Today’s weekly Council of State in Oslo was a little bit different. King Harald of Norway, who is in home quarantine, led the Council of State for the first time in his life by telephone, while Crown Prince Haakon was physically present in the State Council hall of the Royal Palace.
In addition to the King, six of the ministers were absent as they are also in quarantine after returning to Norway from travels abroad after 28 February. There were also strict restrictions around the palace itself. The people are forbidden to go to the palace square to watch the ceremony. Only a few photographers were allowed to attend.
The ordinary Council of State was held at the Royal Palace in Oslo and two changes to the Conservative government of Prime Minister Erna Solberg received royal approval. This happened as a result of both the Minister of Fisheries having resigned and the Minister of Knowledge has expressed a desire to resign as leader of the Liberal Party.
Minister of Fisheries Geir Inge Sivertsen resigned from the government on February 28 after serving as minister for just over a month. It happened after it was revealed that he had received money for work he had not done. His Majesty the King approved the appointment of Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen as new Minister of Fisheries.
Trine Skei Grande, the leader of the Norwegian Liberal Party, announced on Wednesday that she is resigning as party leader and leaving the government. She is also saying no to re-election to the Norwegian parliament in 2021. This is the result of a long-running internal dispute in the liberal party. His Majesty approved the appointment of Guri Melby as new Minister of Knowledge.
Norway has been under lockdown since Thursday and it will be for a minimum of 14 days. Restaurants, schools, universities and similar facilities are closed. It is expected that a number of Norwegian airports will be closed by Friday afternoon. The government is encouraging Norwegians who are abroad to return home and it is speculated that this is a warning to say that the Norwegian borders will be completely closed soon.
The Council of State in Norway is a formal body composed of the most senior government ministers chosen by the Prime Minister, and it functions as the collective decision-making organ constituting the executive branch of the Kingdom of Norway.
With the exception of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who retain their ministerial ranking in their own right, all the other members of the Cabinet concurrently hold the position of “statsråd”, meaning Councillor of State, and that of Chief of the various departments. They are not formally considered ‘ministers’, although they are commonly addressed as such. The Cabinet convenes typically every week, usually on Fridays at 11:00 a.m. at the Royal Palace, Oslo and is presided over by the monarch.