Kåre Willoch

Kåre Willoch
12th Prime Minister of Norway
In office
14 October 1981  2 May 1986
Monarch Olav V
Preceded by Gro Harlem Brundtland
Succeeded by Gro Harlem Brundtland
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
22 March 1979  2 May 1986
Preceded by Sjur Lindebrække
Succeeded by Erling Norvik
Minister of Trade and Shipping
In office
28 August 1963  25 September 1963
Prime Minister John Lyng
Preceded by Trygve Lie
Succeeded by Sverre Walter Rostoft
President of the Nordic Council
In office
Preceded by V. J. Sukselainen
Succeeded by Johannes Antonsson
Member of the Norwegian Parliament
In office
14 October 1957  12 September 1989
Constituency Oslo
Personal details
Born Kåre Isaachsen Willoch
(1928-10-03) 3 October 1928
Bestum, Oslo, Norway
Nationality Norwegian
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Anne Marie Jørgensen
Children 3
  • Haakon Isaachsen Willoch
  • Agnes Christine Saure
Alma mater University of Oslo
Religion Lutheran

Kåre Isaachsen Willoch (Norwegian pronunciation: [ˈkɔːɾə ˈiːsaksən ˈʋɪlɔk]; born 3 October 1928) is a Norwegian politician from the Conservative Party. He served as Minister of Trade and Shipping in 1963 and 1965–1970, as President of the Nordic Council in 1973, and as Prime Minister of Norway from 1981 to 1986. Willoch was Chairman of the Conservative Party 1970–1974.[1][2]

He since has held the offices of Governor of Akershus (1989–1998) and Chairman of NRK (1998–2000).

Willoch graduated as an economist (cand. oecon.) from the University of Oslo. He served in the Norwegian Brigade that formed part of the Allied occupation in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, after World War II, and became a dedicated friend of Germany during that time.

He speaks Norwegian, English, German and French, and has published a number of books.

Early life

Willoch was born on 3 October 1928, in Oslo, to Haakon Isaachsen Willoch (1896–1955) and his wife Agnes Christine Saure (1895–1994). He grew up in the West End of Oslo, and took examen artium in 1947.[2] After that, he studied economics at the University of Oslo, where he was taught by the Nobel Prize winners Trygve Haavelmo and Ragnar Frisch.[3] He graduated with the cand.oecon. degree in 1953.[2] Since 1951, Willoch was a member of the Oslo city council, and in 1954 he became a deputy in the Parliament of Norway. He became a member of parliament after the 1957 parliamentary election, and was with 29 years the then youngest MP.[3]

On 30 April 1954, he married Anne Marie Jørgensen.[2][3]

Political life

An economist (characterized in 1981 as being "supply side" [4]) by education and profession, Willoch made an early mark in national politics on issues related to economic development. He expressed deep skepticism about social democratic reforms throughout most of the post-World War II era and has advocated a larger role for market mechanisms to solve economic problems.

Within the Conservative Party, Willoch was respected for his command of the issues and consistent ideological platform. In spite of friendly rivalry with Erling Norvik, Rolf Presthus, and Jan P. Syse, these and other party members led a political shift in Norway away from the social democratic legacy.

Parliamentary and ministerial posts

Willoch's first political post was as a member of the Oslo City Council from 1952 to 1959.

Willoch was first elected to the Norwegian parliament at the age of 29 in 1957, representing Oslo. He was to be elected in every parliamentary election until 1989.

He was appointed Minister of Trade in the short-lived but notable John Lyng cabinet from August to September 1963, following the Kings Bay Affair that brought to an end to the uninterrupted chain of Labor governments after World War II, headed by Einar Gerhardsen and Oscar Torp.

He was appointed to the same ministerial post in the government of Per Borten in 1965-1970. He stepped down from this post to become first the Parliamentary leader, and then chairman of the Conservative Party 1970-1974.

