Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Danish secretary general of NATO, is among as many as 10 people under consideration by Norway’s Progress Party to fill its seat on the Norwegian Nobel Committee, reports newspaper Aftenposten. The irony of a former military alliance leader choosing winners of the Nobel Peace Prize did not escape comment.
Rasmussen, who would also be the first non-Norwegian to serve on the committee, “would be better suited to hand out a war prize,” one source with insight into the committee selection process told Aftenposten. He’s controversial, not least because of the active role he played in urging NATO’s participation in several conflicts during his tenure. Rasmussen was succeeded as NATO boss by Norway’s former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg.
The Progress Party is no stranger to conflict, however. Conflict surrounded its initial choice of its own former leader Carl I Hagen for the seat it’s granted under the terms of prize benefactor Alfred Nobel’s will. Nobel decreed that the committee’s five members should reflect the make-up of Norway’s Parliament, and with 15.2 percent of the vote in the last election, Progress qualifies for a seat.
Hagen lost his bid for the seat backed by Progress, forcing the party to find another candidate. Its seat is officially filled in the meantime by a substitute member of the committee, Kristin Clemet of the Conservative Party, but Progress wants its choice in place in time for the committee’s first meeting on Nobel candidates for 2018 later next month.
Hege Storhaug, a high-profile critic of Islam in Norway, is also under evaluation by the party but Aftenposten reported she’s not likely to be chosen. Rasmussen, however, is considered a “hot candidate” along with the party’s former justice minister Anders Anundsen, its former vice president of the Parliament Kenneth Svendsen and the party’s former spokesman on foreign policy, Kristian Norheim.
Morten Wold, who leads Progress’ election committee, told Aftenposten that Rasmussen is “one of several names in play.” The party has hired in “expert help” to examine Rasmussen’s current financial and political activities to avoid potential conflicts of interest. He now leads a consulting company called Rasmussen Global and serves, according to Aftenposten, as an adviser to Ukraine’s president Petro Porosjenko.
Since the working language of the committee is Norwegian, it can be difficult for non-Scandinavians to become a member, although there are no formal restrictions against it. Olav Njølstad, director of the Nobel Institute in Oslo who serves as secretary to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told Aftenposten that “if the Parliament names someone who can’t undertand Norwegian, we must deal with that.”
The process for selecting both members of the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize and its winners has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism in recent years. Longtime Nobel critic Fredrik S Heffermehl, an Oslo lawyer behind the Nobel Peace Prize Watch organization, was recently joined by a group of 17 university professors in Norway, who also have encouraged the Parliament and its president to review their procedures for selecting committee members (see also the University of Oslo’s account of the professor’s contentions, external link).
A decision on the Progress Party’s seat is expected within the next few weeks.