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13th Jun 2021

Former Norwegian PM to be next Nato chief

  • Stoltenberg was Prime Minister of Norway for nine years (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Nato countries on Friday (28 March) agreed that former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg should be the next secretary general of the military alliance.

"This afternoon, the North Atlantic Council decided to appoint Mr. Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of Nato and chairman of the North Atlantic Council, in succession to Anders Fogh Rasmussen," the alliance said in a press release.

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Currently leader of the Labour Party in Norway and a UN special envoy on climate change, Stoltenberg will start his new post on 1 October, when Rasmussen's mandate expires.

He will assume office at a time when Nato-Russia relations are again on ice after Moscow's recent annexation of Crimea. There was a similar post-Cold War low in 2008 after Russia's invasion of Georgia.

Stoltenberg served for nearly 10 years in total as Norway's prime minister and was praised even by opposition politicians for the way he handled the aftermath of the terrorist attacks carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, a white supremacist who killed 77 people in a shooting spree.

“Our answer is more democracy, more openness to show that we will not be stopped by this kind of violence. At the same time we shouldn’t be naive, we should understand that violence can attack our society – we’ve seen that today," Stoltenberg said in a speech after the attacks.

His appointment is no surprise. He had been tipped as frontrunner for weeks. British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday told parliament that Stoltenberg would be "an excellent candidate".

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski, himself tipped as a potential candidate, thanked a supporter on Twitter on Friday but said "Jens Stoltenberg will indeed be a good Nato secretary general. Poland will support him."

The other candidate for the Nato top job was former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who served also as EU home affairs commissioner until returning to the government of then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

US steering clear of EU posts horsetrading

Meanwhile, according to an EU diplomat, the Nato appointment was pushed forward by the US in a bid to steer clear of the EU posts horsetrading due after the May elections for the European Parliament.

Last time around, when the Liberal Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was appointed Nato chief, he was part of larger bargain about the top posts - EU council chief, EU commission president and the bloc's foreign affairs czar.

Rasmussen's mandate was extended by one year in 2013 and will end after a Nato summit in Wales, on 3-4 September.

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