Norwegian version of the article:
Sources very close to this process confirm to Aftenposten that Stoltenberg will indeed become the next NATO Secretary General. The process of finding a replacement for Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in its final stages, and Aftenposten is told that both British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande have now declared their support for Stoltenberg´s candidacy.
It was previously known that both US president Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had chosen Stoltenberg for the job. This means that the four most powerful NATO countries are now behind the Norwegian.
There are still a few reservations. The process is not yet formally completed, and unforeseen events could in theory hinder the Norwegian candidate. But those following the process from the inside are unable to see what, if anything, could prevent Jens Stoltenberg from becoming NATO´s 13th Secretary General.
No announcement until April 1
Some sources have suggested that Anders Fogh Rasmussen´s successor would be announced already on Monday, when US president Barack Obama arrives in Europe to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. Leaders from all the top NATO countries will be at the summit. Nobody can rule out that the American President or another NATO leader will declare their public support for Stoltenberg´s candidacy, but Aftenposten´s sources deny there being a plan to make a public declaration already at this point.
Instead, the meeting between NATO´s Foreign Ministers in Brussels on April 1-2 is identified as a very likely venue for both the formal decision and the public declaration.
Stoltenberg´s candidacy was first reported in an article by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday. It is no coincidence that Italian journalists have been interested in following this story because Franco Frattini, a former Foreign Minister and European Commissioner, has been regarded as one of the top candidates.
Another low-odds suggestion has been the Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski. Several European newspapers have also claimed that Manuel Barroso, the current head of the European Commission, has been a formidable opponent for Jens Stoltenberg in the last round of the process.
Aftenposten´s sources say that Barroso, a former Portuguese Prime Minister, hasn´t been regarded as a top candidate to the extent some newspapers have claimed. Our souces also say that the other candidates are more or less out of the picture.
This process has been going on for several months. What we are witnessing now is the public final play-off.
Norway has been a member of NATO ever since the alliance was founded in 1949, but a Norwegian has never previously held the central position of Secretary General. Three persons from The Netherlands, two Belgians and a Dane illustrate, however, that also the smaller member states can get the most important position in the organization.
Third Norwegian candidate
Only twice before in the alliance´s history has Norway formally launched a Norwegian politician as a candidate:
In 1988 former Prime Minister Kåre Willoch was very close to becoming Secretary General, but he lost in the final round when West Germany insisted on giving the position to its Defence Minister, Manfred Wörner.
The Norwegian government ten years ago proposed its Defence Minister, Kristin Krohn Devold, as a candidate, but she was never seen as a serious contender for the position. The job went to the Dutchman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Jens Stoltenberg is Norway´s third candidate. And this time it seems that Norway will succeed in obtaining this prestigious assignment.
Norwegian version of the article: