The Norwegian government has decided to launch Thorbjørn Jagland’s candidacy for re-election as secretary general of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Jagland himself has expressed a desire to remain in the post for a second term.
“In a time marked by great challenges on our own continent, the Council of Europe plays a central role in efforts to strengthen human rights, democracy and the Rule of Law,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende stated in a press release Wednesday. “Jagland has contributed towards modernizing the Council of Europe and to furthering the organization’s mandate and work.”
Brende, from the Conservative Party, added that the Council of Europe has also become an important supporter for many member countries in their work to carry out necessary reforms and secure their legal systems. “It’s important that this work continue,” Brende said.
Norway, which is not a member of the European Union, was among the 10 European countries that founded the Council of Europe in 1949. It’s one of Europe’s oldest cooperative organizations and currently has 47 members.
Jagland, who turned 63 on Tuesday, was first nominated by the Norwegian government to run for the council’s top position after his term as president of the Norwegian Parliament ended in 2009. Jagland is a former head of the Norwegian Labour Party and served as both foreign minister and prime minister in earlier Labour governments.
It’s been widely reported in Norway that Jagland lost a power struggle within Labour to the popular Jens Stoltenberg, who took over as party leader in 2002 and later led two left-center coalition governments as prime minister while Jagland presided over the parliament.
Jagland, from Lier between Oslo and Drammen, also became chairman in 2009 of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which decides the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Some have viewed it as a conflict of interest that Jagland has headed both the Council of Europe and the Nobel Committee, which awarded the Peace Prize to the European Union last year. Jagland has insisted there is no conflict in his roles and that he wants to retain both of them.
Both are up for re-election or reappointment next year.