Prime Minister Erna Solberg could attempt some Easter holiday this week secure in the knowledge that her government coalition still has support in the latest public opinion polls. Now she’ll also be getting a chance to meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House later this spring, to discuss a variety of issues along with other Nordic government leaders.
Even though Solberg’s Conservative Party slipped a bit in the new “party barometer” released last week, to 24.1 percent of the vote, both it and its coalition partner the Progress Party together hold 40.3 percent of the vote. Combined with their two support parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, Solberg’s government has 50 percent of the vote.
That may not seem like much, but it comes at a time when Labour has 34.1 percent on its own and just 48.2 percent even if it joined forces with its former government colleagues the Socialist Left (SV) and the Center Party, plus the Greens. Both SV (4.1 percent) and the Greens (4.2) lost voter support in the last poll, and the Center Party holds just 5.8 percent. So the opposition is weak at present.
State dinner awaits
It all suggests that Solberg can fly off to Washington DC in May and meet both Obama and her Nordic colleagues on a fairly strong footing. Not only that, but Obama has invited the prime ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland not only for talks at the White House but also for one of his seldom state dinners. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Washington will be decked out with Nordic flags, and the Nordic government leaders will be feted with an elegant meal and entertainment.
Solberg hasn’t yet had a meeting directly with Obama but has met him in connection with other events, for example last fall at Obama’s reception at the opening of the UN. Solberg’s office reported that issues now up for discussion include trans-Atlantic security, migration, the climate, the Arctic, trade, global health and education.
“I look forward to meet President Obama along with my Nordic colleagues at the White House,” Solberg stated in a press release. “The meeting with strengthen the strong ties between our two countries, and between the USA and the Nordic countries. Peace, democracy and human rights are fundamental values that the Nordic countries share with the US.”
‘Deepening the cooperation’
Norway and the US already have a close relationship and cooperate within the UN and NATO. The latter, Solberg’s office stated, is the “anchor” of the trans-Atlantic relation. Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund, best known as the oil fund, also owns large stakes in more than 2,000 US companies, and because of heavy emigration from Norway in the 1800s and 1900s, there are at least as many Norwegian-Americans as there are Norwegians.
“From the Norwegian side, we’ve long been contributing to a stronger Nordic cooepration, also internationally,” Solberg stated. “Meeting with Obama (together) will give us a good opportunity to deepen that cooperation. There’s a mutual interest on the Norwegian and American sides to strengthen cooperation further.”
The summit between the Nordics and the US is likely to also discuss relations with Russia, which shares a border with both Norway and Finland, and recently has been strengthening its own position in the Arctic. The meeting in Washington DC will take place on May 13th, just months after the US finally sent new ambassadors to both Norway and Sweden, after Obama’s nominees had been blocked by Republicans in Congress.