No foreigners eyed for Nobel committee

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Norway’s Conservative Party, which will be able to nominate two new members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee this autumn, has now ruled out considering anyone who’s not Norwegian. The Conservatives also won’t insist that veteran Labour Party politician Thorbjøn Jagland be dumped as the committee’s chairman.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has long been relatively anonymous, but is now subject to a storm of attention in Norway. This photo was taken at last year's awards ceremony. From left: Chairman Thorbjørn Jagland, the 2013 winner from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmet Üzümcü; Kaci Kullmann Five, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, Berit Reiss-Andersen, and Gunnar Stålsett. At far right, outgoing committee secretary Geir Lundestad. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

The Norwegian Nobel Committee will be getting one or two new faces this autumn and Thorbjørn Jagland, at far left, may lose his rose as chairman. The five-member committee is shown here with last year’s winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, represented by Ahmet Üzümcü, sitting next to Jagland). At far right, outgoing committee secretary Geir Lundestad. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

According to the will of Nobel Prize benefactor Alfred Nobel, the five-member committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize must be appointed by the Norwegian Parliament and reflect its current make-up. Since the Conservative Party won many more seats in last year’s election, it can now appoint two members, while Labour also has two seats and the conservative Progress Party still has one.

Labour intends to re-appoint Jagland to a second term on the committee, while neither its other seat nor the Progress Party’s seat is up for reelection. The Conservatives, however, must appoint someone to fill the seat they won from the Socialist Left party (SV), which fared badly in last year’s election, and the Conservatives’ other seat is up for re-election. It’s currently held by party veteran Kaci Kullmann Five, who has said she would like to continue. The party hasn’t decided whether it will let her serve another five-year term or find someone else new.

Norwegians only
Trond Helleland, parliamentarian leader for the Conservatives, told newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday that the party has, however, decided that it will only consider Norwegians for the posts. That dashes speculation that such international figures as former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, veteran Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt or former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton might be asked to serve. Debate has swirled that the committee needs to further distance itself from Norwegian politics and could benefit from becoming more international.

Helleland pointed to the intentions, though, of Alfred Nobel. “We have evaluated the historic conditions that led to Norway getting the assignment to deal out the Nobel Peace Prize,” Helleland told Aftenposten. “That has made it less likely for us to name a foreign committee member.”

Helleland said the Conservatives were looking for “good names outside the Parliament.” He said the party was considering candidates from “academia, business and civilian life, solid candidates who could do a good job.”

New candidate speculation
New names now circulating include a professor and active media commentator, Janne Matlary Haaland, along with two former editors at newspaper Aftenposten, Nils Morten Udgaard and Per Egil Hegge. The latter two, however, are both 74 years old, so their age is likely to count against them.

The Conservative Party must put forward its candidates for the Norwegian Nobel Committee by November 27, with the new members taking over from January 1. The committee will likely have a conservative majority regardless, with the members then electing their own chairman. It’s thus uncertain whether Labour’s Jagland will survive as chairman. He’s often criticized for having a troublesome double role, since he also heads the Council of Europe.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund