Norwegian media seemed more confident than ever Sunday night that former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg would become the next secretary general of NATO. After a week of scrambling to follow an Italian newspaper’s report that Stoltenberg was a top candidate, Norwegian outlets were fighting with each other over who could really claim credit for confirming it.
Newspaper Aftenposten stirred up the story again on Sunday, reporting that “sources very close to the process” said Stoltenberg had won the support of both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande.
VG Nett, the website tied to major national newspaper VG, responded with their own report spoiling Aftenposten’s scoop, noting that VG had actually reported Cameron’s and Hollande’s support as early as Wednesday last week. The only thing new in Aftenposten’s report, according to VG, was that Aftenposten was “categorically” claiming that Stoltenberg would become NATO boss.
Newspaper VG also reported last Wednesday that the appointment of Stoltenberg could occur “very quickly,” and as early as this week, an angle Aftenposten picked up on Friday but then backed away from on Sunday, suggesting Stoltenberg’s appointment wouldn’t be announced until April 1.
La Repubblica, the Italian newspaper that broke the news about Stoltenberg’s candidacy for the top NATO post, had already reported by then that Stoltenberg was favoured by US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who reportedly launched Stoltenberg as her choice for NATO boss.
After Aftenposten went ahead and flat out claimed in its headline that “Stoltenberg will be NATO’s secretary general,” other media outlets felt obliged to follow with their own reports, some even offering English versions of their stories. Among them were NRK and Aftenposten itself, which apparently is trying to regain some international attention for its work, five years after shutting down its English service.
Speculation has already been flying that a decision on Stoltenberg would be made this week, not least since Obama is flying in from Washington for meetings in Europe. That would be convenient for Norway’s Labour Party, which is also holding an important national meeting this week and may need to find a replacement for Stoltenberg as party leader, head of the opposition in Parliament and the party’s candidate for prime minister. Jonas Gahr Støre has already been tipped as the top choice to replace Stoltenberg.
Even Aftenposten had to temper its zeal to get Stoltenberg confirmed, tough, noting like many other media outlets already have that other countries are expected to put forth their own candidates. Manuel Barroso, who currently leads the European Commission, is also a top candidate according to other European media outlets.
Stoltenberg himself continued to decline any comment on all the media speculation, and has seemed amused by it. Smiling and laughing about reporters’ creative attempts to catch him off guard, Stoltenberg has patiently and consistently repeated that he would neither confirm nor deny reports of his NATO candidacy, adding to newspaper Dagbladet that “I will, when the time comes, inform the Labour Party about my future.”