Cosmopolitan choices

What role should Norway play on the world stage? Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) met the Norwegian foreign minister at the beginning of the new year to discuss his vision for Norway’s foreign policy. “I want to seize the opportunities where Norway can really make a difference,” says Gahr Støre. He emphasises that he has no desire to politicise Norway’s position as an “energy nation”, but points out that parts of Norway’s foreign policy are nonetheless based on “taking care of traditional interests” and that the interests of Norwegian industry provide opportunities to influence authoritarian regimes. He stresses that Norway cannot use its oil wealth to create a better world, but that the international political development and the climate changes pose major dilemmas. “The international economic system needs to be changed,” says Støre.

As a wealthy oil nation, Norway is increasingly faced with choices at the crossroads of economic interests and moral values. For example, should oil supply and revenue be politicised, and the economic muscle derived from oil used to ensure the success of an ethical policy?

Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre has launched a wide-ranging discussion of the interests of Norwegian society in a globalised world. According to Støre, this type of comprehensive review of Norway’s position has not been undertaken since shortly after the Cold War. Two hundred and fifty contributions from Norwegian and international political scientists were published in the Reflex Project,[1] an initiative that will pave the way to a new white paper on Norwegian foreign policy. As far back as 2006, Støre stated: “It’s about testing our reflexes. We’ve had a reflex in Norwegian foreign policy whereby a question produced an automatic response. It’s wise to have healthy reflexes, but it’s also important to test them now and again.[2]

Truls Lie: In your review of the Reflex Project[3] you write: “a small country that chooses to politicise a major energy resource is skating on thin ice”. What did you mean by that?

Jonas Gahr Støre: Making a political decision to sell energy to one country and not to another, to charge one country a certain price and another country another price, or to tie the sale of energy to other interests we want to cater to – all these are tempting choices. When you’re in possession of a tradable resource or currency, there’s the temptation to see what’s on offer. However, in the context of realpolitik, one should be analytical enough to withstand the temptation. Because you can easily find yourself entangled in a net where the other party wields all the power. The experiences of other countries that have politicised energy resources are, in my view, questionable. A reputation as a stable and reliable supplier is what we should be striving to achieve, it provides more political weight over time and leaves a stronger political footprint. We will, of course, be aware of this and it will give us increased freedom of trade if we manage our position correctly.

TL: Isn’t it difficult for a major oil-producing nation also to be a trail-blazer in environmental protection and the fight against poverty?

JGS: Many people ask: Isn’t it a paradox? A leading energy nation, an oil and gas producer, and at the same time an environmental nation with clear objectives for its climate policies? Yes, it is a paradox. But it’s not just a Norwegian paradox – it is the entire world’s paradox. The world will be dependent on fossil fuels for many years to come. Consumption will, in all probability, rise in response to increased demand from developing countries and renewable sources will not, despite significant growth, be able to meet this demand for many years. For this reason, the challenge is about finding ways to lower emission levels from fossil fuel production. It is therefore Norway’s challenge to make technological advances that make it possible to live with this reality. Each month there is an increasing focus on Norway’s beliefs, thoughts, and actions in terms of energy and climate issues. We will live up to our climate obligations. But Norway’s most significant global contribution is in developing technology for the capture and storage of CO2.

TL: What kind of mixing of roles arises when state-sponsored StatoilHydro invests in countries such as Azerbaijan, Russia, and Iran, whose regimes are authoritarian and corrupt?

JGS: Firstly, I would like to repeat that we do not want to politicise the actions of Norwegian companies. They negotiate their own contracts and, historically, we have had a clear division of labour between the Norwegian authorities and Norwegian companies. Neither the ministry nor the government interfere. However, I believe that it is a part of the contract with Norwegian society that they stick with a broad Norwegian moral framework. The issue you’re really raising is whether it is problematic for Norwegian companies to do business with countries that are politically and culturally alien to us. It may be problematic, but let’s take the argument one step further: what would be the result if we didn’t do business with these countries for moral reasons? It would be like saying that Norwegian oil and gas production belongs to the Norwegian continental shelf. I believe this is a non-historical perspective on development and the application of technology and industrial engagement – it goes against the opportunities that globalization, despite everything, presents. The alternative to our companies doing business would be companies from other countries taking our place, which would not automatically reinforce the values we are concerned about.

