Ladies and gentlemen,
I appreciate this opportunity to address such a distinguished gathering of policy-makers, scholars and others with an interest in foreign policy and transatlantic relations.
As we have just heard from His Majesty, Norway and the US enjoy close co-operation on a broad range of issues. 2005 is a special year for Norwegian foreign policy; we are commemorating our centennial as an independent state; it marks 100 years of diplomatic relations with the US; we are celebrating a century of friendship.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Senator Richard Lugar for ensuring that the United States continues to play its leading role in promoting democracy and basic freedoms around the world. I also welcome the way Senator Lugar is placing nuclear safety issues on the global security agenda.
Norway considers the United States its closest ally. Our partnership is built on a firm foundation of shared values – a strong commitment to basic freedoms, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
This foundation is strong enough to withstand the ebb and flow of changing political currents. It is made solid because Norway and the USA share a cultural heritage; there is a wide co-operation in many fields; there are a large number of networks between universities and think-tanks – like the CSIS; there are bonds of friendship and family ties across the Atlantic. Our friend Dr John Hamre is a representative of such family ties.
Norwegian-American relations are made up of such ‘people-to-people-contact’, to use the modern term. In order to strengthen these links even further, I have decided to allocate 100 000 US dollars for a scholarship to promote research on the transatlantic relationship. It is open to both Norwegian and US researchers, and will be additional to the existing scholarships, grants and funds available for students and academics.
Partnership must never be taken for granted. It requires commitment – a commitment that goes both ways. Norway has relied on US commitment to our defence and security for more than half a century. That is why it was so important for us to demonstrate our solidarity with the American people after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Norway will continue to play its part in the fight against terrorism, as we are doing today in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The two other issues I will touch upon are;
• Firstly, the need for including new issues of strategic importance on the agenda of the transatlantic relations within NATO,
• and secondly, the need for more international focus on the challenges we face in the High North.
The key word is partnership. History has shown us the value of – and the need for – partnership between Europe and North America, politically, culturally and in economic terms. Our partnership should be further strengthened – and broadened.
We must ensure that NATO remains relevant and continues to be the primary forum for consultations on security and defence policy.
The recent NATO Summit demonstrated a renewed political will, both in Europe and in the US, to reinforce our partnership. Real consultations and a willingness to listen are vital in this endeavour.
By standing together can we promote democracy and contribute to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The recent elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine and the Palestinian Area have all contributed to the progress of democracy. These countries have taken a step toward democracy. This is a very positive trend that we intend to support actively. We hope that these elections will serve as an example for other countries.
There is a need to further adapt NATO to the fight against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. These are the most dangerous threats we are facing today – they are global, they affect us all.
We should broaden NATO’s agenda to include more issues of strategic importance, such as non-proliferation in relation to Iran and North Korea.
The Secretary-General of the UN has challenged NATO to play a role in the assistance efforts in humanitarian disasters, and to react when atrocities are committed against innocent civilians.
We should respond positively to this challenge. NATO has the means to react. We – the member states – must also have the will. And the UN needs our support.
The tsunami in Asia was a natural disaster of unbelievable proportions. I myself visited some of the hardest hit areas. The human suffering and the vast scale of the destruction made a profound impression on me. I also saw how useful resources from the military can be in saving lives and alleviating suffering. The US efforts were truly impressive.
Therefore, we should stand ready to use NATO and our military capabilities to help the victims of natural disasters when it is possible and appropriate.
In Europe, NATO must co-operate closely with the European Union on the defence and security policy area. Norway supports the EU’s ambition to take on greater responsibility in international issues. EU’s role was crucial to the peaceful outcome of the tense situation in Ukraine. In the long term, the developing the European Security and Defence Policy will result in a more even burden-sharing – and thus a more equal partnership – between Europe and the USA.
Having said this let me add that it is a significant challenge for Norway that direct contacts between the US and the EU are growing in the security and defence field. As a non-EU member, Norway runs the risk of becoming marginalised.
I believe the partnership between the US and Europe is best served by having a strong North Atlantic Alliance at its core. We must build on the will that now clearly exists, both in Europe and in the US, to strengthen transatlantic dialogue – within NATO.
Afghanistan is a concrete example of how results can be achieved through close transatlantic co-operation. We have fought against Al-Qaida and the Taliban. Democratic institutions and civil society are slowly developing, with the participation of all ethnic entities. But there is still a need for an international presence. One of the main challenges now is to facilitate the parliamentary elections later this year. NATO must therefore continue to help to safeguard stability and security in the country.
Norway will continue to make a substantial contribution to both the NATO operation and the US-led operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
In Iraq Norway has consistently supported the political process as endorsed by the UN Security Council. The elections in January were above all a victory for the voters – who defied terror and violence and showed a genuine will to continue the fragile democratic process.
In order to enhance the government’s legitimacy and the country’s stability, it is important that the winners of the election, that is the Shiite majority and the Kurdish parties, ensure that all ethnic and religious groups are drawn into the further process. So far it looks as if they are willing to do so.
We must support the democracy building process and the international community must act together. Norway has earmarked funds for reconstruction and is helping to train Iraqi security forces – also inside Iraq – through NATO.
We are looking forward to even further co-operation with the Iraqi authorities. This applies not least to the petroleum sector. We want to do our share to help lay the groundwork for economic growth and stability in Iraq.
