Address on Important EU and EEA Matters

The Storting, 26 May 2015

'The world around us is changing dramatically, in ways that have important implications for our security, our climate, our economy and our welfare. It is vital that we address these changes in cooperation with our closest allies and partners in the international community', said Minister Vidar Helgesen in his address.

Mr President,

Having been in a unique economic position, Norway now needs to undergo a process of restructuring. We cannot simply rest on our laurels and hope for this to happen. That is why the Government is now taking a more proactive approach. We are implementing a series of important reforms designed to equip Norway to meet the demands of the future. In addition, climate change will make it necessary for us to transform Norway from an oil and gas nation to a low-emission society in the space of a few decades.

Norway's security situation has also changed. The Government is therefore taking important steps to strengthen our defence capabilities, and we are standing together with our allies in Nato and our friends in the EU to respond appropriately to Russia's conduct in Europe.

Cooperation in Europe is of crucial importance in dealing with these major processes of change. Although there are great differences between European countries, all of us are facing major challenges as regards security, the economy and welfare, and also climate change and energy. And we all have to face the fact that other regions are putting up a better fight in the global competition than Europe.

Mr President,

Europe's security is being threatened from several quarters. To the east, Russia's actions in Ukraine have demonstrated that peace and respect for international law cannot be taken for granted on our own continent. In Europe's southern neighbourhood, decades of political and economic systems that encourage exclusion have created a belt of instability. This is also one of the underlying causes of the huge migration problems in the Mediterranean region. And terrorism is a real threat within Europe as well.

Norway is facing much the same security challenges as the EU, and it is therefore in Norway's interests to maintain an regular dialogue with the EU on security policy issues. During the past year we have intensified security and defence policy talks at both political and senior official level. Meetings between EU member states and non-EU Nato members are also being held more frequently.

In addition to this, Norway is involved in more formal EU security and defence cooperation. This has taken the form of participation in the EU Battlegroups and an active role in both civilian and military operations in recent years. Norway is currently providing personnel for three of the EU's civilian operations, in Kosovo, Djibouti/Somalia and Palestine. We will soon be participating in the EU's civilian mission in Ukraine.

European countries need to strengthen their defence capabilities. Within the Nato system, the US is expecting Europe to take greater responsibility for its own security. The economic situation in many European countries is tight and defence budgets are coming under pressure.

Closer defence cooperation

Closer defence cooperation is a natural response to this problem. Norway is cooperating closely with the European Defence Agency (EDA) with a view to improving European defence capabilities, and is one of the largest contributors to EDA research and development projects. In this way we are taking part in defence capability cooperation at the European level.

As a party to the EEA Agreement, we have also incorporated the 2009 Defence and Security Procurement Directive on the award of certain contracts in the fields of defence and security into Norwegian law. Norway has argued that in some cases, considerations of national security may make it necessary to award contracts between governments, and that this indicates that certain contracts should not be announced on the European market as is normally required under the Directive.

The June meeting of the European Council will discuss all aspects of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). A review of the European Security Strategy, the development of the defence industry and the strengthening of EU defence capabilities are all likely to be high on the agenda.

Mr President,

The EU has become a significant foreign and security policy actor, and this has been highlighted by its united response to Russia's violations of international law and aggression in Ukraine. Nato and the EU have responded within their respective areas of responsibility. Nato has demonstrated its commitment to the collective defence of its members through a package of military reassurance measures. The EU has imposed restrictive measures and thus demonstrated its willingness and ability to take resolute action in response to Russia's behaviour.

We have never before seen the EU's toolkit, which includes both political and economic tools, being used so actively in foreign and security policy.

Through the Maidan movement and the subsequent two elections, Ukrainians have clearly chosen a path of European integration. Developments in Ukraine are therefore crucial to the credibility of the European cooperation. The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement constitutes a reform agenda for Ukraine. Implementing these reforms will be a formidable task. The Prime Minister announced a support package for the reform process during her visit to Kyiv in November last year. The reform process will take time, and Norway's support is therefore based on a long-term approach and coordinated with efforts at European level. The priorities have been established, and support will be continued and increased.

Developments in the other Eastern European countries are also of great importance for peace and freedom in Europe. The Eastern Partnership Summit on 21–22 May confirmed the main lines of cooperation with the Eastern European partners, and clearly signalled the EU's intention to maintain and further develop the partnership.

