Nobel committee due for changes

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Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister who currently heads the Council of Europe, wants to hang on to his post as chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. His term expires next year, though, and the results of last month’s parliamentary elections mean some committee members may need to bow out. 

Thorbjørn Jagland, who now heads both the Council of Europe and the Norwegian Nobel Committee, denies trying to halt publication of a book that allegedly identified two Norwegian spies for the Soviet Union - both of whom were tied to Labour and the foreign ministry. PHOTO: Council of Europe

Thorbjørn Jagland now heads both the Council of Europe and the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and seems inclined to hang on to both prestigious posts. PHOTO: Council of Europe

According to the terms of prize benefactor Alfred Nobel’s will, the five members of the committee and their three alternates must reflect the political make-up of the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget). Jagland’s Labour Party emerged from the election as the country’s biggest single party, with 30 percent of the vote, but the Conservative Party is nearly as big and won government power along with the Progress Party.

Nobel experts have said that means the new committee (to be formed when the next members’ four-year terms expire) will thus likely be made up of two members from Labour, two from the Conservatives and one from the Progress Party. The alternates will come from the centrist parties that were next-biggest; the Christian Democrats, the Center Party and the Liberal Party.

Jagland up for re-appointment
Labour already has two seats on the committee, currently held by Jagland and lawyer Berit Reiss-Andersen, the head of the Norwegian Bar Association who was named most recently in an attempt to broaden committee membership beyond strictly the political sphere. Jagland’s term, though, expires at the end of next year.

He may be re-appointed by his Labour colleagues, but since the Conservatives are viewed as having won the last election, it’s unlikely he’ll remain as chairman. That post will probably be assumed either by the Conservatives’ current member, Kaci Kullmann Five (a former government minister whose term also expires next year) or by another person chosen by the Conservatives, to reflect their effective majority in Parliament, even though the committee members can choose their own leader.

The Conservatives will also take over the seat now held by Ågot Valle of the Socialist Left  party (SV), since SV lost badly in the last election and barely retained representation in Parliament. That means at least one new face will join the committee. Its fifth spot is held by Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, recently re-appointed by the Progress Party, so she can stay on for a few more years.

Prestigious and ‘very interesting’
Jagland called the Nobel committee work “very interesting” and he’s made it clear he thrives in the prestigious post, despite all the criticism thrown at him over recent Nobel Peace Prize winners. Friday’s choice of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) seemed to gain more support.

“But this is completely up to the Parliament,” Jagland told newspaper Aftenposten. “I think it’s important that the committee members don’t get involved in their duties.” He noted, though, that he also expects Labour to get two seats on the committee, “and then the party can reappoint me if they want to,” he said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund