Opening statement by Prime Minister Støre at the European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very grateful for this opportunity to address this important conference. I am sorry I could not be with you, but I am happy to share with you a few ideas and inputs to your important discussions.

Full transcript from a video recording

Obviously, Russia’s attack on Ukraine on 24 February last year, is a watershed moment in our history. – This is an assault on a country, on a population, causing immense suffering, and it is also an assault on rule-based international order – and an attack on democracy and human rights that affect people far beyond Ukraine.

That is why we support Ukraine because this is a matter of supporting their self-defense, an important principle in itself, but also deep-down a defense of our own ideas and integrity.

And we are happy to see how countries are stepping up to this challenge showing support to Ukraine and its people.

Democracies have inherent strengths – and some vulnerabilities, but in times when tested these strengths are impressive. We need to work together to reinforce and nurture these strengths – abroad and at home. – And at conferences like this one, sharing ideas, to be reinforced in our common undertaking to support democracy, at home and beyond.

So, like you do now in Kristiansand, organizing this conference, and a whole week of activities, in support of democracy and human rights; I really salute this conference and you coming together.

Today, we mark the anniversary of the Council of Europe, the first European organization that was set up after the war. Russia’s assault on Ukraine is an assault on the whole political toolbox that Europe has at its disposal to solve conflicts, to resolve them peacefully, politically, and the Council of Europe is one of the important inputs in that toolbox.

Norway was among the 10 founding members. The aim back then was to ensure that people should live in a Europe free from the fear of war, protected by democracy, human rights and the rule of law. – Imagine, it was created right after the war. Right now, we are seeing another bloody war in Europe.

The European Convention of Human Rights and the Court were set up to protect these principles – constituting a legally binding framework, to secure fundamental freedoms for more than 700 million people in 46 European countries.

So, dear friends, we must stand up in defense of these norms and freedoms that have brought enormous economic and social progress. This is a strength of democracy, the delivery of results to its people.

While we celebrate this progress, we must reflect on how the same principles have come under pressure; from where, how can they be defended, fake news, outright attacks, all the way to brutal war. The value of these norms is recognized in full by the many who are deprived of their rights and freedoms, in Ukraine and elsewhere. So, dear friends, in solidarity with them, let us stand up for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. I salute all of you in Kristiansand and I wish that you leave Kristiansand with a conviction to stand up further for this important fight. Thank you for your attention.