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Meeting with the European Parliament, Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the EEA delegation

Check against delivery (the introduction was based on these points)


  • Thank you (First AFET Vice-Chair Fiorello Provera) for the invitation. Pleased to be back in this forum, which has become even more important with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.
  • On the relationship between the EU and Norway: The EU - the EU countries - our closest neighbours, friends and allies (politically, economic, culturally, etc.).
  • The EEA Agreement: the cornerstone in Norway’s relations with the EU for the last 18 years and for the foreseeable future: Efficient, innovative and gives a predictable framework and a level playing field for business, economic operators and citizens. The EEA and Norway Grants: Total of 1.79 billion euro (2009-2014) to support welfare, civil society (135 million euro), democracy, and programme areas in the environmental protection and management sector, etc., i.e. sectors under pressure in the economic crisis, in 15 countries. The MoU with Romania signed this week. Also add: nearly 289 000 workers from the EEA were registered in Norway in 2011. And: Norway is the EU’s fifth most important trading partner (ahead of India).
  • A report commissioned by the Government on Norway’s relations with the EU (“Outside and Inside”). Shows how Norway is closely interlinked with the EU in almost all policy areas (internal market, education and research, consumer protection, environment, etc.). Will form the basis for a white paper in 2012.
  • Energy partnership: a substantial part of EU oil and gas imports come from the Norwegian continental shelf. (Norway is the world’s second largest exporter of gas and the sixth largest exporter of oil).
  • Security, foreign policy: Close cooperation on the ground - Afghanistan, Kosovo, anti-piracy operations. Norway also a full participant in the European Defence Agency (EDA).
  • Shared values and interests the basis for our close cooperation. Therefore: We want the EU to have a strong and influential voice, as a key player on the world stage. On specific issues, we should make use of each other’s particular strengths to work for common interests.
  • Let me illustrate: moving onto the main topics, The High North and the Arab Spring.


The High North

  • The High North (the Arctic) was also on the agenda the last time I met with this committee, in 2008. The High North continues to be Norway’s main foreign policy priority (and has been since 2005). But, at the same time, there is increasing international interest in the region. A few examples:
    • A couple of months ago: conferences in Houston, Texas. Americans looking to the North. Resources, energy.
    • A couple of weeks ago: the EU’s High Representative, Lady Ashton, visited Norway - Svalbard, for discussions on the Arctic.
    • In May, Norwegian Ministry officials will travel to the Republic of Korea for the first bilateral dialogue devoted to the High North.
  • Why Norway’s focus on the High North? Three key drivers:
    • climate change,
    • access to resources,
    • Russia (and international cooperation).
  • But first, a fundamental question: What kind of legal and political framework do we have for meeting this increased interest?
  • Last time I spoke, I spent some time on the question of whether there is a legal vacuum in the Arctic.
  • Now, there should be no need to dwell on this. The reason – the development of the international debate - over the past four years:
    • The Illulissat Declaration May 2008 – the five Arctic coastal states declared the Law of the Sea to be the applicable legal framework for the Arctic Ocean.
    • From 2008 the Communication of the Commission about the EU and the Arctic region, as well as official policy documents and statements from the European institutions, have consistently displayed recognition of existing legal and political framework in the Arctic. (The EP’s resolution of January 2011: “The gradual formulation of an EU policy on the Arctic should be based on the recognition of the existing international, multilateral and bilateral legal frameworks such as (...) UNCLOS ...”).
  • There is a broad agreement on the legal framework. Pleased that we agree on this fundamental question. No “race for the Arctic” (if understood as “a race between states”).
  • However, there could, of course, be competition between companies – seeking to position themselves for economic opportunities in the High North.
  • And there could be a sense of urgency in our search for knowledge – about climate change, best standards for responsible economic activity, etc.
  • On knowledge: The University Centre in Longyearbyen, Svalbard (UNIS) (at 78⁰ N): 350 students – 50 % international – English is the language used. Ny-Ålesund: A number of countries have permanent research institutes: Germany, France, Italy and the UK, in addition to India, Korea, China, Japan and various Norwegian institutes.   
  • Regarding political framework: Arctic Council – the only circumpolar body for discussion of issues related to the Arctic. Indigenous peoples. Permanent secretariat - Tromsø.
  • On permanent observers: Norway supports the Commission’s application.
  • Now, returning to the three main drivers for Norway’s High North Policy:


  • Firstly: the alarming pace of climate change. The extent of multi-year ice is diminishing. Less than 15% of the Arctic sea ice is now more than two years old. The Arctic sea ice been reduced by 45 000 km2 each year from 1979 to 2006).
  • The Arctic as a laboratory for studying the effects of climate change elsewhere in the world. The Arctic Council has carried out pioneering work. (The Fram Centre in Tromsø: When ready, in 2013, more than 500 scientists: climate change, polar research, environment, etc. Quite unique!).  
  • The EU is also one of the main contributors to Arctic-related research. Important projects through the 7th Framework Programme: “Arctic Tipping Points”, “ICE2SEA”, “Deep Sea Ecosystems”.


  •  Secondly, increased accessibility of natural resources, of which there is an abundance in the High North:
    • Petroleum – US Geological Survey: 13 % of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 % of gas resources in the Arctic;
    • Minerals (potential: NOK 1500 billion) – the Barents region a key supplier of critical minerals to the EU;
    • New shipping routes opening up. (Yokohama-Hamburg 40 % shorter than through Suez and requires 20 % less fuel; Det norske Veritas: 8 % of all the world’s container ships, from Asia to Europe, will pass through the Northeast Passage in 2030).
    • And: natural resources already being used in the region (not dependent on increased accessibility): Fisheries and aquaculture – enormous potential when managed properly.
    • Also: new industries like marine bioprospecting.
  • Often assumed: that where there are resources, there will be a power struggle. Not necessarily the case. Most of the resources in the High North are uncontested. Today’s known resources are within the boundaries of the 200-mile zones and/or continental shelves of the coastal states.
  • As for fisheries, we have an extensive network of global, regional and bilateral organisations, and negotiations take place on an ongoing basis to ensure responsible regulation.
  • We do not always agree. But the procedures are in place. It is up to us to make them function properly.
  • In the High North, Norway and the EU generally have mutual interests.
  • For example: the Barents Sea as a new energy region in Europe. Norway and the EU are long-term gas partners. We take that responsibility seriously: stable deliveries, new infrastructure, etc.
  • In this context, signals about the future role of natural gas in Europe are important. The industry needs (and we all need) predictability. Norwegian gas: 20 % of Europe’s total demand (one third in countries like Germany), as the second largest supplier of gas to European markets.
  • Mutual interest in the field of raw materials. Norway is already a major supplier of a range of metals and industrial minerals to Europe. However, there is a large unused potential. A Government priority to develop this (new legal framework, programme for geological surveying, minerals strategy). 
  • A parallel to the EU’s own policy on raw materials. We have been actively involved in the preparatory work on a new European Innovation Partnership (EIP) for raw materials. Hope that this can be an avenue for increased Norwegian participation in the EU’s research programmes and a starting point for a more strategic cooperation.
  • Our vision for the High North: make use of the emerging opportunities, while at the same time managing the risks – peacefully, sustainably and responsibly. Key: High North – Low Tension.
  • As a coastal state bordering the Arctic Ocean, Norway has responsibilities as well as rights. Again, we take this seriously. We want to be known for exercising our sovereignty in a predictable and consistent way, and to be a driving force behind closer cooperation.
  • Need more knowledge and good partners. Our cooperation with Europe has the potential to provide both. 
  • 3.

  • Finally, the third driver – Russia. By far the largest Arctic state – 50% of the coastline, at least 50% of the resources. Influential player in shaping Arctic policies.
  • The Arctic used to be a “Cold War theatre”. Today – a peaceful region. (High North – Low Tension).
  • Norway and Russia have enjoyed peaceful coexistence for over 1000 years. Since the end of the Cold War, relations have blossomed – our bilateral and cross-border relations as well as our contact through regional organisations like the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (chaired by Norway until October 2013).
  • (People-to-people: In 1990 around 8000 border crossings at Storskog, then in 2005 there were 107 000, and in 2011 almost 195 000. In December 2011: 22 700 people crossed the Norwegian-Russian border at Storskog. In 2014: 400 000?).
  •  (Another illustration: Russian students the largest group of foreign students in Norway: 1219 in 2011 (three times as many as in 2003). 169 of them in Bodø, Nordland).
  •  Agreement on maritime delimitation in September 2010 a milestone. Provides legal clarity for exploitation of natural resources. Peaceful resolution of overlapping claims.
  • However, Russia will continue to be a demanding (and sometimes unpredictable) partner. Our policy: Consistency, opening up of relations.



