Norway’s prime minister investigated for breaking lockdown rules

Erna Solberg admits hosting 60th birthday dinner for 14 people in a ski resort

Norwegian police have launched an investigation into the country’s prime minister after she admitted breaking coronavirus rules by hosting a birthday dinner for 14 people in a ski resort last month.

Erna Solberg, the centre-right prime minister since 2013, confirmed late on Thursday that her family had breached lockdown regulations and she had contravened government recommendations while celebrating her 60th birthday during the February half-term holiday.

Her comments came after she was confronted by national broadcaster NRK.

"There are the same laws for everyone in Norway, " local head of police Oyvind Aas told the Financial Times on Friday. He added that police were trying to conclude their investigation as quickly as possible because of the attention the case has received in Norway.


Should it be proved that Ms Solberg broke local or national rules, the most likely sanction would be a fine.

The revelation is particularly embarrassing for Ms Solberg in an election year where her centre-right bloc is lagging behind in the polls after an unprecedented seven years in power for a conservative leader in Norway.

“If you think you know the rules, you don’t check them. I thought I knew them. I can only apologise that I didn’t know them well enough,” Ms Solberg told NRK on Thursday night. She added: “I understand if people are upset or angry.”

Two family gatherings on successive evenings in the ski resort of Geilo are now under police scrutiny. The first involved 13 members of Ms Solberg's family eating out in a restaurant but not the prime minister, who had to return to Oslo for an emergency hospital eye check. Ms Solberg admitted to NRK that this was a breach of Norway's Covid-19 rules as a meeting of more than 10 people in a restaurant is classified as a gathering.

The second evening involved 14 people eating sushi in Ms Solberg’s hired apartment with the prime minister present. Ms Solberg claimed this merely went against the government’s own recommendations but did not break the rules.

Hans Fredrik Marthinussen, law professor at the University of Bergen, argued that Ms Solberg had broken the rules twice: on the first evening as the organiser of the dinner even if she were not present, and on the second evening by hiring an apartment and having a party attended by more than 10 people. He added that others in Norway had been fined for similar parties.

“If it was somebody else other than the prime minister, a Norwegian court would say it was a breach of the regulations. In all other countries than in Norway, people would have to resign. She doesn’t even know the rules. That is the shocking part,” he told the Financial Times.

Ms Solberg's own admission of breaking her government's recommendations make her the most prominent politician worldwide to come under fire for saying one thing and doing another. In the UK, Scottish MP Margaret Ferrier has been charged with reckless and culpable conduct after travelling from London to Glasgow following a positive Covid-19 test result.

Mr Marthinussen said Ms Solberg’s position would worsen if police decided to fine her. Ms Solberg herself continued to apologise profusely while telling NRK: “There are lots of good questions to be asked. I don’t have many good answers.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021