Perhaps they’ll be humbled by the history of the place, or inspired by the scenery. Political leaders will at any rate try to form Norway’s first majority government coalition since 2013 during talks that will begin January 2 in Hadeland, an area of rolling hills and lush farmland just north of Oslo that’s played an important role for centuries.
Hadeland, which has been dubbed “Norway’s Tuscany” by some enthusiasts, has been on the map since Viking times. Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservatives, Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the Progress Party and Culture Minister Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party will sit down with top officials from the Christian Democrats Party at a 360-year-old inn located just across the road from two churches that date from the 1100s. The area has long been part of the old pilgrim’s trail to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, while a Viking king famously went through the ice of the Randsfjord not far away.
Norwegians have lived, farmed, worshipped and traded in Hadeland throughout the ages. The Granavolden Gjæstgiveri where the government negotiators will be negotiating, eating and sleeping has housed its share of famous and historic guests. Author and social commentator Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, also known as Norway’s first modern journalist, is buried in the cemetery that surrounds the old “Sister Churches” across the road. He’d fallen ill in Oslo, then called Christiania, but longed to head home to the mountains of Telemark. He didn’t get farther than Hadeland and died at Granavolden in 1870.
The inn, located on what also was long part of Kongeveien (The King’s Road) to Bergen, still has several rooms without their own bathrooms, meaning that some of the government negotiators may find themselvs brushing their teeth together in the morning. Recent investment brought about a major rehabilitation of the inn, however, which now offers 45 rooms of various size and standard.
It’s not the first time it’s been used for high-level negotiations: It’s often a venue for small conferences and seminars, while state broadcaster NRK reported that foreign representatives of Nelson Mandela’s ANC party secretly met at Granavolden Gjæstgiveri at the end of the 1980s, when the ANC was still deemed an illegal organization in South Africa.
Norway’s government talks will begin on Wednesday, with Solberg keen to bring the Christian Democrats into her government and finally have a majority in Parliament. The Liberals joined her minority coalition last January, and now also hope the Christian Democrats will follow. The two small parties had a formal cooperation with Solberg’s Conservatives and Jensen’s Progress Party during Solberg’s first term as prime minister. Now she hopes all four parties can form a non-socialist bloc that will cooperate also beyond the next election in 2021.
Hammering out a government platform won’t be easy, given sharp differences between the Christian Democrats and Progress on such thorny issues as immigration, child care and agriculture policy. The Christian Democrats also have eyed what they call “an historic opportunity” to tighten Norway’s abortion law, although that’s fraught with conflict as well. Solberg remains characteristically optimistic, despite all the divisions among the four parties and within them as well. Splits have received broad coverage, especially those within the Christian Democrats and the Liberals. There also was a lot of back-room drama surrounding the state budget for 2019.
“The goal is to build ties amongst us so that we can carry it into the next election and try to secure a political majority on the non-socialist side,” Solberg told news bureau NTB. That will involve compromise and cooperation on priorities, as negotiations get underway.