At the same time, we have to consider the significance of going into countries where we have few political or commercial traditions and often great political and cultural differences. This is why it will be a big challenge for Norwegian companies and the Norwegian Foreign Service in the years ahead. We’re in Azerbaijan, Algeria, Angola, and Nigeria. We have to undertake a realistic assessment of what the presence of Norwegian stakeholders gives us in terms of added opportunities to influence these countries. I believe we should make the most of this. At the moment we’re working on a white paper on social responsibilities for companies – to raise awareness about these situations, amongst other things.

TL: If relations are diplomatically unstable, just how careful does one have to be to avoid straining them with political manoeuvring?

JGS: It certainly falls within the area of diplomacy which we are fairly familiar with, but I believe there is still room for improvement there. I think we have to become better at finding channels for making a significant difference and at being able to interact with countries where political norms and values diverge from our own. For a long time, Norway has believed that sanctions should be firmly based within and, preferably, ratified by the UN Security Council. In line with this, we cannot have a separate sanctions policy that keeps Norwegian companies out of countries that are not identical to our own.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Azerbaijan’s foreign minister. In addition to cooperation on energy, we’re working along several tracks in terms of government and human rights in Azerbaijan. Here we’re up against the Norwegian ideal of having expectations of the people we are to work with. At the same time, the situation in Azerbaijan will not improve by our not being there. On the contrary, I believe our presence might make things a little better.

TL: On the subject of idealistic attitudes, we know that oil prices have increased due to war and conflicts in the Middle East. What about the farmer in China who can no longer afford diesel for his tractor? Couldn’t Norway introduce price discrimination on oil for the poor, as in the case of AIDS medicines intended for the African market?

JGS: This was a theme in the seventies, in the discussion about the new economic world order and differentiated prices on raw materials and other things. However, my fear is that it produces the kind of regime that would become unmanageable over time. I have yet to see a model that convinces me that it is wise to regulate prices on a limited resource such as energy – after all, prices play a part in regulating supply and demand.

Throughout this conversation with Støre, I am reminded of the philosopher Hannah Arendt’s comment that “the pragmatism of interest” is not political. The political ceases to exist when violence and power are exercised; rather politics is to be found in discussion and open debate. Unfortunately, this political freedom is increasingly giving way to aggression, cartoon provocation, violent demonstration, state-sponsored terrorism and suicide bombings. In her lectures on “The History of Political Theory” in 1955, Arendt described our globally political society as a desert, but a desert with oases: “life-giving springs that allow us to survive in the desert without reconciling ourselves to it.”

Norwegian interest groups must understand “how Norwegian resources can best be used to promote international development”, writes Støre, in line with “political principles that form the foundation on which the Norwegian state is built”.[4] But precisely because today Norway has both economic and political relations with several undemocratic countries, its foreign policy is often faced with dilemmas at the crossroads between interests and values. An example is embodied by Russia’s president Putin:

TL: You recently pointed out during the Russian parliamentary elections – even though it was an election of dubious validity – that Putin’s leadership created stability and growth. This is a country that practises various types of state-sponsored violence, that has engaged in an ugly war against Chechnya, and that has “nationalized” several private companies. Do you find that this causes problematic relations between ideals and ethical choices and the pragmatism of interest politics?

JGS: As far as Russia is concerned, I believe one has to have both a long and a short perspective: is the situation today better than it was ten, thirty, or forty years ago? Russia is coming out of a 70-year-old Soviet experiment that was catastrophic in almost every sense. It was unthinkable that Russia, in just a few years, would be able to stabilize into a western parliamentary democracy. In the 1990s, we saw tendencies that many in the West liked because they were in such sharp contrast to the Soviet era. However, it was also a chaotic Russia, which in turn could have become dangerous. Naturally, the situation demanded a strong hand – there are aspects of that we don’t like. Now the regime is in the process of stabilisation and we have to keep a close eye on it. We should monitor it, understand it and describe it as it is.

The western media wrote in their obituaries of Stalin, Brezhnev, and Andropov that they had, after all, brought stability. There is nothing extraordinary about that. Yet we must have other expectations of the leaders in today’s world. Much of Russia’s military presence abroad, its domestic security system, its election conduct and level of freedom of expression, do not meet the standards we are used to. Russia neglects its obligations as a member of OSCE and the Council of Europe on a number of points. Nonetheless, the multilateral organisations are our most important arenas of influence. Historically, it has been useful that we can hold each other accountable according to the European Council’s Human Rights Convention, which deems Russia to be in contravention of human rights in Chechnya.

Let’s take a look at the changes: the Russian economy is now woven into the global economy. There is a fundamental difference in relation to the years before 1990. The Soviet economy was barely integrated – even though the collapse of the Soviet Union can also be explained in terms of economics and technology. Russia’s development must be seen from this perspective. Certain individuals are warning us against Russia’s dominance in terms of energy, but when Russia exports 80 per cent of its energy resources to the EU, and the EU buys only around 20 per cent of its energy resources from Russia, one may well also ask who is most dependent on whom. Helmut Schmidt believed that in order to understand the Soviet Union, our reading list should be composed of 75 per cent Dostoevsky and 25 per cent Lenin. De Gaulle never talked about the Soviet Union, but about Russia. These men, two of New Europe’s most significant political leaders, were looking for continuity in the history of a population and a continent. We would be wise to continue doing so. Russia’s position between East and West; Russia with its unique cultural history; the Russian people with their history of inconceivable suffering. We and Europe have to work according to the long-established premise that Russia belongs in Europe.

TL: But doesn’t Russia politicise its oil power by supporting Iran in the energy sector – by supplying both technical expertise and enriched uranium to Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant?

JGS: I don’t think that’s the best example. But Russia uses price mechanisms in its dealings with several countries, and from a political perspective too. As I said, this is not something Norway is considering doing. Many people, including the Americans, see Russia’s support of Iran in a positive light, because it can contribute to Iran being able to renounce its own enrichment programme and achieve what it claims it wishes to achieve – the provision of a sufficient supply of power. Russian participation may be an insurance policy against any potential loss of control over technology and raw materials. It is important that we maintain a close dialogue with Russia in order to get Iran to meet the demands of the UN Security Council.

TL: Iran’s population has doubled to 75 million in twenty to thirty years. They must have huge demand for energy, something the media and politicians rarely mention.

JGS: Iran estimates that they need approximately 50 reactors to meet the energy demand. But the international community’s scepticism is based on its legitimate anxiety about the nature of the real purpose. This is something Iran alone can clarify through intensive, close cooperation with the IAEA. The IAEA’s last assessment and American intelligence now provide some degree of certainty that Iran no longer has a nuclear weapons programme. Nonetheless, there are three conditions that are important to monitor: enrichment activity, missile technology, and the development of the nuclear bomb itself. We now believe that Iran ended the latter activity some years ago. But the first two activities are in full operation. This means that Iran is provoking an international backlash against the completion of their legitimate ambition – the generation of power and electricity for their own people.

Here at the foreign ministry offices lies a copy of Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine. The book is an angry account of today’s cynical economic system – from the coup in Chile to the US occupation of Iraq; of how big money systematically exploits natural disasters; of how “shock therapy” was intentionally used to introduce neoliberal reforms, of how crises and state coups have been followed by deregulation, privatisation, and welfare cuts. Or how the abortive war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 led to growth in the Israeli economy based on the export of security and surveillance technology for use in the “war against terror”. Something which more than anything else characterises today’s media is the use of the expression “terrorism”. Not only does fear sell a lot of newspapers, but politicians in some cases legitimise their own power via images of the enemy in “the war on terror”.

