Støre: a case of megalomania

I have mentioned previously, in passing, that our FM Støre is currently involved in a scandal where he, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have donated large sums of money to a project where one of Støre’s close friends is CEO and director of the board (a very lucrative affair related to developing the High North Region), and his ministry intervened on behalf of Støre’s friend, Felix Tschudi, to obtain a license in another ministry.

Stortingets Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs will examine the details of this case in due course.

But now, Støre has been caught in another embarrassing faux pas; it has been revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has coughed up NOK 1 million for a book that features Jonas Gahr Støre as the main person. From a comical perspective, our PM Stoltenberg is currently visiting Korea, but I was unaware that this meant that we are now going to deify our politicians in North Korean style?

The opposition in the Storting is not amused:

Dagfinn Høybråten: Ditch the book, Jonas

(VG) The Opposition asks Jonas Gahr Støre to put the Foreign Ministry plans for a book into a drawer and throw away the key.

– Most likely it will be good book, but it is not the task of a State Department to fund or initiate such projects, Morten Høglund of the Progress Party told VG.

VG reported this week that the Foreign Ministry contributes 1 million to a new book. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Labor) will be the book’s main character.

Dagfinn Høybråten (Christian Democrats) reminds Støre that he is the Foreign Minister and not an expert commentator.

– The author presents Støre as a central character and a kind of foreign policy expert in the book. I must therefore remind him that he in this context is neither a commentator, researcher or an expert, but the Foreign Minister, Høybråten said.

– pushing boundaries

Høybråten, like Høglund, thinks it is not the task of a government department to initiate and finance books where the sitting Minister has a central role.

– This appears to be a strong profiling of the Foreign Minister. This is definitely pushing the boundaries of what a department should fund, he adds.

Jonas Gahr Støre will be a recurring character and expert on Norwegian Foreign Policy in the book, according to writer Simen Ekern. He is engaged and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for authoring the book, which will provide a picture of the world as it looks in 2030.

Støre’s ministry dishes out NOK 1 million to realize the book, which is part of the Reflex project. This book is intended to stimulate dialogue about the choices Norway faces in its foreign policy.

– To inform and engage

But Jonas Gahr Støre defends the publication, which is scheduled for release in the autumn or early next year.

Støre argues for the book via the communications director Ragnhild Imerslund of the Foreign Affairs. Imerslund said that this is not the first time foreign minister has a central role in a book from the Ministry.

– Is writing books a task for the Ministry ?

– The Ministry of Foreign Affairs job is to inform and engage widely, through multiple channels. In 2008 we produced two books, one of them written by the Foreign Minister.This is a new type of release that we think will spark interest, Imerslund says.

Rejects Criticism

She reminds us that the planned book, is one of several initiatives in the so-called Reflex project.

– The idea is to challenge some leading actors and thinkers to look forward to 2030 and talk about the changing world economy, geopolitics, climate, culture, religion – much of it that will shape the road ahead to 2030 – and of course – reflect on what this might mean for Norway. The Foreign Minister’s role will be to meet these people for talks or debates, which then will be written by others. So this is not about the Minister, but on the framework for Norwegian foreign policy in the future, Imerslund explains.

She rejects criticism from politicians on foreign affairs that the book project is the promotion and branding of Jonas Gahr Støre.

Once more, I can but only remind you of what US embassy staff wrote about Støre:  Although smart and dynamic, some people wonder if his arrogance might not work against him in negotiations.