|Secretary General of the Council of Europe|
1 October 2009
|Preceded by||Terry Davis|
|Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee|
1 January 2009
|Preceded by||Ole Danbolt Mjøs|
|17th President of the Storting|
10 October 2005 – 1 October 2009
|Preceded by||Jørgen Kosmo|
|Succeeded by||Dag Terje Andersen|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
17 March 2000 – 19 October 2001
|Prime Minister||Jens Stoltenberg|
|Preceded by||Knut Vollebæk|
|Succeeded by||Jan Petersen|
|Prime Minister of Norway|
25 October 1996 – 17 October 1997
|Preceded by||Gro Harlem Brundtland|
|Succeeded by||Kjell Magne Bondevik|
|Member of Parliament № 1
5 November 1950 |
|Political party||Norwegian Labour Party|
|Alma mater||University of Oslo|
|Religion||Church of Norway|
Thorbjørn Jagland (help·info) (born 5 November 1950, né Thorbjørn Johansen) is a Norwegian politician for the Labour Party, currently serving as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (since 2009). He is also the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee (since 2009), and as such responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize.
Jagland served as Prime Minister of Norway from 1996 to 1997, as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2000 to 2001 and as President of the Storting from 2005 to 2009. Prior to becoming Prime Minister, Jagland served as party secretary from 1986 to 1992, and subsequently party leader until 2002, when he was succeeded by Jens Stoltenberg. He did not run for reelection to parliament in 2009.
Jagland's cabinet, was short-lived, with two ministers being forced to withdraw.  He resigned following the 1997 election even though his party won the most votes. In 2010 a group of forty prominent historians ranked Jagland as the weakest Norwegian prime minister since the end of the Second World War;. His term as Foreign Minister was controversial. Jagland was widely perceived to have been passed over when Jens Stoltenberg formed his second cabinet in 2005. In 2009 he was elected as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Jagland studied economics at the University of Oslo. He started his political career in the Workers' Youth League, and served as national leader from 1977 to 1981.
Early and personal life 
Thorbjørn Jagland was born on 5 November 1950 in Drammen and is the son of a welder, Helge Th. Jagland, and a cook, Ingrid Bjerknes. The family was originally named Johansen, but in the 1950s, they changed their name to Jagland, a newly constructed surname that appeared in a book published by a bureaucrat (2000 nye slektsnavn [2000 New Family Names] by Astrid Moss, 1947) which aimed at helping people find new surnames instead of patronyms, which had long been associated with the working class. The name Jagland isn't derived from a real farm, but is a "farm-like name". Jagland was the first one in his family to go to university, although he quit after one year.
In 1966, at age 16, he joined the Lier chapter of the Workers' Youth League (AUF). Jagland graduated from secondary school in 1969, and from the University of Oslo in 1975. By 1973, he was elected leader of the Workers' Youth League in Buskerud, a position he held until 1975. That year, he was elected member of the Buskerud county council. In 1977, he became the national leader of the Workers' Youth League, a position he held until 1981. During this period, he said he wanted to bridge the gap between the youth wing and the mother party, but also expressed the need for the Workers' Youth League to have its own political platform. Important issues he supported at that time included the nationalization of the oil industry, permission to conduct petroleum test boring outside Northern Norway, and that the state should use income from the petroleum industry to nationalise domestic industry.
From 1981, he worked as a secretary for the Labour Party; he became acting general secretary in 1986 and was formally appointed to the position in 1987. In 1986, he also became chairman of the Labour Party's international committee. He held both positions until 1992, when he was elected party leader, succeeding long-time leader Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Political career 
Jagland was elected to the Norwegian Parliament from Buskerud in 1993, and has been re-elected on three occasions. During his first term, Jagland was a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, and also served as the fractional leader for the parliamentary group of the party. In 1995, Jagland published a book, titled Brev (Letters).
On 23 October 1996, Gro Harlem Brundtland informed Jagland she was withdrawing from politics and leaving him as head of government. The third cabinet Brundtland resigned, prompting the party leader Jagland to form a new cabinet. When asked if Brundtland was sure about Jagland, he replied, "Yes. I note that I have been elected unanimously five times in the Labour Party's national congress, and that I have had all the political offices possible to obtain in a country". Jagland won the post of Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party thanks to the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) leader Yngve Hågensen, who would also later support Jagland's strategy for "36.9%".
The tenure of Jagland's cabinet was marked by controversies. Minister of Planning Terje Rød Larsen was forced to resign after 35 days, after it was learned he had failed to pay all his taxes after receiving an option pay-out in 1986. Jagland, and Rød Larsen's successor, Bendik Rugaas, were widely ridiculed for their visions about "the Norwegian House". This was a metaphor Jagland illustrated to present his vision of Norway. In his speech to the Storting following his appointed, Jagland described the Norwegian House as a foundation with four pillars. The foundation represented, "the collective value creation within the ecologically sustainable society". The four pillars that hold up the house were business and labour policy; welfare policy; research and educational policy; and foreign and security policy. Jagland stated that everyone had something to contribute regarding the creation of the house; in particular he stated that the cabinet would cooperate with the opposition to reach these goals. In his speech, Jagland said that he would not deviate much from Harlem Brundtland's policies, but that he would increase the focus on violence, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and crime, including improvement of preventative measures and the courts. He also stated that it was important to introduce information technology in all parts of the education system. As part of the construction of the Norwegian House, the cabinet also started to appoint lay councils, with expertise within their fields, that would provide them with feedback and inputs on important areas in society. Jagland stated that the purpose was to allow critical voices close access to the political decisions, and increase the number of ideas generated at a political level. Jagland stated in August 2008 that, "the Norwegian House could have been better planned and prepared, but I did not have the time. I took a chance. The Labour Party was down for the count. My goal was to make a good election; and we did. We have not done so well since". Jagland said in an interview, "I still get letters from people who miss the Norwegian House. It was an attempt at something new, a building project that would also inspire the activity on the side of the parties".
Minister of Petroleum and Energy Grete Faremo resigned following the secret police investigation of Berge Furre, which occurred during her period as Minister of Justice. Jagland fronted the opposition to raise pensions for the elderly, describing it as "nauseating". In 1996, Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), visited Norway for two days.
With the announcement of the new government, Jagland chose not to renew the term of Martin Kolberg as state secretary at the Office of the Prime Minister. Kolberg, a childhood friend of Jagland, reacted with anger and frustration, and the media portrayed the matter as Jagland firing his best friend. Jagland said, "Martin had wanted to work for Gro [Harlem Brundtland]" ... I really wanted him to work as party secretary". Regarding Kolberg's reaction, Jagland said, "I followed an agreement between us, and I though he did not want the job. I am very surprised by his reaction". Five days later, Kolberg was appointed state secretary in the Ministry of Defence.
Jagland's 36.9 ultimatum and resignation 
Ahead of the 1997 parliamentary election, Jagland announced the cabinet would resign if the party received less than 36.9% of the popular vote. This ultimatum was based on the fact that Jagland had assumed the Prime Minister post based on the votes collected by Brundtland in the 1993 election, which provided an unclear parliamentary basis for governing. The Labour cabinet was only supported by 67 out of 165 members of Parliament, namely its own party group, and thus had to seek support from the largest opposition parties—the Centre Party as well as Labour's traditional adversary, the Conservative Party—on a case-by-case basis. Since the Norwegian Parliament lacks any form of investiture before a cabinet forms, the cabinet, if a minority government, may lack concrete support from its inception. Brundtland had already subscribed to the ad-hoc tactic during her time as Prime Minister, describing it as "slalom racing in the Storting". However, the negotiations in order to land the annual state budget in 1996 were particularly tough. According to political scientist Trond Nordby, Jagland felt that a cabinet which achieved less than 36.9% would not be suited to achieve meaningful results in the face of a superior Parliament.
As it turned out, Labour only received 35.0%. Again, no party won a majority, so the power was given to the first cabinet of Kjell Magne Bondevik, with Jagland resigning on 29 September 1997. This cabinet had an even weaker parliamentary basis. Erik Solheim, the leader of Socialist Left Party (SV), said that if Jagland resigned, "he would go down in history as Norway's most puzzling politician". In 2008, former prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland called Jagland "stupid" because of his lack of tactical judgment during the election. He responded by saying, "I am glad I am who I am, and I would never describe another person in those terms". Brundtland also said that she wished for Jens Stoltenberg or Gunnar Berge to become the leader of the Labour Party.
After resigning as Prime Minister, Jagland continued as member of parliament in the term 1997–2001, when he was chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. During his tenure as Prime Minister his seat in parliament had been occupied by Vidar Brynsplass.
Leader of the Labour Party 
After the 1997 election, a power struggle developed within the Labour Party, with Stoltenberg seeking to become the new party leader. Labour had lost much of its political power to Kjell Magne Bondevik and his cabinet. In 1998, Jagland made several now-famous statements that were met with ridicule, including, "We will come again, yes, we are here already", "We put the foot down and stand on it" and "I usually don't look backwards, nor do i look forward". The municipal elections in 1999 continued the decline for the Labour Party and discontent grew among party members. Newspapers were full of stories about the power struggle within the party between Jagland and Stoltenberg. During an interview with journalist Kirstin Karlsen from Aftenposten, Jagland was asked, "Did you not want Stoltenberg to get any easier start than you had in 1996? Did he not have enough time to prepare before the election?" Jagland replied:
|“||Stoltenberg had more time. There were many in the Labour Party who thought we had to come back to power as fast as possible, and then he would have some thoughts about what we were doing. ... I just noted that many believed it. It was evidence of how difficult it is to have a government which has no parliamentary basis. So Stoltenberg and I came to the same conclusion, that we had to try to form a majority government.||”|
After several years of strife, the power struggle was essentially concluded in 2000, when Stoltenberg became the party's prime minister candidate and Jagland settled as Minister of Foreign Affairs. When asked about the power struggle, Jagland said "It does not help with bulletproof vests, when the shots come from within".
Workers' Youth league membership scandal 
Also in 1998, four leaders and treasurers of Oslo AUF were convicted of fraud and jailed as part of the Workers' Youth League membership scandal. They were found to have filed excessive membership numbers in order to receive increased municipal grants, and the court case revealed that most youth parties and their leaders had been engaging in this practice since the 1970s. Jagland testified in the case and said it was not necessarily wrong to "advance" money for memberships, provided the members in question reimburse this fee later on. But he did testify that it was unacceptable to transfer money from AUF's main bank account to pay for membership fees. When pressed by the prosecutor, he also agreed that membership numbers were too high when he was the leader of AUF. In his defense, he said if AUF were to follow the law too rigidly, they would only have ended up with a quarter of the membership numbers that the Norwegian Young Conservatives operated with. Jagland has later said to the court that AUF should have received even more subsidies, referring to some of the other political youth parties that used similar methods for calculating membership numbers.
In 2001, Jagland was replaced as party leader by Jens Stoltenberg the following year under circumstances many in the media deemed controversial. Earlier that very year, an unnamed source within the party told the newspaper Dagbladet that Jagland "most likely" would remain leader up until 2004. However, before any voting took place Jagland relinquished the post. He had recently been hospitalized due to general health problems, and had moreover felt "responsibility to end this destructive personal strife".
Minister of Foreign Affairs 
In 2000, the first cabinet of Bondevik resigned following a motion of confidence. A new Labour cabinet, to be led by Jens Stoltenberg, was announced by King Harald V on 17 March 2000; although Jagland was still party leader at the time, he was passed over for the Prime Minister candidacy, and instead settled for Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Jagland again made national headlines in a similar fashion to the publicity about "The Norwegian House" and "36.9%", this time for the phrase "Bongo from Congo", which Jagland used when referring to Omar Bongo, the President of Gabon, when he was visiting Norway. Jagland stated on 2 February 2001 on the nationally broadcast television show I kveld med Per Ståle on TV 2 that "everybody at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs went around saying that 'now you are going to meet with Bongo from Congo'". The term "Bongo" and "Congo" has been seen by many as a racial slur which tended to conjure mental imagery of African savagery.
One of his first acts as Minister of Foreign Affairs was to visit Yugoslavia, three years before its collapse, Jagland wanted to improve foreign aid to Yugoslavia and try to find a peaceful solution to the Yugoslav wars. On May Day 2001, some protesters threw cream pie on Jagland's face; he responded by light-heartedly cleaning himself up and proceeding to lead a labour march in Oslo. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jagland visited Sri Lanka in June 2001 to try to reach a level of involvement in the Sri Lankan Civil War. After a brief visit to the capital Colombo, at the request of the Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, Jagland agreed to take a role in the peace process of Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan Government and the Tamil Tiger. In June, Jagland was invited to visit China by its foreign minister, Tang Jiaxuan; Jagland left for China on 27 June 2001 and returned the following day. Later, Norway reported Australia to the UN for refusing to allow a ship full of Afghans to enter Australian territory. Jagland, who said of the matter, "our opinion is that international law is on our side", reported Australia to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The Labour Party did not fare well during the 2001 election. The newspaper Dagbladet stated that the closing polls signalized a "political earthquake". In an interview with The Associated Press, Jagland said, "It is unstable and unpredictable". After the votes had been counted, Stoltenberg and his cabinet was forced to resign, suffering from its worst election campaign results since 1924.
Jagland lost the position of Foreign Minister as the Labour cabinet after again holding office for only one year. He was succeeded by the second cabinet of Bondevik, following the 2001 election. While appointed to the cabinet, his seat in parliament had been occupied by Frank Willy Larsen.
President of the Storting 
When Jens Stoltenberg formed his second cabinet in 2005, the role of Thorbjørn Jagland posed a difficult problem for Stoltenberg according to many commentators in Norwegian media. Jagland, who had been both party leader and Prime Minister, had subsequently served only as foreign minister under Stoltenberg and thus moved downwards in his career. In 2005, Jagland was not offered the position again, with commentators claiming that he was not considered competent for the position. However, Jagland claims that he himself told Stoltenberg that he did not want to become Foreign Minister again.
In 2005, Jagland was reelected to a fourth term in the Norwegian Parliament. Jørgen Kosmo, the previous President of the Storting, had not stood for parliamentary re-election, and Jagland was elected to this position by the members of parliament on 10 October 2005. Jagland was elected with only one blank vote, whereas his Progress Party opponent, Carl I. Hagen, had 25 blank votes in the Storting. He later said:
|“||This is a completely new era for me. I shall lead the work of the parliament, so that it goes smoothly on rails. Also, I represent the Parliament, both in Norway and abroad.||”|
Jagland told the newspaper Aftenposten he wanted more Norwegian soldiers sent to South Afghanistan: "The Norwegian special forces will certainly be welcome throughout the winter. If NATO is demanding them, Norway should contribute". In 2007, Stoltenberg allowed Jagland to push through his plan to develop Storting as a stronger centre for current political debates, thus increasing the power of the parliamentary members on issues from the cabinet.
A UN conference against racism and discrimination in Geneva was planned for the spring of 2009. Some member states, such as Canada and Israel, had announced that they might boycott the conference because previous such conferences had given way to anti-Semitism and racism. Jagland said Norway was unlikely to undertake any boycott, but he added, "The previous racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, was a festival in the criticism of Western values. We must never allow the successor conference in Geneva in April next year to be a repetition of this".
In 2009, the cabinet issued a proposal to remove the "Blasphemy Paragraph", part of the criminal law that made blasphemous statements a criminal offense. There was a political consensus in parliament that the paragraph was outdated. The cabinet proposed that it instead by replaced by a "Racism Paragraph", that was aimed at protecting religious groups from attacks, while retaining protection of the academic freedom of speech. All political parties in parliament, except the Centre Party, were opposed to the "Racism Paragraph", but Centre-leader Liv Signe Navarsete stated that she had used her influence to make the Labour Party accept the matter. When asked about the case, Jagland responded: "It will in itself be a paradox if one questions the principle that freedom of speech is subject to the party whip. Especially when it emerges that the question may have been the subject of horse-trading and trying make small coups".
Jagland had also been critical of the lack of parliamentary control permitted by the coalition cabinet. Critics accused Jagland of attacking the Red-Green Cabinet as revenge against Stoltenberg for forcing Jagland to resign as Labour Party leader in 2002. Jagland rejected this as "petty criticism". Jagland announced in September 2008 that he would not seek reelection. He said he decided, with "great sadness", to leave Norwegian politics because he was applying for the position of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe.
On 1 January 2009, he succeeded Ole Danbolt Mjøs as the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. In January 2009, Jagland visited Estonia and met Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, where Jagland announced he would be applying for the position of Secretary-General of the Council of Europe in the summer of 2009. Jagland and Ansip also discussed the relations between Norway and Estonia during the visit.
After the announcement of Barack Obama as winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, the main opposition parties, the Progress Party and the Conservative Party, as well as several voices within his own Labour Party, demanded that Jagland resign his position as Chairman of the Nobel Committee, "in light of the award" as one party leader said, citing concerns that he may compromise the committee's independence when he simultaneously is head of the Council of Europe.
The Director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Kristian Berg Harpviken, said, "I don't believe that one consciously excludes candidates because the leader of the committee also is the leader of the Council of Europe, but just the fact that one can ask the question weakens the image of the Nobel Committee as an independent committee, and that is a problem."
Secretary General of the Council of Europe 
Thorbjørn Jagland has made reform of the Council of Europe a central point of his term in office. The overall objective is improved implementation of the Organisation’s standards and principles. He has set four strategic priorities: strengthening of the rule of law in Europe, based on democratic and human rights standards; building a culture of living together; broadening interaction with Europe’s neighbourhood; and exploiting the full potential of co-operation with partners, in particular the European Union. Reform of the European Court of Human Rights is an integral part of this process.
Jagland sees better use of relevant Council of Europe instruments as key to political impact and relevance. A cumulative effect of co-ordinated efforts and actions by the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the European Commissioner for Human Rights, building on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and using the output of the Venice Commission and other advisory and monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe, will create the critical mass of expertise and influence. He sees his role as focused on bringing them together in a targeted political action, supported by concrete assistance, carried out in co-ordination with partners and especially the European Union – and in close dialogue and co-operation with the authorities of the member states concerned.
Against the background of the economic and financial crisis the Council of Europe has undergone a rigorous review of its costs and expenses and the cost of staff has declined in proportion to activities. In particular the network of external presence and the intergovernmental committee structure have been rationalised.
Political views 
Jagland is in favour of Norwegian membership of the European Union. In 1990, he published the book Min europeiske drøm (My European dream). He has also proposed the European Union be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize was finally awarded to the European Union by Jagland himself in 2012. Since 1999, Jagland has been one of several vice presidents of the Socialist International. He has stated that the left wing in Norway does not use Socialist International enough. From 2000 to 2006, he chaired the Socialist International Committee on the Middle East, and he has outspokenly opposed the perceived presence of Islamophobia in Western societies. He became chairman of the board of the Oslo Centre upon its establishment in 2006.
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