TL: What comes to mind when you hear the word “terrorism” – an enemy?

JGS: I cannot define terrorism as an individual enemy with an individual agenda. That would be inaccurate. At the same time, any authority’s principle responsibility is to ensure the safety of its citizens against attack, against any hostile use of violence. The authorities must have effective counter-strategies – through intelligence, police, and military cooperation with other countries.

TL: How significant is the threat of international terrorism in your mind?

JGS: It is without doubt a major threat that there are groups that are willing to attack civilians and use extreme methods. This must be fought against with all means. But the analysis becomes superficial if you regard terrorism as a single agent. In that case, I think you lose the chance to fight the phenomenon of terrorism.

TL: Only 1 in 1000 dies in Europe as a result of terrorism each year. The likelihood of dying from a snake bite or a lightning strike is greater. Don’t you think it is cause for concern that terrorism gets so much attention from the media and from politicians?

JGS: Perhaps, and we must and should debate the threats our society faces. But we must not relativise the threat embodied by extremist groups and the role that terrorism plays in our times. A broader debate about security can never be an argument against the authorities taking responsibility for protecting the citizens of a country. Terrorism is also effective at spreading uncertainty, at making people feel that there is a greater chance that they will be hit by terrorism than be bitten by a snake.

TL: But will “terrorism” not also legitimise power politics, or individual politicians who exploit the situation to gain even more power?

JGS: Yes, and it is indeed a dilemma all governments face, the balance between personal freedom and security. A vigilant, legislated society is needed to uphold these limitations.

TL: One may well ask oneself about the terrorist bombing of the blocks of flats in Moscow in 1999, about how this event, described by some as an FSB manoeuvre, helped Putin on his path to the presidency?

JGS: I don’t want to speculate about that. And again, I don’t want to relativise the significance of the work being done in the fight against terrorism.

Støre is Norway’s most popular minister[5] and undoubtedly one of the few intellectual ministers we have had in a long time. He is enthusiastic, takes you seriously, has the politician’s persuasive power of rhetoric, and exudes a quick-witted entrepreneurial energy. Something he also demonstrates around the oval table with the cubist Guernica-like painting in the office here at the Foreign Ministry. It isn’t difficult to admire him for the work he tackles. But who does Støre look up to?

TL: Can you name a couple of leading international politicians you would describe as role models?

JGS: No, actually I can’t. I’m interested in historical political leaders; I’m fascinated by them and enjoy reading their stories. They are all complex people. Hindsight typically cultivates the positives or the negatives in a one-dimensional manner. Life isn’t like that. I can look back on history and pick out figures like Mandela, Kennedy, and several other significant leaders who achieved important breakthroughs in their fields. But the interesting thing is to look for what led a leader to make the choices that he or she did, what elements of their choices can we be inspired by? Reagan was definitely not my role model but I do admire him for initiating the historic disarmament programme with the Soviet Union – one of the shrewdest the world has ever seen, as well as an openness to disarmament that today’s world sorely lacks. I can be impressed by political leaders who follow a policy I myself do not support. I would be reluctant to say that any of today’s leaders represent role models to me. I meet ministers and heads of state who, to varying degrees, make an impression on me. But it is the complexity in people that fascinates me. What they have to sacrifice in order to choose their own paths. The flip-side of the coin. The important thing for me is to understand the processes, those who initiate change and those that are willing to work for issues we believe are significant. Part of our foreign policy is based on taking care of our traditional interests and another part on going after opportunities where we can make a difference. As ministers and in government, we are in political office for a limited period. We are supposed to plan for the long-term but be ready to leave at short notice. So I think about how I can get things done on “my watch”. I want to seize the opportunities where Norway can make a difference. That, I believe, is my highest priority. Two examples: the work we have done to vaccinate children in developing countries – a huge financial contribution and political initiative – that was an important political initiative that has made a big difference; and our initiative to ban cluster bombs. On the other hand, it’s important to say no sometimes, to be selective.

