This photo with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was taken on a recent trip to Washington. PHOTO: Siri H. Hollekim Haaland / Ambassaden i Washington

Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he wasn’t dropping the project because of the criticism it sparked from professors and opposition parties in Parliament, most notably Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide of the Conservative Party. She had claimed the book aimed to boost Støre’s own profile and his politics.

Støre said he had registered the criticism and would consider it, but that he was dropping the book project because it could be interpreted as violating rules that should have allowed various prospective authors to compete for the job. Ministry officials had instead approached author Simen Ekern to write the book, which was supposed to include accounts of several conversations between Støre and various international leaders over how the world might look in 2030.

“The project was a good idea, in my opinion, but I see now that we have challenges carrying it out within the ministry,” Støre told NRK.

Ekern was disappointed the project, valued at NOK 1 million, was cancelled. He had already carried out some research, completed two conversations with Støre and two foreign professors when word came on Thursday that the project was cancelled.

Ekern also claims he had a contract that guaranteed his role as an independent journalist such that no one at the ministry could change anything he wrote without his approval. He denies he would have been a mouthpiece for Støre’s politics.

“It’s sad and I have to accept it, but I think it would have been an interesting book,” Ekern told NRK.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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