Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her new government partners were barely visible behind all their flowers as they met well-wishers outside the Royal Palace in Oslo on Wednesday. Solberg restructured her ministries, introduced five new ministers in her expanded coalition and reshuffled others to form what’s been called a new “historic” conservative government.
Initial reaction was highly positive, from humanitarian organizations that once again have a minister devoted entirely to foreign aid, from environmentalists who welcomed “greener” new ministers from the Liberal Party and from health and hospice organizations that welcomed the addition of a minister devoted entirely to addressing issues affecting senior citizens.
“It’s a joy to stand here today with Siv Jensen (leader of the Progress Party who will continue as Norway’s finance minister) and Trine Skei Grande (leader of the Liberal Party that joined Solberg’s coalition and has become Norway’s new culture minister),” said Solberg. “We’re making history when we form a government with three female party leaders. But most of all, I’m glad that we’re presenting a strong team with common goals.”
The five new members of what her Conservative Party called “Team Erna” during the last election campaign include three from the Liberal Party: Grande as culture minister, her deputy party leader Ola Elvestuen as climate and environment minister and Iselin Nybø as minister of a newly formed area covering research and higher education.
Jan Tore Sanner of the Conservatives will move from leading the ministry in charge of local governments and administration to the other part of the education ministry that covers primary- to high school education. He’ll also take on the duties of integration from Sylvi Listhaug of the Progress Party, who will take over as justice minister.
The two other new ministers in Solberg’s government are Nikolai Astrup of the Conservatives and Åse Michaelsen of the Progress Party. Astrup, who as heir to a shipping fortune ranks as the wealthiest Member of Parliament, will become minister in charge of foreign aid within the Foreign Ministry. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was quick to note that the wealthiest member of the government will thus lead aid efforts to the world’s poorest. Michaelsen, meanwhile, made history as Norway’s first minister to be in charge of elder care and public health within the Health Ministry, which will continue to be run by Health Minister Bent Høie of the Conservatives.
Two other ministers from Solberg’s first term as leader of the Norwegian government were also handed new assignments: Trade Minister Monica Mæland of the Conservatives will take over Sanner’s former post as minister in charge of local governments and administration, while former Culture Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland, also of the Conservatives, will become Norway’s new minister in charge of family and equality issues.
The changes mean that Vidar Helgesen, Solveig Horne and Per-Willy Amundsen have been replaced as ministers in charge of the environment, family and equality issues and justice respectively. Solberg has also phased out having a minister in charge of issues related to the EU, with Marit Berger Røsland out after just a few months in that role. The move came as a surprise, given all the attention on Brexit and what that will mean to Norway’s own agreement with the EU. It’s now expected, however, that Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide will take on EU and Brexit duties.
Ministers continuing in their current roles include Solberg as prime minister, Jensen as finance minister, Søreide as foreign minister, Høie as health minister, Anniken Hauglie as labour minister, Ketil Solvik-Olsen as transport minister, Jon Georg Dale as agriculture minister, Per Sandberg as fisheries minister, Terje Søviknes as oil and energy minister and Frank Bakke-Jensen as defense minister.
The Conservatives hold a total of 10 ministerial posts, while Progress now holds seven and the Liberals three. Bernt Aardal, a professor of political science at the University of Oslo who specializes in election research, noted that all of Solberg’s new government colleagues have solid political experience.
“We’ve seen in recent years that when people have been appointed ministers from outside politics, it hasn’t been very successful,” Aardal told NRK. He noted that it used to be common to appoint ministers who lacked political experience, “but knowing how the Parliament works and politics have become more important.”
After Wednesday’s extraordinary Council of State at the Royal Palace (when King Harald V had to formally approve the new government) and the new coalition’s presentation on the palace grounds, all the ministers ceremoniously received keys to the new offices and more flowers. They would all be getting down to work on Thursday, after a party Wednesday night hosted by Solberg at one of Oslo’s oldest restaurants downtown.