The Middle East


  • Yesterday I chaired the annual spring meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee here in Brussels.
  • The core mission of the donor support group is to assist the Palestinian Authority in completing its task of building robust and viable state institutions, continuing the reform process, and ensuring sustained economic growth.
  • I have repeatedly referred to this endeavour as a bottom-up process that we support on the basis of our long-standing commitment to the vision of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
  • We have succeeded in part in our mission: One year ago, the AHLC meeting welcomed the assessment by the World Bank, the IMF and the UN that the Palestinian Authority had achieved the objectives of the state-building programme. 
  •  The September AHLC meeting in New York reconfirmed that the Palestinian state-building process is an international success story.
  •  However successful the bottom-up process has been, the last months have amply demonstrated that institution-building cannot by itself translate the two-state vision into reality without negotiations leading to agreements on all the outstanding final status issues.
  • Moreover, when this political process stalls without any prospect of resumption, the successes on the ground are jeopardised by the inherent dynamics of the occupation.
  • Our model for success is based on the tripartite cooperation between the donors, the Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel: with the donor countries providing the necessary financing and assistance, the Palestinian Authority implementing major reforms, and the Government of Israel responding by gradually easing its restrictions so that the structural basis for economic sustainability can be created.
  • In 2011, the limitations of the model gradually became clear, as expectations for convergence between the top-down and the bottom-up processes evaporated. Without a clear political horizon that can motivate and sustain high-level donor contributions, and a significant easing of restrictions to improve the framework conditions for economic growth, the Palestinian economy could easily descend into a major economic slowdown. This was the case last year.
  • If Israel holds back clearance revenues and discontinues its efforts to ease restrictions on access and movement, if donors significantly reduce their contributions, and if the PA does not succeed in continuing its reform process with a particular focus on fiscal discipline, we will see an escalation of the current financial crisis with consequences far beyond red figures on the balance sheet. I am afraid that this is now about to happen.
  • Given the critical nature of the situation, the following actions for implementation should be considered:
  • 1.      Donors should make available adequate funding for budget support and frontload payments to cover the PA’s immediate need for USD 400 million;

    2.      Israel and the Palestinian Authority must reach an understanding on making the clearance revenue mechanism continual, predictable, transparent, and removed from politics.

    3.      Israel must also further dismantle the restrictions on access and movement in the West Bank and Gaza to allow for increased public and private investment and the development of essential infrastructure, as well as increased economic activity and expanded public services in Area C;

    4.      Israel should also allow for the Palestinian trade regime to be significantly improved so that Palestinian trade between the West Bank and Gaza, as well as with Israel and third countries can be increased.

    5.      The PA must continue to exercise strong fiscal discipline and control, increase its domestic revenues, and further tighten its public spending during the transitional period towards self-sustainability.

The Arab Spring

    • We are witnessing the start, not the end, of a process of change in the Middle East region.
    • As we are all well aware, more than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reverberations of that historic upheaval can still be seen and felt in Europe.
    • The contrasts are great. While Syria is descending into civil war, Tunisia and Morocco have taken important steps in the direction of democracy. Developments in Egypt – the largest country in the Arab world – are also of huge significance. The new regime has not yet taken shape and political tensions are high. Our cooperation with the region must be based on the specific situation in each country.
    • Norway’s approach is based on the principles of democracy and human rights, and support for people’s right to self determination as set out in the UN Charter. In the long term, only countries that respect fundamental human rights can contribute to a stable international legal order.
    • Economic realities are playing an important role. Dissatisfaction with a lack of opportunities was an important underlying cause of the uprisings. This underlines the importance of economic policy and resource distribution for political legitimacy and stability.
    • At a more general level, we are seeing another trend in the broader Middle East region that requires a carefully considered response: the increasing importance of political Islam.
    • When people are given the opportunity to vote, it is to the Islamic parties that the majority are now turning.
    • The reasons for this are complex: they want better living conditions, and they are taking a stand against the former power elite. And there are, of course, religious reasons, but this is also a matter of identity, respect for traditions and ordinary people’s everyday lives.
    • What line should we take? We cannot dismiss a majority vote. That would betray our own democratic principles and give the impression that the West has double standards.
  •  We must engage in active dialogue with those who are coming to power. Norway already has a strong platform and a good network in this context as, over the years, we have been in contact with the civil society actors that are now rising to power in the Middle East. We will make use of this.
    • At the same time, we must communicate clearly the values and norms of the international community and express clear expectations about respect for human rights and the democratic rules of play.
    • If the new leaders are to meet the needs of their populations, they must introduce political and economic reforms, and participate openly in regional and international cooperation.
    • Taking part in a dialogue does not imply that we share their political views. But it gives us an opportunity to put across clear messages, including in situations where we do not agree. In these dialogues, we draw attention to how fundamental values in our own democratic tradition – universal human rights and a modern social model – can be used to develop democracy.
  •  We attach particular importance to protecting women’s rights. It is also crucial that requirements are set for new legislation and not least new constitutions.
  • The extent to which marginalised groups and individuals are protected against discrimination is the litmus test of a state’s willingness and ability to safeguard human rights. Minorities are vulnerable, particularly in times of political instability and economic and social unrest. The countries of the Middle East and North Africa are not alone in having experienced this. Europe, too, has dark chapters in its history, and today we are also seeing deeply polarised societies and minorities that are under pressure.


  • The Syrian regime must bear the responsibility for the violations that have been committed against civilians in Syria, which the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights has described as crimes against humanity. We strongly object to and condemn these actions and hold the leaders in Damascus responsible.
  • It is crucial that the international community continues its engagement to identify a broad, collective approach in order to solve the conflict in Syria. The political discussions should be broad and inclusive.
  • Norway places much emphasis on how the countries in the region assess the situation and especially on the role of the Arab League.

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