TL: Kofi Annan is a major political figure. But he’s been criticised for not having reacted to reports of massacres that UN representatives sent from Rwanda. Shouldn’t someone in such high office have used his authority to do something in such a situation?

JGS: At the time, he was a bureaucrat in the UN, and this was the kind of experience that he with hindsight described as costly. Clinton described his presidency of the US as one of the positions he really felt he wasn’t up to. But I will not sit in judgement over people I believe made a huge effort and did their best. Rwanda is something the whole global community must take responsibility for. It is difficult to blame an individual for that, even though each individual has assess and feel when leaving is the most responsible option.

TL: Many people believe you showed great leadership when you alone from Norway came out in support for Hamas and the Palestinian coalition government. Was it a difficult process given that the global community did not accept the Mecca Accord?

JGS: I’ve worked a lot on this issue, I’ve thought a great deal about it and feel a need to be extremely precise here. We never supported Hamas. We supported working towards a Palestinian coalition built on a moral foundation that would be acceptable to the world. What we did consistently after Hamas won the 2006 election was to look to president Abbas. He has two roles: president-elect of all Palestinians with full democratic legitimacy and leader of the PLO. In Palestinian society, it is the PLO who has the mandate to negotiate with Israel and the world in general. The government and parliament are important institutions, but the president holds the negotiation mandate until the Palestinians get their own state. The situation that came about after Hamas won the election was a catastrophe for the Palestinians. Palestinian legitimacy requires two keys: one of them is democratic, you have to win the election, and the other is that you must accept pre-established accords. Hamas only complied to the first of these. And they had their charter that clearly contravenes values that are fundamental to the international community. That Israel contravenes international law through its policy of occupation cannot in itself legitimise a political programme that does not acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. This is why we could not support the Hamas government in 2006.

But the Abbas project was to gather factions together to make up one Palestinian government to represent everyone. In this way, the government would be able to support the result of negotiations he would achieve in future negotiations with Israel. For this reason then, the president went as far as to bring in Hamas, and I actively supported him in that. The Mecca Accord and what became the coalition government in March 2007 was, in my opinion, a significant step towards accepting agreed accords. There were explicit references to agreed accords such as the Oslo Accord and thus mutual acknowledgement of Israel. It was not a text that fully met international demands but it was a significant step.

I believe leading players in the international community made a mistake in that they did not appreciate this step enough. For me, it the key to a policy of engagement in Palestine, the path away from violence and into politics. So we said that we were in a position to deal with the coalition government that came to power on 17 March. We did not address whether or not we should give money to it – which we did not in fact do – until we got a better idea of the kind of politics they had to offer. After all, Abbas was president and Saddam Al-Fayad finance minister, people the international community had faith in. I believe the international community made a mistake in not doing more to accommodate the government.

It is by engaging with your opponent that you can push them into the areas you want them to be in. I’ve observed that many European ministers have since approached me and said that they agreed with Norway’s policy. However in the EU, 27 have to be in agreement and that just didn’t happen. It wasn’t a tragedy for Norway, but it was for the Palestinians. We are continuing to support the president and the leader of the PLO; we also support Salam Fayyad as leader of the government as it presently stands. We are working closely with them. And Norway’s representatives have the same level of contact with Hamas as they do with other political movements in the Middle East. That is our capital. The government negotiating in the aftermath of Annapolis has to go back and sell a compromise. It will be very demanding because Hamas, as a heavyweight political faction, distances itself and has no responsibility. Thus it has become easier and more difficult after the fall of the coalition government: easier because the boycott has been lifted and because negotiations are taking place with a Palestinian leadership that supports the principles of the Quartet. But more difficult because Palestine is divided and Gaza isolated.

