Commemorative event

Oslo, 26 September 2015

Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Vidar Helgesen's speech at an event commemorating the first meeting on 12.01.1953 of the Government of the Republic of Estonia in Exile.

Mrs. Grundekjøn, Mr. Ambassador, Mr. State Secretary, dear friends, kallid sõbrad [kjære venner på estisk],

It is a great pleasure for me to join you today for this commemorative event. And I would like to thank all of you who have made this marking of our common history possible.

An active Estonian Embassy here in Oslo and an engaged Norwegian-Estonian Association are very important drivers in maintaining and developing the excellent relationship that Norway and Estonia enjoy.

It is particularly nice to see two of the former ministers of the exile government, Ivar Paljak and Aino Lepik von Wirén, here today. They are part of history, and it is today interesting to note that Aino is one of our key partners as director general for Europe in the Estonian foreign ministry. There is something symbolic to that, our relationship has developed from being a friend in need to being important allies and partners in Europe.

And it’s a strong partnership. I have just returned from New York, where I had a fruitful meeting with foreign minister Marina Kaljurand. Last autumn, we had the pleasure of hosting president Ilves on a state visit to Oslo. Later the same year, I had an inspiring visit to Tallinn, where I both saw our good cooperation first hand, and the potential for next steps in what we can do together.  

An important factor in developing this cooperation is the EEA Norway Grants. These grants have contributed to make our relationship even closer and broader in a multitude of ways and sectors.

As I discussed with your foreign minister last week, Estonia is actually an example to follow in terms of implementation of these programs. Norwegians respond by being keen partners in projects and activties. It is a model partnership, from which we both benefit.

This cooperation stems from the fact that, while we have different  associations to the European integration project, we are close European partners. It also underlines that many of the challenges we face in Europe today are common challenges. We share the new security reality in Europe today, and it ties our countries more closely together. We share the support for the Eastern Partnerships, and the reinsurance measures for the Baltic states. We have a common need to develop our economies and, not least, thrive as digital, innovative and green economies.

We work together to make it possible for our citizens to be safe, healthy and active participants in our societies.

Our European partnership rests on a foundation of European values. Among the most important European values, which we also remember on this particular occasion, is the right to freedom and the extension of solidarity to those who are not free and not safe.

Today, this is a relevant as ever.

We are facing in Europe today a situation that is really testing how we respond to people in need. People who come to our shores for protection and in search for refuge. Estonia and Norway have committed to contribute to the task of facing this common challenge.

In commemorating important parts of our shared history, we also draw inspiration for how to face our shared destiny today, and shared challenges today. We do that based on values we share and values we uphold. That plaque out in the street will be a good reminder of that for years to come.

Thank you very much.