In 1973, he unified his party in opposition to the newly introduced restrictions on use of land. This formed a watershed in Norwegian politics, in that the party adopted a stronger ideological alternative to the social democratic establishment that had dominated post-World War II politics. Some historians, notably Francis Sejersted attribute this in large part to the Norwegian Labour Party's exuberant continuation of social democratic efforts.

Willoch served as the leader of the Foreign Affairs committee in the coalition government and from then until he retired from parliament in 1989.

As a member of the Borten government he faced the constitutional question of the marriage of the then Crown Prince Harald to a commoner, Sonja Haraldsen. (They married in 1968 and since 1991 have been king and queen). Willoch is reported to have never considered opposing the union.

Most of Willoch's political career was spent in opposition to various Labour governments. His rhetorical style was characterized by conservative use of language and carefully articulated viewpoints that many considered cold or even sarcastic. His debates with long-time adversary Gro Harlem Brundtland became legendary in Norway and were by several accounts based on personal as well as political differences. Brundtland wrote in her memoirs that she learned from Willoch "how not to treat people, or parties."


Willoch was asked to form a Conservative party government when a non-socialist coalition gained a majority in the parliamentary elections of 1981. The cabinet depended on the support of the Christian Democrats and Centre Party, and in 1983 these joined the cabinet to become a coalition government.

When Braathens SAFE Flight 139 was hijacked, the hijacker demanded to speak with Willoch.[5]

By the parliamentary elections of 1985, Willoch's cabinet had lost much of its parliamentary basis and was dependent on the Progress party for support. The cabinet lost a vote of no-confidence over Willoch's proposal to increase surcharges on gasoline, when the Socialist Left Party, Labour Party, and Progress party joined forces. A minority government led by Gro Harlem Brundtland took over through the rest of the parliamentary period.

In spite of difficult parliamentary conditions, the Willoch cabinet embarked on a series of reforms that to many seemed like reversals of long-standing social democratic reforms, and to others changes that reflected new and emerging economic realities.

Often cited changes include:

The Willoch government's foreign policy was largely consistent with those of prior Labour party cabinets in terms of Norwegian commitments under the NATO treaty, but deviated sharply on the issue of non-proliferation. Where the Labour Party promoted a policy of "reduction of tensions" in the Nordic region, which marginalized Norway in NATO, the Willoch cabinet approved forward logistical bases for American rapid deployment forces[6] and lent full support to the NATO double track decision of 1979.[7]

Willoch earned a reputation as a sharp-witted, sometimes acerbic politician. During his years in parliament and in various governments, he was respected by his political allies and opponents alike, but never gained the popularity of other prime ministers in his time in office.

After retirement from national politics

Kåre Willoch in 2011

Willoch served as county governor (fylkesmann) of Oslo and Akershus from 1989 to 1998. From 1998 to 2000 he was chairman of NRK, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. He was also director of the Nansen Institute. Since 1986, he has been deputy chairman of the International Democrat Union (IDU),[2] He was President of the Deutsch-Norwegische Gesellschaft (German-Norwegian Society) from 1987 to 1991.[8]

Considered one of the most pronounced conservative Norwegian politicians in his time, he has in later years shifted his position in many areas. He has taken issue with the "culture of greed",[9] "tax paradises',[10] the environment[11] and has been particularly harsh in his condemnation of Israel's policies toward Palestinians, claiming that the occupation of and settlement on Palestinian land (outside the 1967 borders) is unlawful. Though widely respected[2] for his activism and argumentative style,[12] he has also received criticism from several commentators, for example for accusing the country of "ethnic cleansing,"[13] and for saying it is "creating terror" by cultivating extremism "as if in a greenhouse in the Palestinian areas".[14] One of the critics, his long-time friend and party colleague Jo Benkow, commented that "On this topic, Willoch must be the most partisan public person in this country.".[15] Willoch has also stated that, though "there are strong reasons to warn against the new antisemitism, it will not strengthen Israel's cause to accuse critics of Israeli politics of antisemitism".[16] He also claims that Israel indirectly contributes to New antisemitism stating that "It would be naïve to ignore that Israel's politics towards the Palestinians has become a new source of negative attitudes."[16] In May 2006, Willoch invited Atef Adwan, an official in Hamas to a private luncheon at Det Norske Selskab, commenting that "A dialogue with Hamas is very useful."[17] an action that prompted criticism by fellow Conservative party member and former foreign minister Jan Petersen.[18]