TL: But it was Abbas on the West Bank who received 40 billion kroner, not the isolated Hamas in Gaza. Wasn’t that a major obstacle in the peace process?

JGS: That’s true. We believed it was important to go all out to ensure that it was Abbas who negotiated. After all, with the coalition government he had 95 percent of the Palestinian political scene behind him. On his own – without Hamas – he now has an easier starting-point for negotiation, since his people alone have the responsibility of government. But his sales job has become infinitely more demanding without half the political scene to back him.

So to your question about whether it was difficult to back support for the Mecca Accord and the coalition government. The answer is no, it wasn’t so difficult. I note that the US was strongly opposed to taking any approach whatsoever. Israel was firmly opposed. And the Europeans didn’t manage to play a role. My European colleagues met with the same ministers that we did. I believe that being outside the EU, Norway has a responsibility to form its own opinion, as a nation that is constantly in close contact with EU countries and institutions. We have requirements and a lot of experience in thinking for ourselves in this area. We sent a clear signal. I believe this also sends a signal for the future. It has given us a network and contacts. That we still are closely involved means that we haven’t burned any bridges. We have a good, transparent relationship with Israel, we’re working closely with the Americans and the EU, and have a close relationship with all the Palestinian factions.

Navigating through the Foreign Ministry’s web-pages one reads: “The politics of engagement are based on a political and moral obligation to help those in need of help and a belief that our efforts, combined with the efforts of others, produce results. It is a form of politics that functions on the premise that we use our political and/or economic strength to make a difference”. Støre has also previously stated that, “with Norway’s wealth, our strategy should be to build up a reputation of being generous”. Norway donates billions to the rain forest as part of quota-based environmental initiatives in developing countries, and has just headed the donors’ conference for Palestinians held in Paris.

TL: Our oil wealth already stands at 2000 billion. If one were to follow the old Christian saying of giving “one tenth” – shouldn’t we hand out 200 to 250 billion kroner from the Pension Fund?[6] Can you name any great visions that really made a difference on a global level?

JGS: Firstly, I think the “one tenth” concept is wrong for many reasons. Many people say that Norway could be generous by dipping into the Pension Fund. I think that way of thinking is too simple and lacks consistency. What you’re really doing is dipping into the pockets of your children and grandchildren, into their pensions. In reality, it costs us nothing and cannot be described as generosity. If it is to mean anything to us, we would have to take it out of our own pockets, where there would be less to go around. We should rather discuss whether we should allocate more than one percent of our GDP to international aid. But it doesn’t impress me when people say we can use 50 to 100 billion from a fund that has no impact on my life or yours. That is my first observation.

My other observation is to reflect that the oil wealth can also be regarded as a shift of Norwegian resources from under the seabed to the bank. This happened because we, in contemporary times, have the technology and the demand. There’s a lot of money, but not in the sense that if Norway were to give out a few billion we would have bought our good conscience and solved problems on a permanent basis.

I believe that the major challenges we face in development and climate change are major issues in the global economic system. Something has to be done about how the global economy functions and how we consume energy and natural resources. This has to be a part of Norway’s active diplomacy. I don’t know if you can call this generosity or not because it’s something we do out of strong self-interest – by influencing the course of the global economy and its mode of influence. But as I said, we can make a decisive contribution technologically. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, believes that global capture and storage of CO2 has to be 20-30 per cent of the solution to the problem. Environmental activist Frederic Hauge thinks that for industrial nations this has to make up 50 per cent of the solution. In other words – we may be sitting on the key and we will deliver!

We give almost 30 billion kroner in aid per year. When I say that Norway should be regarded as generous, it is because today we are seen as wealthy. That observation is correct. We also have to show that we are responsible. Contrary to Frp (populist liberal conservatives – the Progressive Party) and Høyre (conservatives) who believe that we should cut back on aid and engagement.

TL: Today Norway is a minor player in Afghanistan’s theatre of war. What if, in a global context, we were to rally behind a major global player in the rebuilding and peace-keeping work instead?

JGS: I think we’re already doing that. I see us now giving more to the creation of the Palestinian state than the Americans. In Afghanistan, per capita, we are the biggest donor in the UN – so those accounts are in good order. The world is made up of forces that require different methods, and we are members of a military alliance, of which I am a firm supporter, that anchors our security. So today we have the highest level of engagement in Afghanistan, anchored in very clear and unanimous resolutions by the UN Security Council. This is therefore a task we will have to constantly work on in the future.

Is Støre’s policy cosmopolitanism? This basic political view is based on a democratic sensitivity and understanding that has grown out of the tragedies and barbarism the world experienced through Stalinism, fascism, and the Holocaust. In the cosmopolitan world and vision, we are all world citizens. It is a world where the individual sees beyond himself and his preoccupations. Kant described it thus in 1803: “Parents care for the home, rulers for the State. Neither aim for universal good and the perfection for which man is destined and for which he has also a natural disposition. But the basis of a scheme of education must be cosmopolitan.” Peter Kemp describes cosmopolites in The World Citizen as those who take responsibility for “epochal key problems” such as economic globalisation, cultural and national clashes, and ecological problems such as pollution, famine, and disease. Today many people describe the EU as the only presently existing basis for cosmopolitanism.

TL: What is it that motivates you in your work as foreign minister? A fundamental cosmopolitan view of equal rights for all?

JGS: I believe that everyone has a set of values and ambitions based on very personal beliefs. It’s probably more rooted in how you are put together as a person than whether you subscribe to this or that ideology. I am strongly motivated to contribute towards the things people and nations can achieve if they find common interests. To locate the opportunities where you can release those forces. I believe that is the only thing that enables us to galvanise this international system into tackling the challenges connected to climate, armament control, and poverty. In a social democracy, I found the set of values, in terms of community and shared responsibility, that most resembled my own – this means I found a place I could call my political home. I don’t agree with absolutely everything – does one ever? But enough for me to say that these are the core values I believe society would benefit from – the small domestic community around me and the one out there in the world at large.

TL: Tell me more about your personal world-view.

JGS: To me it boils down to a world-view tied to the inviolable rights of the individual and the right to dignity.

TL: Do you base your involvement on a Christian or religious world view?

JGS: It definitely comes from a Christian cultural heritage. I should think that is pretty clear. And from a very strong belief that we, as a nation, are very much on the sunny side of the street. Something in the Norwegian moral instinct is based on the belief that one of the most moral things you can do is to cross into the shade, that it is immoral to stay in the sun. I believe that is historically wrong. I think we should stay on the sunny side but take responsibility for the other side too.

TL: What are the two most important tasks you foresee in 2008?

JGS: If I had to respond to that at the start of 2007, both of them would probably have been wrong by the end of the year. A year is also steered by global events. But let me choose along general lines: to develop conditions in the north in such a way that Norway’s security is ensured, plus recognizing the responsibility we have for the protection of our natural resources.

And then he says, almost spontaneously: “And to make a good job of conveying Norway’s stance on climate change and energy”. The interview is over.


[1] See
[2] See Aftenposten 05.07.06
[3] See Dagbladet 05.12.07
[4] Ibid.
[5] See Aftenposten 21.12.07
[6] Statens pensjonsfond – Utland (“The Pension Fund”, also known as the “Oil Fund”), manages the huge fiscal surplus created by Norway’s oil production. Only 4 percent of the fund’s dividend can be spent, the rest is allocated to future pensions.

Published 8 February 2008
Original in Norwegian
Translated by Nicole Fishlock
First published by Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) 1/2008

© Truls Lie / Le Monde diplomatique (Oslo) / Eurozine



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