| Belgrade 31.august

Interview with the new Defence Attaché, Lieutenant Colonel Egil Daltveit

Lt Col Egil
Lt Col Egil Daltveit (5th from left) leading a group of officer cadets on a 120 km unsupported ski march through the Norwegian mountains this winter. “No roads, no other humans, visibility from 50 metres down to 10 metres, strong winds making it difficult to stand, deep snow slowing progress, icy cold, an environment that is unforgiving of mistakes, and the historical perspective of the successful sabotage raid on the Nazi-German production of heavy water launched from these mountains in the winter of 1943 are all important parts of the education of officers,” he says.

We understand that you are new to serving in a diplomatic mission. What do you expect will be the most challenging and exiting while serving here?

 I have served in a number of military and humanitarian missions abroad, so I am not completely unprepared. However, this is the first time I serve in a Norwegian Embassy. The most challenging probably will be to stay on top of very important developments in the security and defence policy areas in the three countries I am accredited to, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The most exiting will be to see real development towards stronger regional stability and prosperity, symbolized by events like the developments towards normalisation between Serbia and Kosovo and the signing of the agreement between Greece and Macedonia this summer.

 

How is the transfer from the military to the diplomacy?

It is very smooth. Norwegian diplomats and officers all serve the Kingdom of Norway and its people. This shared idea of service makes it very easy to understand one another. Additionally, everyone at the embassy from the Ambassador to the housekeeper have received me in the very best way. A big change for me is that after 29 years of wearing a uniform to work every day, here at the Embassy the daily dress is civilian business attire. I am used to putting on the appropriate uniform every morning without thinking about what to wear. Maybe I will have to use my uniform more.

 

Why did you choose to come to Serbia, and how have you found it so far?

The stories my grandparents told about their interaction with Yugoslav partisan prisoners of war in Norway during the Second World War certainly played a role, but that is another story.

I served a total of four missions in Kosovo from 2000 to 2004, and in that period I spent more time in Kosovo than in Norway. This has made a mark. The region continued to be of great interest to me, and a question from here was the topic of my Master’s thesis.

I am very proud of the service I did in Kosovo. It is reassuring to know that people who would otherwise be homeless, dead or both, live in their homes because of work that I have been responsible for. Because of the special place in my heart for this region and the people who live here, when I could not stay any longer where I was, I applied for this job in Belgrade. Many wanted the job and the competition was hard, but I am very happy that the Norwegian Ministry of Defence decided to give the position to the youngest on the list, me.

 

What did you do before you came here?

For the last five years I have served at the Norwegian Military Academy. I have been the Head of the Department of Education. The teachers and researchers at the Academy were all in my department, and I was responsible for the actual education and its content. The interaction with the young officer-cadets has been a high point, particularly when I could share my expertise, education and experience with them.

During this period I have also been asked to do other tasks. One of them is that the Ministry of Defence did a large-scale study of the future of land power, and of how to structure the Norwegian Army and Home Guard for the future. I served as head of analysis for this study. The last year has been very busy. The MOD revised the whole military education system in Norway and decided to cut 40 % of the cost. I was responsible for making a new study model for the officer education at our Academy, and I was a part of the “Group of Deans” which oversaw the revision of all military education in Norway.

This background gives me a special interest in the modernisation of the Serbian armed forces. Some of the issues I recognize from Norway, some are very different. Despite Norway being a member of NATO and Serbia a non-aligned country we share many the same security challenges and dilemmas when choosing a defence structure for the future. In addition, when Serbia joins the EU our security cooperation will become much closer.

 

What will be your responsibility at the Embassy?

There are two primary responsibilities. First, I am responsible for reporting on security and defence policy in the region. Secondly, I am responsible for overseeing a number of projects. These are bilateral projects where Norway gives support to the armed forces in Macedonia, Montenegro or Serbia. Or they are regional projects where Norway supports regional projects in the defence sector like the Balkans Medical Task Force (BMTF). The BMTF headquarter is located in Skopje and a Serbian medical officer is the commander. Six countries – Albania, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia participate. Given the history of the Balkans it is a very positive sign that so many countries agree to form a military unit together and let its officers and soldiers serve there together.

Macedonia Norway

Lt Col Egil Daltveit at work meeting Lt Gen Metodija Velichkovski in Skopje earlier
this month (Photo: Army of the Republic of Macedonia)

What do you look the most forward to in the years to come?

 To learn more! There is so much here that at first sight is difficult to comprehend. The Russian writer Maksim Gorkij once said that the Balkans produce more history than it can consume. At times, it can be challenging to understand all that is going on. However, once you gain an understanding of the history, the culture, the language, the people involved, and so on, it all of a sudden starts to become clear. My first project is to learn the language, as I consider language the key to any culture. I have set a high target, and that is to be fluent in Serbian well before my time in Belgrade is over.

 

Can you tell us a little more about yourself, maybe also something that might surprise us?

 I am married, and we have a seven-year-old daughter. My wife is fortunate to have won a prestigious PhD scholarship where she does research on how to re-nourish critically malnourished elderly. Unfortunately for me, her hospital and patients cannot move, so I am alone in Belgrade at least for the first year. Otherwise, I am close to the stereotype of a Norwegian Army officer. I am very interested in sports – most in doing sports like cross-country skiing, sea kayaking, running, rock climbing and road cycling – but also in watching great sports events. I also love to read books and articles on the military profession, military history, general history, international politics, anthropology and many other subjects. But I also enjoy literature and have as many others been moved by Ivo Andric’ masterpiece, “The Bridge on the Drina”. What might be slightly surprising from an officer is the fact that I try hard to be a little bit of a linguist. In addition to the Scandinavian languages, English, Albanian, and a little German, I also speak fluent Russian. I had a wonderful time studying in St Petersburg, and I already see that knowledge of another Slavic language, particularly its grammar, is quite useful when learning Serbian. 

Trondheim - Oslo

Egil leading the Army team in the 540 km bicycle race from Trondheim to
Oslo
(Photo: Thomas Haugersveen)