The 8th of May is called «Frigjøringsdagen» («Liberation Day») in Norway and is an official flag-flying day, commemorating the day when Norway was liberated from German occupation in 1945.
Last week the Norwegian Government decided to make the Liberation Day also a «Veterans’ Day» in recognition of the veterans’ contributions and war efforts from WW2 on. The intention is to commemorate the 8th of May also as a Veterans Day’ every year from now on.
On 8th of May this year there were arrangements several places in Norway where members of the Norwegian Government took part. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Minister of Defence Grete Faremo – the former’s grandfather, the officer Emil Stoltenberg, spent 2 years as a prisoner of war in among others Poland during WW2, while the latter’s father Osmund Faremo (1921–1999) was active in the Norwegian resistance movement Milorg and spent nearly 2 years in concentration camps in Germany and Austria as a «Nacht und Nebel» prisoner.
Minister of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs, Rigmor Aasrud attended commemorative events at Hamar, Elverum and Rena, Minister of Petroleum and Energy Ola Borthen Moe was in Trondheim, Minister of Transport and Communications Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa was in Stavanger and Minister of Research and Higher Education Tora Aasland in Kirkenes. In addition 3 state secretaries – Terje Moland Pedersen, Hans Kr. Amundsen and Roger Ingebrigtsen – attended events in Fredrikstad, Bardufoss/Heggelia and Tromsø.
In Oslo the Veterans’ Day was marked at Akershus Castle and Fortress with speeeches, laying of wreaths, a reception, a twirling display by His Majesty The King’s Guard and a medal ceremony as well as a church ceremony in Oslo domkirke (Oslo Cathedral).
Three Norwegian officers – Colonel Eirik Johan Kristoffersen, Captain Jørg Lian and Naval Commander Trond André Bolle (for the latter the award was made posthumously, as he was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan last year) – who have served in Afghanistan received the War Cross with sword. The Chief of Defence of Norway, General Harald Sunde, presented the decorations, assisted by Prime Minister Stoltenberg.
I missed the King’s presence at Akershus and wondered about the reason for his absence. He had no official engagements that day, and even if decisions on the War Cross are taken by the King in Council (i.e. the Government, with the king presiding over the Council of State) and not the King personally, if would be natural that he was present. He is known to care a lot about Veterans issues and takes his constitutional obligations as Commander-in-Chief seriously.
Dagbladet today claims to know, citing among others several unnamed sources in the Armed Forces, that King Harald had wanted to be present at Akershus and to hand over the decorations himself, but was denied this by the Prime Minister.
The court’s communications secretary Marianne Hagen has told Dagbladet that «the War Cross was this year presented by the Chief of Defence on the King’s behalf. This is something the king and the prime minister have agreed on». She refused to comment when Dagbladet asked if it was not natural for the king to be present under such a ceremony.
Obviously the communications secretary had no choice but to comment the way she did. An open war with the Government would not be acceptable. Still, if Dagbladet’s version of the story is correct, I find it difficult to interpret it any other way than a snub and an effort in undermining the king’s position and the monarchy itself. The Government obviously wanted to bask in the sun alone at such a popular event as the Veterans' Day is...
See also photos and press releases at Regjeringen.no (the Government's official website), Flickr and Forsvaret.no (the Armed Forces' website) as well as Views and News from Norway's article (9 May 2011), Liberation Day now Veterans' Day.
Updated on Tuesday 10 May 2011 at 16.15 (one expression changed).