Norway mourns a 'national grandpa'
Tributes were pouring in on Friday afternoon for veteran diplomat and top Labour Party politician Thorvald Stoltenberg. The former foreign- and defense minister, ambassador and affable father of Norwayâs former prime minister and now NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, died at his home in Oslo after what his family called a short illness.
Thorvald Stoltenberg was active in the last local election campaign in 2015 and said he was happy âso many wanted meâ when he was elected to the Oslo City Council at an age of 84. He announced last year, however, that he wanted to resign from the city council for health reasons. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet
Stoltenbergâs kitchen table in th at home in Osloâs Frogner district was nearly as important as the man himself. It served as a gathering point not only for a powerful family but also was referred to as the senior Stoltenbergâs âpersonal weaponâ when he gathered other leaders around it, most notably Nelson Mandela. The South African leader was among the many invited home to eat breakfast with Thorvald Stoltenberg, and admitted he wasnât particularly fond of Stoltenbergâs breakfast staple of mackerel in tomato sauce.
It was also where Jens would sit and confer with his experienced father, or simply chat while preparing the familyâs annual Christmas herring. The man Jens himself simply called âThorvaldâ died, at an age of 87, just a day after his son concluded one of the most dramatic NATO Summits in years. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Jens Stoltenberg managed to rush from Brussels to Oslo right after the NATO Summit to join his family at his fatherâs bedside. The elder Stolten bergâs death also came less than a week after his birthday on July 8.
He was the partriarch of a family that included his wife, the late Karin Stoltenberg (also a top Norwegian politician and champion of womenâs rights), his daughter Camilla (a doctor and head of Norwayâs public health institute), Jens, who became one of Norwayâs most popular and respected prime ministers ever, and daughter Nini, who had a TV career before declining into drug addiction that resulted in her father pushing through various reforms of narcotics policy. She died just two years after her mother, in 2014.
Jens Stoltenberg showing his father the wonders of a mobile telephone in 2013. PHOTO: Arbeiderpartiet
Stoltenberg, born in Oslo in 1931, was also, however, a dedicated public servant who started out in the diplomatic corps, working at Norwegian embassies and consulates from Belgrade to San Francisco and moving his family along with him. He became a just-as-dedicated member of the Labour Party, which quickly saw potential that led to long political career. He was first appointed as defense minister in 1979, serving until 1981 in the Odvar Nordli government. He later became foreign minister twice in Gro Harlem Brundtlandâs government, from 1987 to 1989 and from 1990 to 1993.
Then he went on to become the UNâs peace broker in the former Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1995, at a time when the Balkan War was raging and his won was serving as Brundtlandâs oil and energy minister. He also served as the UNâs High Commissioner for Refugees and was president of the Norwegian Chapter of The Red Cross from 1999 to 2008, during periods when his son became prime minister.
The tributes to Thorvald Stoltenberg on Friday spanned the political spectrum in Norway. âWe will remember him as a foreign minister and peace broker, but first and foremost as a warm person,â wrote Prime Minister Erna Solberg of the Conservative Party. âThrough a long life, he made a large and important contribution to Norway.â
One of Solbergâs predecessors and another veteran politician in Norway, KÃ¥re Willoch of the Conservatives, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Thorvald Stoltenberg was âa unique combination of an extremely knowledgeable politicians with energy and his own ability to come in contact with people and contribute to extracting useful results. I valued him highly.â Even the former leader of the Progress Party, Carl I Hagen, noted that while they didnât agree in politics, he considered Stoltenberg a highly valued builder of Norwegian society.
Jens Stoltenberg published this photo on his own social media site when he gave his father Thorvald a farewell hug before leaving Oslo to become secretary general of NATO in Brussels in 2014. As a former career diplomat, defense- and foreign minister himself, Thorvald encouraged his son to take the top job at NATO. PHOTO: Jens Stoltenberg/Facebook
His colleagues in the embattled Labour Party were in sorrow. âThe good man Thorvald Stoltenberg is no longer amongst us,â Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr StÃ¸re told NRK. âWe have received news of his death with deep sorrow, and will remember Thorvald with huge gratitude.â
Anniken Huitfeldt, a longtime Member of Parliament for Labour, called Stoltenberg hele Norges bestefar (the entire nationâs grandpa). âWarmth, generosity and wisdom,â Huitfeld wrote in her tribute. âThorvald had what the world needs more of. Thank you.â
Former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of the Labour Party, who called Stoltenberg home from a top post at the UN to serve in her government, said she was also grieving. âAt the same time,â she sai d, âI have seldom experienced such a warm feeling of gratitude and joy over such a positive and richly lived life.â
He remained active to the end, working on book projects, advising party fellows and speaking before various groups including, just last spring, authors whoâve written book for large publishing firm Gydendal. He was supposed to be among 140 guests at the 80th birthday party on Friday of Yngve HÃ¥gensen, former head of Norwayâs largest trade union confederation LO. âWeâve lost a great statesman,â HÃ¥gensen told NRK, adding that Stoltenberg had called him earlier this week to say he wasnât in good enough shape to attend.
Funeral arrangements were pending.
(This story will be updated.)
newsinenglish.no/Nina BerglundSource: Google News Norway | Netizen 24 Norway