We attach importance to cooperating closely with the EU on assisting these countries with their political and economic development and their further integration with Europe. The association agreements and free trade agreements with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia signed in June 2014 set out ambitious political, economic and social reform agendas that Norway fully supports.

Mr President,

Cooperation in Europe will not be complete without the inclusion of the Western Balkan countries and Turkey. All these countries are seeking EU membership, but the processes of reform and integration are not proceeding smoothly. Following the historic agreement between Serbia and Kosovo in 2013, Serbia was given the green light to start accession negotiations in January 2014. Little has happened since then, but the talks have now been resumed. Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, is seeking to persuade the rather hesitant EU member states to accept the opening of the first chapters in accession negotiations. This is important. Serbia is a key country in the region, and Europe needs to see progress in Serbia's integration.

However, the deep political crisis in Macedonia shows that the positive developments in the region are not irreversible. It is not only the country's internal stability that is at stake. Instability in Macedonia could spill over into neighbouring countries. The parties in Macedonia bear the main responsibility for ensuring that the situation does not spiral out of control, but the neighbouring countries must also do what they can. The EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE all have an important role to play here.

We must ensure that the recent rise in tension in Europe caused by developments in Russia and migration pressure from the south does not make us forget the Balkans and the rest of South East Europe. Norway will therefore continue to support the reform process in Serbia and the other countries of the Western Balkans. Norway's priorities are based on the countries' own programmes and coincide with the EU's priorities. In this way Norway is contributing to a common European project.

Accession negotiations with Turkey have been protracted and difficult for both parties. Turkish EU membership is controversial within the EU, and in recent years has also had less support in Turkey than previously. But there is still a clear aim for Turkey to become an EU member.

Mr President,

For Norway, cooperation with European countries and the EU is vital for dealing with the challenges posed by migration. As a Schengen member, we share the responsibility for addressing this issue, and we are following the discussions on a European Agenda on Migration. As a maritime nation, we are particularly strongly affected. Norwegian vessels have played a commendable part in rescue operations and in saving the lives of migrants in distress at sea.

In accordance with international law

The situation has become so serious that new and extraordinary measures are required. That is why Norway is providing a vessel for the Triton operation. Frontex is in dialogue with Italy on the possible expansion of Triton's operational area southwards towards Libya, and we support this. But regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the search and rescue capacity of the Triton operation is now being considerably strengthened, and vessels serving Triton are already engaged in large-scale rescue operations near Libya. Our vessel will therefore also be prepared to take part in search and rescue operations near the Libyan coast and or wherever the need is greatest.

We are also looking at other action that can be taken both within and outside the Triton area. In the eastern Mediterranean, we have reached agreement with the Greek authorities to reallocate funding under the EEA and Norway Grants to support the establishment of a reception centre on the island of Lesbos.

It is unacceptable that cynical traffickers are putting thousands of lives in danger, while earning huge sums of money by exploiting migrants' hopes of reaching Europe. The EU has started the planning for a military operation to find, seize and destroy the vessels used by the traffickers. The aim is to break the business model of human traffickers in the Mediterranean and to save lives by preventing people from setting out on the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean.

It is vital that the operation is carried out in accordance with international law. It is also important that it does not exacerbate the already difficult political situation in Libya, and undermine efforts to find a political solution to the problems there.

If Norway receives a concrete request from the EU to take part, it will be dealt with in the same way as other requests for Norway to contribute to international military operations. A thorough assessment of the basis in international law is always the key to a decision in these matters. We will also have to assess carefully the likely effects of an operation of this kind.

Mr President,

The terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen last winter illustrate the growing threat of terrorism within Europe's borders. Internal and external security are closely linked, and the situation in the EU's neighbouring regions affects Europe's internal security.

Transnational threats

Against this backdrop, the European Commission recently presented a new European Agenda on Security 2015-2020. The document highlights the fact that member states have the front line responsibility for security, but that individual countries do not have the capacity to address cross-border threats alone, and that an EU level effort is needed to tackle threats of this kind.

The Agenda sets out three priorities for European security. First, tackling terrorism and preventing radicalisation. Second, disrupting organised crime, and third, fighting cybercrime. These threats are transnational in nature, and thus call for EU-level intervention. Norway will therefore follow the debate closely and will contribute to EU efforts wherever possible.

In June, Norway will host a European conference on violent extremism. The conference will focus on the way in which young people become radicalised and drawn into violent extremism, and the important role young people can play in preventing this. Young Norwegian Muslims have shown leadership in their initiatives to promote peace and combat extremism.

Mr President,

No other global challenge is more urgent than the climate crisis, and no international body is showing greater leadership in international climate policy than the EU. At the same time, energy security has risen to the top of the EU's agenda as a result of the new security situation in Europe, and this has brought new dynamism to the climate debate. Following its agreement on the 2030 policy framework for climate and energy in October last year, the most important matter on the EU's energy policy agenda now is the design of the Energy Union.

In March this year, the EU leaders endorsed the European Commission's proposal for an Energy Union. The free flow of energy is often refered to as a fifth freedom. The EU's energy ministers will continue to work on these plans, and the EU leaders will assess progress by December at the latest. This demonstrates that the Energy Union is being given top priority. A great deal of legislation is already being developed in order to create a better functioning energy market in the EU. As part of the European energy system, Norway will experience that EU energy legislation has a greater influence than has previously been the case.

Because this is such an important area for Norway, we have regularly provided input on Norwegian positions in various forums. This has included contact at the highest political level, between the Prime Minister and the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. Our message is that we support the development of a smoothly functioning, effective energy market and appropriate infrastructure. This is essential for Europe's energy security and competitiveness.

We have highlighted our position as a reliable long-term supplier of energy to the rest of Europe on a commercial basis. This applies particularly to natural gas. We also have long and positive experience of power exchange with neighbouring countries. In its input to the EU, Norway argued for the inclusion of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the EU's policy, and we are pleased that our views are reflected in the result.

From Norway's point of view, the EU Energy Union is a positive development. The Government is seeking close cooperation and a partnership with the EU in the energy field. At the same time, we must be alert to issues where Norway may have different energy policy interests from the EU countries. We are therefore seeking to exert an influence at the earliest possible stage of EU policy development on the basis of our knowledge, experience and interests as an energy nation.

Mr President,

Following the approval by the Storting of the white paper submitted by the Government in February on a new emission reduction commitment for Norway for 2030, Norway submitted its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the UN Climate Change Convention at the end of March. As announced in the white paper, we have entered into a dialogue with the EU with a view to concluding an agreement on collective delivery of the emission reduction commitment with the EU. Under such an agreement, the EU rules for emission reductions in the period 2021–30 would apply to Norway as well.

It will be important for Norway to seek to influence the development of these rules in the time ahead. The framework will include further development of the EU emissions trading system (ETS), revision of the EU's effort-sharing decision for emission cuts in the non-ETS sectors, and discussion of how the land sector is to be treated in the context of a new climate agreement. We are in close dialogue with our Nordic friends on these issues, and will give priority to holding constructive consultations at national level on Norway's views.

The ETS is the EU's most important policy instrument for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but has not functioned optimally so far. A surplus of emission allowances has caused the price of allowances to drop, and thus weakened incentives for restructuring and technological innovation. It is now clear that from 2019, a market stability reserve will be established so that the surplus allowances are removed from the market and gradually released from the reserve gain once demand rises. Norway has supported the introduction of a market stability reserve, although we would have preferred to see the surplus reduced by permanent removal of emission allowances from the market.

In the course of this year, the European Commission will put forward a proposal for revision of the EU ETS for the period after 2020. Norway submitted its input in March. In addition to its views on the market stability reserve, Norway considers it important that the proportion of allowances allocated free of charge is kept as low as possible, and that the risk of carbon leakage is taken into account. We also think the emission trading rules should be simplified.

Mr President,

Europe needs to see renewed economic progress. If we in Europe are to maintain our high standard of welfare provision, we have to be able to compete successfully at global level with countries where economic growth is higher, the population is growing faster, costs are lower, and people's skills and expertise are constantly improving. Economic integration, high education levels, and strong research and innovation communities give Europe a good starting point. But it is worth remembering that even before the economic crisis, the rate of economic growth in Europe was too low to maintain prosperity and welfare levels.

Europe needs structural reforms

We are finally seeing weak signs of economic recovery in the eurozone, but progress is fragile and there are still major challenges. High unemployment and high levels of debt are curbing economic activity in several countries. To ensure that a higher level of economic growth is sustained in the long term, it will be vital for Europe to carry out structural reforms to raise productivity. And not least, investments in research, innovation and infrastructure need to be increased to enable a transition to a more competitive, innovative and effective economy. Once again, we can see that Norway and the rest of Europe are facing similar challenges.

