Prime Minister Erna Solberg aims to improve Norway’s security and preparedness by setting up an entirely new national security entity within her office, staffed by experts from the military, the justice ministry and the foreign ministry. A new security chief is set to be named this fall.
“We have seen the need for better coordination of the country’s security and preparedness,” Vidar Helgesen, the government minister in charge of EU issues who also serves as Solberg’s chief of staff, told newspaper VG last week. “Therefore a new, separate entity for this will be set up within the Office of the Prime Minister.”
The news came as the country was marking the fourth anniversary of deadly attacks on the government and the Labour Party on July 22, 2011, when preparedness for a national emergency was shown to be woefully lacking. A state commission set up to investigate what went wrong with the police and military response to the attacks unleashed harsh criticism against the former Labour-led government and its prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, who now serves as secretary general of NATO.
Stoltenberg responded by making security and preparedness specific areas of attention within the Justice Ministry. Now Helgesen indicates it will be moved from that ministry and over to Solberg’s own office.
The move comes after Solberg’s government was recently criticized as well, by the state auditor general and health authorities, for failing to follow up on the July 22 commission’s recommendations after Solberg’s conservative coalition succeeded Stoltenberg’s left-center government following the last national election in 2013.
The new security and preparedness entity will be staffed by a director and, reported VG, probably six security experts with clear lines of responsibility who can better coordinate police and military response to an emergency situation.
Asked why it took Solberg’s government coalition two years to set up a new security entity within her office, Helgesen said that “we needed some time to find the right solution for Norwegian conditions. We want stronger coordination, but the operative responsibility will still lie with each individual minister (for defense, foreign affairs and justice).”
The new entity will thus support the government’s security commission (Regjeringens sikkerhetsutvalg, RSU), which is headed by Solberg herself and comprised of Finance Minister Siv Jensen, Foreign Minster Børge Brende, Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Helgesen.
Their special adviser has been Kim Traavik, Norway’s former ambassador in London. Traavik has played a key role in setting up the new entity after studying how other countries have organized security and preparedness functions. “Many have wanted a sort of National Security Council in Norway,” Helgesen told VG. “In practice, it will be RSU.”