Speech/statement | Date: 15/08/2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt (Arendal, 15 August 2022)
Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt's address at an event at the political gathering Arendalsuka.
And thanks for being invited to Arendal. A town with its local history strongly linked to both our national and the global history.
The Norwegian Labour-party was founded here after a massive economic crash in the 1880’s. The banks in town went bankrupt within months. The total tonnage of Arendal’s proud shipping fleet shrunk by 50 per cent during the following 15 years. People moved away. Within a couple of decades Arendal’s position as the most important shipping hub in the Nordic region had vanished.
It was indeed a transformative decade for Arendal. One explanation given for the Arendal crash was the transformation from sailing ships to steamers. Some shipowners hung on to the sailing ships, unable to raise capital for investing in future technology. Others invested too early in immature steamship technology.
Nowadays, we are amid a much larger transformation. And this time it does not only affect Arendal, but the whole world.
Norwegian shipping was indeed a key reason for why an independent Norwegian diplomatic corps was established in 1905. Norwegian shipping has contributed strongly to international free trade simply by transporting goods between continents.
A major task for the diplomatic corps today is to promote a green transition. To bring Norwegian knowledge and expertise about sustainable energy-sources to the world markets.
Our expectations must be ambitious, but also within reach. In the current energy crises, we have been reminded on how important it is to be resilient.
Metals for battery production and renewable energy is one important contribution. Norway is Europe’s largest producer of aluminium, silicon, and manganese. All key components in battery production. And of particular relevance for this region, increasingly called the Battery Coast.
There is a massive demand for knowledge and expertise about offshore wind power, solar cells and carbon capture and storage. We have that. When I go abroad to places like India or Egypt, that is the kind of expertise they ask for. That is the kind of deals they want to sign with Norwegian companies. Because they will cut their emissions and produce renewables locally. Renewables that will reduce countries’ dependency on long distance deliveries, from countries like Russia.
I have been very clear in my marching order to the Norwegian foreign service: This is the area where we shall push forward.
Renewables is the area where Norway can contribute the most to the green transition.
And I stress the word transition. Because, unlike Arendal in the 1880’s, we must get the timing right. Which means that until alternative, renewable energy resources stand ready, we need to continue to export the gas that Europe so badly needs. 22 per cent of the EU and the UK’s total gas consumption is gas from Norway.
We are close to an energy crisis in Europe. In this situation, some voices argue that we should reduce our export of gas and oil. Well, I beg to differ.
To reduce our gas export now, before renewable sources stand ready to take over, would be irresponsible. Colleagues from other countries keeps asking me if we can increase our gas-production. But we already produce as much as possible. We need both the capital and the technology to manage the transition.
We can see that day coming – and it will come – when we no longer will export fossil fuel. We will welcome that day. But the timing is not right. Not yet.
And we cannot act alone. China alone is responsible for 30 per cent of the world’s total CO2 emissions. If we include the U.S, the EU and India, the four of them are responsible for almost 60 per cent of our total CO2 emissions.
It goes without saying that we need to have them all onboard if we are to solve our greatest challenge.
We need more international cooperation, not less. Isolation is not a sustainable road to follow. It does not work. Even when tensions are high, whether it be in Europe, Asia or elsewhere.
These days, our cooperation with Russia has effectively been put on halt. Due to the unprovoked attack on Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But to boycott diplomatic contact and dialogue – whether our aim is to promote renewable energy or human rights – is not an efficient instrument.
The current situation with Russia is exceptional. Which makes it even more important to have an open dialogue and promote cooperation with others. We cannot promote an international world order by decreasing political contact.
We need the common rules, the common institutions, and a common understanding of what we are trying to achieve. It provides a common road to follow. Russia departed from that road.
The war in Ukraine may be regional, but it has global consequences. It has accelerated rising prices and shortage of food. It has strained the relations between Russia and the West. And changed the European security landscape.
In the aftermath of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, the EU has risen to the occasion. Norway’s close cooperation with the EU means that we stand solid together with Europe against the Russian aggression.
The invasion will affect Norwegian security policy for many years to come. Our allies in Nato are more united than ever in our determination to defend our democracy. With Finland and Sweden as new members of Nato, new possibilities open for improved defence cooperation, making the Nordic region even safer.
We do not want to go back to a divided world dominated by the interests of superpowers. But we should not be naïve.
Major powers must also benefit from a rules based world order. Disarmament, for example, will protect themselves. Cut in Co2 emissions, respecting human rights, or promoting free trade, will – and must be – in their self-interest.
We can provide the arguments. We can try to persuade countries like China and the USA, and through dialogue perhaps convince them. But our proposals must reflect reality. We must relate to the world as it is.
In 1951 my predecessor Halvard Lange held a speech to students in Bergen. Where he warned us not to forget that the social and cultural welfare of our people, is part of our preparedness for the danger posed by dictatorial states.
The welfare Foreign Minister Lange referred to are the democratic, liberal values we have built our societies upon. Nowadays these values are under pressure.
One third of the foreign ministers in the Nato alliance today, are women. This summer we met in Madrid. One issue several of my colleagues raised was the U.S Supreme Court’s overturn of the Roe versus Wade ruling. Because it represents a step backwards.
This is not only about individual rights. When women are denied the right to decide over their own body, or when gay people are being persecuted or harassed – yes, we care for them – but this is about something more. About a greater cause. Because when authorities want to control the sexuality of women – or regulate love between adult human beings – it is an abuse. And an attack against us all.
In the rough landscape we have in front of us – because it will be rough – our liberal values will be threatened. In times of crisis and harsh economic realities, the force of polarisation tends to move forward. Leading the way for wing-parties and alternatives to democracy. For simple solutions.
Women, gay people, and minorities are first in line to be harassed and discriminated against when a country moves in an authoritarian direction. Often, together with foreign countries and immigrants, pointed out as scapegoats and given the blame for troubled times.
We must stay focused.
In the mid-1800s and way beyond the economic crash in Arendal, Norway was a very poor country. Many left, looking for better opportunities abroad. Such as Niels Larsen from Tromøya here in Arendal.
Wednesday, I will meet Mr. Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia. I don’t know, if he has ever heard of Niels Larsen, but Niels ended up in Australia in 1855. There, he married, changed his name from Larsen to Lawson, and had a son he named Henry Lawson.
Henry Lawson became a famous poet and story writer in Australia.
Now, if Mr. Larsen – or Lawson – had lived in Norway today, perhaps he never would have emigrated. Back then, Norway was a harsh place.
Now it is different. Now we have the possibility to reach out and try do good wherever we can.
But we do not aim to make the world a better place because we are kinder than others. Nor because we have a higher moral than others. We do it because it is an investment in our own security. In our own future. It is in our interest.
Peace and a predictable world order is a core interest for Norway. In fact, it is the core interest.
When we engage as mediators or peace brokers in faraway conflicts,
- or when we stand solid with our allies in Nato,
- or promote closer European cooperation,
- or defend international law and the multilateral system
it is in the end all about that one goal.
Peace and predictability.
The preconditions for everything else that we want to achieve.