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High North Dialogue

Speech by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the High North Dialogue-conference in Bodø, 3 April 2019.

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Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here in Bodø to discuss with you how we can create even more jobs and ensure even better livelihoods in the Arctic region.

I will touch on three main topics.

First, a sustainable ocean economy.

Second, Government efforts to boost business and development in North Norway.

And, finally, cooperation in the Arctic.


I believe the oceans – to a great extent – hold the key to economic development in the Arctic.

We must make sure that human activities do not damage the Arctic environment.

At the same time, we must make use of the economic opportunities that exist, to the benefit of the people who live in this region.

The oceans are under threat on many fronts, from climate change, marine litter and pollution, biodiversity loss, and overfishing.

We must strike a good balance between exploitation and protection of living marine resources.

We need to build a sustainable ocean economy.

Sustainable use of the oceans has laid the foundation for Norway’s prosperity and the welfare of our population.

We have shown that it is possible to combine ocean-based industries and a healthy environment. I believe this can also be done in the Arctic.

The UN's 17 sustainable development goals highlight the infinite potential of our oceans. Achieving goal 14, life below water, is key to reaching many of the other goals.

And we have a shared interest in keeping our oceans healthy and productive.

We need to reduce the threats that undermine their potential.

This is why I took the initiative to establish the High-level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The Panel is made up of serving heads of state and government from all continents.

Our goal is to advance a new understanding of the oceans, that will help us both to protect them and optimise their value for humankind.

In October, Norway will host the Our Ocean Conference. We will stress that knowledge-based, integrated management of sea and coastal areas is the key to ensuring a balance between protection and sustainable use.

Today, here in Bodø, I received a report from the Centre for the Ocean and the Arctic concerning the status of sustainable blue economy in the Norwegian Arctic. The report analyses the challenges and opportunities that this region faces.

The aim of the ocean initiatives we are taking is to create jobs and opportunities here in the North. Our aim is to have a sustainable welfare state also in the future. To create jobs. At the same time, we aim to encourage increased international cooperation for cleaner oceans. Oceans is like the climate, it knows no borders. Pollution in one area affect other areas.


Things are going well in North Norway.

The economic centre of gravity in our country has moved towards the north. People are finding jobs in a broad range of industry and business sectors: In mining and high-tech enterprises. In tourism, fish farming and the exploitation of natural resources.

Let me mention just a few of North Norway’s success stories.

The highly competent contractor Leonhard Nilsen and Sons (LNS) is based in Vesterålen, and has been engaged in projects around the globe. Based on their knowledge from the Arctic area.

One of the world’s largest and most modern silicon plants, Elkem Salten, is not far from Bodø. It exports its products worldwide.

In addition, there are important mining projects in Sør-Varanger and Kvalsund.

There has been a change during these years.

When I was Minister of Regional Development fourteen years ago, we presented a new strategy for the travel industry.

Since then, the number of visitors to North Norway has skyrocketed.

Providing the opportunity for jobs year round.

The number of hotel nights spent by foreigners in Norway’s three northernmost counties has increased by 36 % over a five-year period.

In the winter period, the increase has been a massive 500 % – again, over five years!

The time when the citizens of Bugøynes in Finnmark put the whole town up for sale in national newspapers now feels like the distant past.

This happened just after the bankruptcy of their fish factory, in 1989.

Today, Norway King Crab Production in Bugøynes has developed a device for measuring the heartbeat of the king crab during transportation to the market.  

They are selling living animals to the other side of the globe. The situation is totally changed.  

Traditional fishing is blossoming – and so is fish farming.

Companies like Ellingsen Seafood on the island of Skrova and Nova Sea on the island of Lovund are major players in Norway’s hugely successful seafood industry.

In fact, the county of Nordland ranks fifth among all Norwegian counties in terms of exports.

In terms of total exports – not just exports of seafood.

This is thanks to the hard work of the people who live here – and their ideas.

Growth is higher – and unemployment in Nordland and Troms is lower – than in other parts of Norway.                           

Having said this, there are challenges.

For example, in some industries there is a lack of competent labour, and large numbers of young people are leaving the region.

We have to address these challenges together. The university is an important part of that, delivering competence and future workers to the industry and business here is part of the mandate.

Research and knowledge is at the core of Norway’s policy for driving development and job creation. Our competitive advantages are our skills and our innovative approach.