The situation in Greece gives special cause for concern. In consultation with the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank, the Greek Government is developing a set of reform and budgetary measures to counteract the crisis. The Greek state has acute financial difficulties. The remaining funds under the economic adjustment programme for Greece agreed with the eurozone countries and the IMF cannot be released without the approval of the lenders. A new financial package from the other eurozone countries, conditional on economic reforms, may also be agreed.

What happens in Greece is of crucial importance for the future of the monetary union. Everyone is hoping that the current negotiations, which are now in a very intensive phase, will result in a solution that achieves lasting economic and political stability for Greece and the eurozone as a whole. This is important for Norway as well.

In this context, I would like to mention that Norway is also providing assistance to Greece, in particular through the EEA and Norway Grants. Our contribution for the current period will be EUR 63.4 million (more than NOK 530 million at the present exchange rate). Some of the funding is earmarked for a programme to alleviate immediate social needs resulting from the economic crisis.

Mr President,

The economy was clearly the most important issue in the recent general election in the UK. The question of EU membership was not so important during the election, but it is now clear that the UK will hold a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017. The policy platform for Prime Minister David Cameron's new Government will be presented in the Queen's Speech tomorrow, on 27 May.

However, there have been signals in the last few weeks that the UK Government wants to hold negotiations with the EU as soon as possible on the reforms it wishes to see, with a view to bringing forward the referendum to 2016. Representatives of the business community in the UK and the rest of the EU have also asked for the EU question to be resolved as soon as possible, in order to avoid a prolonged period of uncertainty.

It is of course up to the UK to determine its form of association with the EU, but the UK's relations with the EU are important for many more people than the British themselves. Both key EU countries and the US authorities have made it clear that they consider continued UK membership of the EU to be important for Europe. Norway shares this view.

Recent signals from the UK Government also indicate that its aim is a reform package that would mean much stronger engagement by the UK in the EU. These are positive signals, and it is to be hoped that the other EU countries will respond constructively.

More active engagement in the EU by the UK would strengthen European security and promote growth in the internal market. Moreover, the UK is a strong advocate of an EU of nation states, and for an EU that focuses more on the wider issues and less on the details. This is important for Norway as well.

It is interesting to note that important UK priorities are reflected in the work programme of the Juncker Commission. Strengthening Europe's competitiveness is the top priority in President Juncker's work programme for the Commission, and one of its flagships is the new Jobs, Growth and Investment Package.

The Better Regulation Agenda, which was presented by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans on 19 May, also ties in with British views. With this agenda, the Commission intends to ensure thorough evaluation of new legislative proposals, good routines for stakeholder consultations, transparency and broad participation, and simplification for the business sector and others who will be affected by the rules. The agenda will strengthen the REFIT programme, which assesses and simplifies existing legislation and establishes a new platform for dialogue on improving EU legislation, the REFIT Platform. This is to be chaired by First Vice-President Timmermans himself, a clear indication that this work is to be given high priority.

We can see similarities with the Norwegian Government's efforts to simplify Norwegian legislation and eliminate time thieves for both the business sector and ordinary citizens.

Mr President,

Another key issue for both the UK and the EU is the negotiations with the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This agreement would create the world's largest free trade area and would therefore influence world trade far beyond the borders of the EU and the US. Greater growth and purchasing power as a result of TTIP would also benefit third countries. It would set standards that could develop into global standards. Thus, TTIP could breathe new life into the transatlantic community.

TTIP could have far-reaching implications

Norway is not directly involved in the TTIP process, but it could have far-reaching implications for us. Norwegian companies could find that their position in the US market is weakened relative to that of their competitors from EU countries. Seafood exports to both the US and the EU are particularly vulnerable. But other important industries, such as the petroleum-related supply industry, may also be affected. Norway considers it vital to maintain a high level of protection of workers' rights and high standards in the areas of health, environment and food safety. The EU has repeatedly stated that standards in these areas will not be lowered as a result of TTIP.

There is little indication that the TTIP negotiations will be concluded in 2015, but both parties have expressed their desire to see maximum progress during the year. Naturally, the Government will continue to follow this process closely. We are gathering relevant information and communicating Norway's positions and interests to the EU and the US.

We have not yet decided how Norway should proceed once the final TTIP is in place, but we are working to safeguard Norwegian interests and freedom of action. And we will do what we can to promote openness and a fact-based debate on TTIP here in Norway.

Mr President,

In the future the EU internal market must also become a digital single market. At present, the market is fragmented and there are significant barriers to cross-border e-commerce. There is far less trade, less provision of digital services and less confidence across borders than one would expect. The establishment of a well-functioning digital single market could bring great benefits to the European economy. Between 2001 and 2011, the ICT sector accounted for 30 % of GDP growth in the EU, while in the US the figure was as high as 55 %. Today, EU cross-border online services make up only 4 % of the current EU digital market. There is a very large potential for growth, and it is important that Europe does not lag behind in this area.

The Commission recently presented its Digital Single Market Strategy, which sets out three main policy areas or pillars. These are: providing better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; and maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

The Digital Single Market Strategy raises important questions of principle. In the past we made phone calls from landlines, but now we speak to people online using services such as Skype. We used to listen to records or CDs, but now we stream music using apps. Who should own information about which people enjoy listening to jazz? Who is going to ensure copyright protection and compensation for jazz musicians? What requirements should apply to Skype and Telenor if they provide similar services?

Developing a digital single market is about determining how the actors in the market should interact, and how we can promote innovation and value creation while at the same time safeguarding the rights of consumers.

Mr President,

Our participation in the EU's research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020, is a concrete example of the weight Norway is giving to safeguarding value creation and competitiveness for the future. Horizon 2020 is the biggest research and innovation programme in the world, with nearly EUR 80 billion of funding available.

Norwegian research groups need to seize the opportunities offered by Horizon 2020. The Government's target is for Norwegian research groups to win 2 % of the competitive research funding available under the programme. This target is not merely intended to ensure that we get a satisfactory return on our investment in the programme. Our primary aim is to strengthen our competitiveness and capacity for innovation, while at the same time improving the quality of our research.

At this early stage in the programme period, it looks as though the purely financial return on Norway's investment will be about 1.87 %. This is a significant improvement compared with the previous framework programme.

Mr President,

It is in Norway's interest that the internal market also comprises a common labour market. The fact that people are willing to cross national borders to find work boosts employment and value creation both in Norway and in the rest of Europe. In recent years, Norway has experienced strong economic growth and there has been a large flow of labour migrants from other EEA countries to Norway. Now that economic growth is slowing down in Norway, some of these people are returning home.

Dialogue on the export of welfare benefits

Anyone who works and pays taxes in Norway is also entitled to receive sickness and unemployment benefits. The rise in labour immigration to Norway in recent years has led to an increase in the export of Norwegian social security benefits. Depending on the level of labour immigration to Norway in the future, the amounts involved could become significant, and this could create undesirable incentives if benefits determined on the basis of the high cost of living in Norway are paid out in countries where they are worth much more in terms of purchasing power.

This issue has been the subject of debate in several European countries, and as a result the Commission is now prepared for a dialogue on the export of welfare benefits, but obviously there is no question of compromising the vital principle of free movement. Norway is participating in the European dialogue on this issue.

This year the Government will present a white paper that will discuss the issue of the export of welfare benefits in depth, within the framework of the ongoing debate in Europe.

Mr President,

The European aviation sector is developing rapidly, and we need to take steps to ensure continued growth and fair competition. Growth in this sector is being driven by global forces, linked to market opening, the development of new types of aircraft and increased purchasing power.

From the point of view of Brussels and Oslo, this raises a number of difficult questions relating to equal conditions of competition. There is a risk that EU and EFTA EEA companies will lose out in the competition to provide flights between EEA countries and third countries, because the third-country companies receive financial support from their governments.

The European Commission and Norway have provided funding for a study of atypical forms of employment for pilots and cabin crew. The Commission has also asked the European Aviation Safety Agency to assess whether cost pressures in the industry could increase the risk of accidents. The Minister of Transport and Communications has written to both the former and the current Commissioners for Transport outlining the key challenges and suggesting possible solutions. The Government intends to provide constructive input to the work already started by the Commission on a new Aviation Package, which it aims to present in the course of the coming year.

Mr President,

As the role of the oil and gas sector in the Norwegian economy declines, the economic situation of our trading partners in the EU will become even more important. It is therefore good news for the Norwegian economy that growth estimates for the eurozone have been revised upwards in recent months. The European Commission is now forecasting growth of 1.5 % for the euro area in 2015. By comparison, in the revised 2015 budget, the Government has forecast that GDP for mainland Norway will rise by 1.25 % this year.

