Conservative deputy leader Tina Bru warns against giving the impression that “a lot of power is centralized to the same exclusive dinner club, close group of friends or elite network”.
Is NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s close ties to both the Labor Party and Prime Minister Jonas Gahrs Støre an obstacle to him becoming Norway’s new central bank governor?
Stoltenberg is one of two real applicants for the position that will become vacant in February. The other is Deputy Director General Ida Wolden Bache.
On Tuesday, the assessment came to the Ministry of Justice’s law department. The starting point is the Public Administration Act. It describes what is needed before public servants become incompetent as a result of friendship, kinship or other “special circumstances”.
The law department believes that Stoltenberg’s relationship with the Labor Party and Støre does not make him incompetent to handle cases as central bank governor.
However, they can not rule out that the former prime minister will be incompetent in certain situations as central bank governor.
Someone has had dinner together
The Legal Department has not considered requirements for the bank’s independence
At the same time, it is emphasized that they have not assessed the Central Bank Act’s provisions on the bank’s independence from the government and the Storting.
Nor do they want to say anything about “the considerations and purposes behind the rules in the Central Bank Act indicate that certain applicants should or should not be appointed to the position of central bank governor”.
An internal memo from the Ministry of Finance, which was also published on Tuesday, states that it is assumed that these assessments are of a non-legal nature.
“Stoltenberg is not covered by these bans. An assessment of whether the independence from the government and the Storting that these provisions are to ensure is adequately safeguarded if Stoltenberg is employed, is therefore in principle not a legal assessment, but factors that may be included in the assessment of whether Stoltenberg should is employed in the position of central bank governor “, it says there.
These are divided opinions in the Storting.
The government is appointed central bank governor. It does not need a majority in the Storting behind the decision.
But both the Liberal Party and the Socialist People’s Party have stated that the law department’s assessment does not change their view of the case. They are still opposed to Stoltenberg being hired.
– As I see it, this does not change my conclusion. Stoltenberg should not get this job. A former prime minister in that position could create doubts about the role of the central bank, and it is unfortunate that important positions in society go to an inner circle of society leaders, says SV’s fiscal policy spokesperson, Kari Elisabeth Kaski to DN.
The right sharpens the criticism
Aftenpostens has asked the Conservatives what they think about Norway soon having Jonas Gahr Støre as Prime Minister, Stoltenberg as Governor and Karl Eirik Schjøtt Pedersen as Auditor General.
They were all central to Stoltenberg’s second government.
Former Labor Minister Schjøtt-Pedersen took over as Auditor General at the turn of the year. He took over from former Conservative minister Per-Kristian Foss.
Fiscal policy spokesperson Tina Bru, who is also the second deputy leader of the party, is responsible for the Conservative Party.
She has previously said that there is too much doubt about the appointment of Stoltenberg as the new central bank governor, for it to be a wise decision.
Now she is sharpening her use of language considerably. To Aftenposten she answers:
– I hope and assume that this whole process takes place in an orderly manner, but the cases in the press in recent days and hours give the impression that a lot of power is centralized to the same exclusive dinner club, close group of friends or elite network. This is unfortunate and can obviously help to increase the perceived distance between voters and those in power. This in turn can unfortunately damage confidence in the political system in Norway.
– Only the way in which questions are asked about whether these friends’ dinners have been messy, clearly shows how difficult it can be with Stoltenberg in the role of central bank governor. We can not afford to shake the trust and independence of such an important institution as Norges Bank, she adds.
She believes that the independence of the central bank requires very special protection.
– It must definitely be possible for top politicians to use their expertise in new jobs.
She points out that several former politicians from both sides of politics have become state administrators or heads of public directorates and agencies. Then it will be their job to follow up and implement what the Storting and the government decide.
– The job as head of Norges Bank is something completely, completely different. There must never be any doubt that the central bank in general, and when setting interest rates in particular, acts independently of party policy.
Two dinners at Brundtland
Aftenposten reported on Sunday that Jens Stoltenberg attended a private dinner on 3 January last year at Knut Brundtland’s home, where the position was the theme.
“The position as head of Norges Bank was mentioned at the dinner on 3 January,” Stoltenberg’s adviser Sissel Kruse Larsen wrote in an SMS to Aftenposten.
Meglertoppen Brundtland is the son of former Labor leader and Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and is a close friend of both Stoltenberg and Støre.
The dinner was also attended by oil fund manager Nicolai Tangen. The fund he manages is under Norges Bank, and the central bank governor is the fund’s chairman of the board. Tangen is a friend of Brundtland.
On Monday, TV 2 mentioned another dinner at Brundtland’s home. This was back in May last year. Tangen and Støre participated here, but not Stoltenberg.
– In May last year, I was invited home to Knut Brundtland for an informal dinner with Nicolai Tangen. In the conversation, the topic of a possible new central bank governor came up, and Stoltenberg’s name was mentioned by Tangen, but not discussed. I then said that if the Labor Party won the election and we got into a government position, I would then be incompetent if Stoltenberg were to be relevant. After that, there was no more talk about, Støre writes in an e-mail to TV 2.
Both dinners took place several months before Øystein Olsen officially announced his resignation as central bank governor, which will take place in February this year.