There is also more than ever before a need for a strong international partnership in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ever since his election victory, President Abbas has demonstrated a will and an ability to pursue new avenues to get a new peace process going.
The meeting between him and Prime Minister Sharon in Sharm el-Sheikh may mark the beginning of a new chapter, where the focus is once more on a Palestinian state living peacefully side by side with Israel.
At the London summit that I attended on Tuesday the Palestinians committed themselves to further institutional reform and to intensifying their efforts to combat terrorism.
The understanding between the two parties in the security field is being supported by the real possibility of full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and evacuation of the Jewish settlements there in the course of 2005. It is encouraging that the parties have agreed to co-ordinate this withdrawal. This is essential if the operation is to succeed.
Now it is important that the international community is resolute in insisting that the withdrawal be carried out in accordance with the Road Map for Peace and the vision of a two-state solution. Only a concerted, targeted effort on the part of the Quartet – that is the UN, the EU, the USA and Russia – can give the further peace process the necessary momentum and legitimacy. The USA has a special responsibility in this regard.
Norway is prepared to help the parties take advantage of the new opportunities that have arisen to resume implementation of the Road Map and, with time, the peace negotiations. A well functioning Palestinian public administration is important for reaching a viable two-state solution, and we will therefore continue to contribute extensively to the Palestinian reform efforts. The AHLC, the group of donor countries, which Norway chairs, will have a key role in this effort.
NATO could also have a role to play in the Middle East, for example in training Palestinian security forces. A monitoring role would also be a possibility if the peace process succeeds in bringing about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
– Moving now from Afghanistan, Iraq and the need for secure partnership in the Middle East, to the peaceful corner in the northern areas where Norway is situated.
As you may already know, Norway’s population is less than metropolitan Washington. However, our country covers an area larger than that of Italy. Norwegian waters cover an area six times as large as the country itself and a considerable part of our waters are in the High North.
The challenges in the High North are symbolised by the “Arctic Ocean 2005” adventure, which I would like to mention. Two polar explorers, Liv Arnesen of Norway and her American colleague Ann Bancroft, are in this moment attempting to be the first women to walk the 1.240 miles from Russia to Ward Hunt Island in northern Canada. Inspired by this expedition, they have developed a web-based education programme focusing on environmental concerns and global security challenges.
Profound changes have taken place in the High North since the days of the cold war. At that time developments were dominated by the huge Soviet military presence and hence by security policy issues.
Today, security policy is not such a dominant consideration. New security challenges – related to climate change, environment and resource management – are now high on the political agenda. Global security is related to how we protect the natural resources on which our lives depend.
This is opening up new opportunities, and it requires new partnerships – both with Russia and our allies.
The Barents Sea, which is partly in Norwegian and partly in Russian waters, has for centuries provided European and overseas markets with fish and fish products. In order to ensure that it can continue to do so, the management of these fish resources must be based on the principle of sustainable harvesting.
The Barents Sea also contains huge energy resources – perhaps as much as one third of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas resources are to be found in this area.
So far only two fields are being developed – a gas field on the Norwegian side and an oil field on the Russian. More fields will be developed in the future. Less than two years from now the first Barents Sea natural gas will be shipped to the US – as liquefied natural gas.
The energy resources of the Barents Sea will contribute to the future energy security of Norway and Russia – and hopefully also to the energy security of both Europe and the US. But this will only be the case if we manage to strike a balance between environmental concerns and the concerns of the fishing industry on the one hand, and the interests related to exploitation of natural resources on the other.
Many of these concerns of the High North need to be addressed at the global level. This is particularly true of climate change. The Arctic Council’s climate impact assessment shows that climate change in the region is happening faster and will have a greater impact than was previously thought. Climate change will also have a profound impact on the economy of the Arctic.
It is important for us that our friends and partners understand the complexity of the situation. Our partnerships must be adapted to new challenges. We have therefore initiated a dialogue on the High North with key countries like the US. It focuses on security policy, energy and sustainable use of natural resources. The first step will be a meeting of experts next month here in Washington D.C. I find it very positive that these questions are being added to the Norwegian-American partnership agenda.
Parallel with this we will intensify our co-operation with Russia in the north. Norway and the US have for a number of years assisted Russia in tackling its cold war nuclear legacy. The efforts made by senators Nunn and Lugar have been very important in this regard. So far Norway has spent more than 150 million USD on the dismantling of nuclear submarines, the securing of radioactive sources, and the construction of safe storage facilities for radioactive waste in north-western Russia.
The launching in 2002 of the G8 Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction has helped form a coalition of countries willing to assist Russia in carrying out this important task.
Only by acting together will we succeed in preventing such materials from falling into the wrong hands or damaging the environment. These are some of the most pressing global security issues of our time.
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This year Norway is marking 100 years of independence. We are using the opportunity of our centennial anniversary to look ahead.
Developments over the past 100 years have shown that the nation state cannot on its own deal with the many trans-boundary challenges we face. National governance is dependent on binding international co-operation.
A strong, comprehensive transatlantic partnership will continue to be vital for meeting the challenges of the 21st century. Norway has benefited from this partnership ever since NATO was founded. It is now important that Europe and the US stand firmly together to promote democracy and international peace and stability.