Norway’s tough-talking Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug of the conservative Progress Party has made an unusual choice in naming Labour Party veteran Libe Rieber-Mohn as new director of the state directorate for integration and diversity (IMDi). The two parties are usually at odds on most issues, but Rieber-Mohn was quick to point out that her new “dream job” is not a political position.
“I will contribute towards making integration in Norway the best possible,” Rieber-Mohn, age 51, said after her appointment was approved in Friday’s Council of State at the Royal Palace. “I’m incredibly glad that the government and Listhaug have shown such confidence in me.”
She’ll be charged with carrying out Listhaug’s strict new policies, which now include demands for how immigrants must integrate themselves in Norway. While integration works both ways, with Norwegians also needing to be willing to accept and help new immigrants, the burden tends to be on the new arrivals.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Rieber-Mohn has lots of experience in the field. From 2005 to 2009 she was state secretary in the state ministry for labour and inclusion during the first term of Jens Stoltenberg’s two Labour-led governments. She was also controversial, with many claiming she was too strict. Labour’s government coalition colleagues in the Socialist Left party (SV) criticized her for an alleged lack of “human understanding for asylum seekers’ situation” and she also was challenged over her decisions to send asylum families back to their European entry point in Greece, allowing homosexuals to be sent back to countries where homosexuality is a crime, and refusing to offer amnesty to illegal aliens in Norway.
Listhaug praised Rieber-Mohn’s background, saying it was “incredibly important” to have a person leading IMDi who has the ability to get things done. “Libe Rieber-Mohn has that,” Listhaug said, rare praise from her for anyone from the Labour Party. “It’s a great strength that she knows the field well.”
Rieber-Mohn is married to Rune Bjerke, the currently embattled chief executive of DNB, Norway’s largest bank, which has suffered many blows to its reputation just this year. Bjerke and Stoltenberg are old personal friends and Labour Party fellows, and Rieber-Mohn, who went on to have a high-level career as a top politician in Oslo for the Labour Party, thinks her political experience will help in her new job.
She made it clear, though, that she won’t be carrying out a politial agenda of her own at IMDi. “This is an entirely new role that I look forward to take on,” Rieber-Mohn told NRK. “This is a dream job for someone like me, who’s so engaged in integration issues. I look forward to put in motion the policies that have been politically agreed upon.” Even, apparently, if those politics differ from her own.