In an op ed in the newspaper Aftenposten Willoch summarized his views on the Israeli politics towards the Palestinians. He warned that "Those who defend the Israeli politics towards the Palestinians support a policy that generates a hatred that may lead to a disaster for Israel" and concluded that "Friends of Israel should seek to make Israel accept the Arab peace proposal. It demands, amongst other things, borders as before the war of 1967, only with such adjustments that the parties reach agreement upon, and guarantees for Israel's security."[19]

Regarding Cablegate, he stated that "the problem is that the Western world is violating Human rights, not that someone is uncovering those violations".[20]

In 1996, Willoch was decorated as a Commander with Star of the Order of St. Olav.[2]



  1. Tvedt, Knut Are. "Kåre Willoch". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Stanghelle, Harald. "Kåre Willoch". Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian). Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  3. 1 2 3 Campbell, D. F. J. (1995). "Kåre Willoch (1928– )". In Wilsford, David. Political leaders of contemporary Western Europe: a biographical dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 475. ISBN 978-0-313-28623-0.
  4. New York Times Voters shift to right, bolstering NATO's northern outpost
  5. "Den 24 år gamle mannen fra Karmøy som fredag kapret et fly" (in Norwegian). Norwegian News Agency. 23 June 1985.
  6. Rolf Tamnes og Knut Einar Eriksen=. "Norge og NATO under den kalde krigen" (in Norwegian). Atlanterhavskomiteen. Archived from the original on 14 May 2008. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  7. Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Willoch, Kåre ( 1928- ) stortinget.no retrieved 8 April 2013 (Norwegian)
  9. Archived 22 November 2004 at the Wayback Machine.
  10. Willoch, Kåre (16 May 2001). "USA skader globaliseringen". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  11. Vassbotn, Per. "Miljøet opp og ned". Dagbladet (in Norwegian). Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  12. "Willoch og etnisk rensing" (in Norwegian). Med Israel For Fred. 12 October 2001. Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  13. Hultgren, John (24 May 2004). "Willoch: Israel skaper terror". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 22 March 2011.
  14. Spence, Thomas (28 April 2004). "Willoch på studietur til Arafat". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  15. 1 2 Willoch, Kåre (29 November 2003). "Israels politikk skader jødenes sikkerhet på lengre sikt". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  16. Spence, Thomas (16 May 2006). "Jeg taler med hvem jeg vil". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  17. Spence, Thomas (16 May 2006). "Petersen hardt ut mot SV og Willoch". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  18. Willoch, Kåre (14 January 2009). "Veien til katastrofen". Aftenposten (in Norwegian). Retrieved 28 May 2009.
  19. Dagbladet, 11 December 2010, p. 3 by Marie Simonsen: "Men problemet, som Kåre Willoch tørt konstaterte i et intervju med NRK, er ikke at noen avdekker brudd på menneskerettigheter, men at vesten begår dem."

Further reading

In Norwegian

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kåre Willoch.
Political offices
Preceded by
Oscar Chr. Gundersen
Norwegian Minister of Trade and Shipping
August 1963–September 1963
Succeeded by
Erik Himle
Preceded by
Trygve Lie
Norwegian Minister of Trade and Shipping
Succeeded by
Otto Grieg Tidemand
Preceded by
Gunnar Alf Larsen
County Governor of Akershus
Succeeded by
Karin Moe Røisland
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sjur Lindebrække
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Erling Norvik
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
President of the German-Norwegian Society
Succeeded by
Fredrik Bull-Hansen
Media offices
Preceded by
Trygve Ramberg
Chairman of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation
Succeeded by
Torger Reve
Preceded by
Arne Skouen
Recipient of the Fritt Ord Award
Succeeded by
Alexander Nikitin
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