Norway’s FM Anniken Huitfeldt demoted in government reshuffle

Anniken Huitfeldt made mistakes related to impartiality as her husband bought shares in Kongsberg Gruppen, Norway’s largest arms producer and supplier of weapons to Ukraine. This photo is from the minister’s visit to the soldiers guarding the border with Russia. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Experienced Espen Barth Eide has become Norway’s new foreign minister as part of PM Jonas Gahr Støre’s government shake-up on Monday.

Barth Eide takes over the foreign ministry as Anniken Huitfeldt was forced to leave after it became known that her husband bought shares in weapons manufacturer Kongsberg Gruppen while she was in the government.

Huitfeldt said in a presser in late August that she was unaware of her husband’s trading of shares in the company, and that she therefore was not disqualified under the conflict-of-interest rules.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre at the time said the foreign minister had made mistakes related to impartiality, but he stressed that he believed her and didn’t want to remove her from the position.

Norway’s political landscape was again shaken in September, after the regional elections, as it became clear that former PM Erna Solberg’s husband also had traded at large in stocks in the eight-year period she was in office.

Political commentators said it was difficult for Støre and his ruling Labor Party to lash out at Solberg over her husband’s stock trading as long as one of the current ministers had somewhat similar problems.

Anniken Huitfeldt will now return to her seat in the parliament.

Troubled government

In July this year, minister of research and higher education, Ola Borten Moe, resigned after it emerged he had bought bonds in the same Kongsberg Gruppen defence company. Borten Moe admitted to violating the conflict-of-interest rules as he was sitting in a government that made a 2,6 billion kroner (€226 million) deal in January with ammunition producer Nammo, a company owned 25% by Kongsberg Gruppen.

Borten Moe denied that his moves were to be considered insider trading.

New minister with long experience 

Espen Barth Eide was until Monday minister of environment and has long experience in politics.

He first joined the government in 2000 as state secretary (deputy minister) in the foreign ministry. In 2010, Barth Eide again served the same position, until he in late 2011 was appointed to the post of defence minister. A year later, he was appointed foreign minister and served until the Labor Party lost the parliamentary elections in September 2013.

Government shake-up 

Disappointed by the election results, PM Støre also changed several other ministers on Monday.

  • Bjørnar Skjæran leaves the position as fishery minister and is replaced by Cecilie Myrseth.
  • Marthe Mjøs Persen is replaced by Tonje Brenna in the ministry of labor and social inclusion.
  • Andreas Bjelland Eriksen takes over the ministry of environment after Espen Barth Eide.
  • Sigbjørn Gjelsvik leaves the ministry of local government and regional development. Erling Sande takes over this ministry.
  • Kari Nessa Nordtun takes over the ministry of education after Tonje Brenna.
  • Karianne Tung becomes minister No. 2 in the ministry of local government and regional development. She will be responsible for digital- and administration.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Prime Minister announces $20.8M for 50-unit housing complex in Yellowknife, CBC News

Finland: Finland counted its bomb shelters and found 50,500 of them, Reuters

Iceland: Icelandic embassy suspends operations in Moscow, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Arctic Council continues steps towards resuming expert group work, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Moscow cuts funding for icebreakers, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: US bombers land in northern Sweden for first time, Radio Sweden

United States: Russian, Chinese vessels near Alaska reminder of ‘new era of aggression’: Senators, Eye on the Arctic

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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