We are using the most effective methods to promote job creation:

- We are investing in the building of roads, railway lines, airports and harbours. Investments in national roads in North Norway have been more than doubled.

- We are cutting taxes; and

- We are reducing paperwork.

Since the current Government took power in 2013, we have doubled Norway's research and innovation budget.

That is to say, we have increased it by 100 %.

Maritime research has been strengthened by a 70 % increase in funding.

The new icebreaker research vessel, Kronprins Haakon, is one of the most advanced research vessels in the world, and is a significant contribution to Norway’s research infrastructure. The vessel will monitor environmental and climate conditions in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

The Government is spending more money on education, research and development in North Norway.

And I am happy to see that business is doing the same.

As a way of giving incentives for increased research and development activity in Norwegian trade and industry, we have established the tax incentive scheme SkatteFUNN.

Under this scheme, the Government may provide a tax deduction of up to 20 % of the costs related to research and development activity.

I commend Nordland for the large increase in R&D project activities, and I am happy to see that these activities have increased in Troms, too. We need to see a further increase in Finnmark.  

Expertise is Norways competitive edge – combined with the creativity which centuries of contact with the ocean and its changing moods have given us.  

Today, not least thanks to the expertise and techniques developed in the North Sea, Norwegian shipyards are building the world's first gas-driven ferry, first electric ferry, and first electric fishing boat.

The world's first electric service boat for fish farming is being built in Grovfjord – not in Singapore.  

Norwegian companies are creating jobs and making a profit while solving global problems at the same time.

And the best news is that the full potential of North Norway and the Arctic is far from being realised.

That is why we are now working to update Norway’s Arctic Strategy. We will deliver a white paper to the Storting next year.

Job creation, science, innovation, the blue economy, the green economy and business development will be among the main focus areas of the updated strategy.

It will take into account the fundamental changes that have taken place over the last ten years.

The strategy will also deal with the challenges of emergency preparedness and response.

Just recently, the incident involving the cruise ship Viking Sky off the coast of Western Norway reminded us of the strength of the forces of nature and the risks associated with navigating our waters. 

We were all impressed by the successful efforts of the emergency teams and the local volunteers.

High-quality weather forecasts and warnings are essential in the Arctic. Both for daily life and for emergency preparedness and response.

As part of our Arctic 2030 program, MET Norway is using a high-resolution ocean and sea-ice model for the Barents Sea and the areas around Svalbard.

It is timely to underscore the substantial responsibility that lies with the ship owner and the captain for the safety of a ship. Their judgments of risk, defensive measures and  emergency preparedness will always be significant.

In the area of emergency preparedness and response, we are dependent on cooperation with our neighbouring countries. We have strong traditions, extensive experience, and we are making progress with new initiatives.


Ladies and gentlemen,

Rarely has the world been in greater need of inspiration and evidence that international cooperation works.

You – the audience here today and the networks you represent – can show the world through examples from the Arctic that multilateral cooperation is in our common interest.

If we want jobs, if we want peace and stability, then trade, openness and cooperation with our neighbours are all essential. 

Arctic countries have achieved a high level of institutional cooperation – and people-to-people contact. From the Barents Council and the Arctic Council to the frequent contact between our local authorities in northern regions and counties.

This should serve as inspiration for other regions.

Norway and Russia have broad and longstanding cooperation in the Arctic. This cooperation continues despite our differences on other issues.

Our political dialogue is supplemented by practical day-to-day cooperation in areas such as fisheries, environmental issues, nuclear safety and search and rescue.

Even during the Cold War, Norwegian and Russian diplomats and researchers came together to agree on sustainable fish quotas.

As a result, the Barents Sea is today teeming with cod.

Building a sustainable ocean economy will also be a key topic at next week’s International Arctic Forum in St. Petersburg.

The Foreign Minister and I have been invited and will attend.

This will be my first visit to Russia in five years. However, our political dialogue has continued during this period.

The Arctic, the oceans and the other topics we have been discussing here are all relevant for the meetings we will have in Russia.


Ladies and gentlemen,

As I said at the beginning of this speech, the sustainable use of our resources has laid the foundation for Norway’s prosperity and the welfare of our population. I am confident that if we continue along this course, the further development of the Arctic will be to the benefit of us all.

Thank you.