The EEA Agreement the best form of protection

The EU can almost be considered part of our domestic market and receives around 80 % of all Norwegian exports. Excluding oil and gas, approximately 70 % of all Norwegian exports of goods and half of Norwegian exports of services go to our European partners. These figures are well-known, but they are worth repeating.

We are facing tough global competition. And in this situation, European cooperation, through the EEA Agreement, offers the best form of protection and the best opportunities to build competitiveness and safeguard our high labour standards.

The EEA Agreement ensures that we share a common set of rules with our most important trading partners. Without the predictability this affords, we would be more vulnerable to the ever stiffer global competition. Those who mistakenly claim that the EEA Agreement undermines standards in the Norwegian labour market and business sector should consider what it would mean for us if we were to be outside the internal market, having to face the tough competition from the Asian economies on our own.

Since the EEA Agreement entered into force, Norway has incorporated more than 10 000 EU legal acts into Norwegian law. The Norwegian economy and Norwegian employment levels have benefited greatly from this. But the work of incorporating new legislation is going too slowly, and over the years a backlog of directives and regulations has built up that under the Agreement should have been implemented in Norwegian law. The Government has taken steps to address this problem, and views the slow implementation of our obligations under the EEA Agreement as a 'time thief' for the public administration and the business sector, which in the interim faces weakened market access and poorer conditions of competition. We have a clear aim of speeding up the implementation of new legislation in Norwegian law, and are working hard to achieve this.

Mr President,

I would like to say a few words about two important sets of negotiations that are currently underway, the negotiations on the new funding period for the EEA and Norway Grants and the negotiations with the EU on trade in agricultural products, known as the Article 19 negotiations.

There is still a wide gap between the parties in the negotiations on the new EEA and Norway Grants. The EU has not adjusted its demand for an increase in Norway's general contribution to a level that will enable greater progress in the negotiations. The EEA EFTA countries recently put forward proposals that would mean increasing our contributions for the coming period in line with increases in the EU's allocations for similar purposes. I hope this will enable the negotiations to move forward.

Parallel to this, we have put forward proposals designed to improve market access for Norwegian fish and fish products in the EU. I have therefore once again made it clear that a satisfactory solution to the question of Norway's contributions to the new EEA and Norway Grants is dependent on our gaining better market access for Norwegian seafood in the EU.

The first meeting in the Article 19 negotiations took place on 3 February in Oslo. The EU did not present concrete demands at this meeting. We expect the EU to be more specific in its demands at the next meeting, the time of which has not yet been established. The Government will then start work on drawing up Norway's position.

Mr President,

In my address in November 2014, I discussed the issue of how the legislation establishing the EU's financial supervisory authorities can be adapted to and incorporated into the EEA Agreement. The Government has given high priority to this matter. But it has been difficult to complete work on the final and binding texts. Clarification processes in the EU take time. Both the two-pillar structure of the EEA Agreement and the reasons for the establishment of a single supranational system of financial supervision in the EEA must be taken into account.

It has been important for both EFTA and the EU to take the time to find a good solution in this area. Not least because the solution arrived at in this case will form the basis for the incorporation of other legal acts relating to the financial markets. But we are under growing pressure to resolve this issue – in particular from the financial sectors in Liechtenstein and Norway. In the long term, failing to find a solution may mean that financial institutions established in an EEA EFTA country that are seeking to operate in other EEA countries will have to establish themselves in EEA countries other than Liechtenstein and Norway. We are therefore working hard to achieve progress in this area.

We intend to seek prior consent from the Storting on this issue. A proposition will be submitted to the Storting once we have reached informal agreement with the EU on the EEA Joint Committee Decisions to be included in the first package of legislation and relevant adaptation texts.

Mr President,

EU legislation and EU policy have a profound impact on Norwegian society. No other international actor has more effect on Norway than the EU. This is only natural given the fact that such a large part of the Norwegian economy is dependent on the EU market.

The world around us is changing dramatically, in ways that have important implications for our security, our climate, our economy and our welfare. It is vital that we address these changes in cooperation with our closest allies and partners in the international community. We cannot opt out of globalisation, but we still have a choice: we can seek to shape globalisation, or let it shape us. If we choose the first option, we need greater international cooperation, and we need it more than ever before. For Norway this cooperation begins in Europe.