Speech/statement | Date: 2009-10-15 | Office of the Prime Minister
Translation from Norwegian. For information only.
We HARALD, King of Norway
In accordance with the Constitution, the King provides the Storting (the Norwegian parliament) with this report on the state of the Realm and the administration of government during the period since the previous report.
During the past year, the global economy has suffered its worst setback since the Second World War. Many countries have seen significant increases in their rates of unemployment and declines in production. A number of countries have also experienced major balance of payments deficits and tightened access to credit. Countries close to Norway, such as Iceland and the Baltic states, have been particularly hard hit.
The global economic downturn also contributed to significantly slower growth in the Norwegian mainland economy last year. The decline accelerated during the autumn and led to a marked increase in the number of unemployed.
Earlier this year, the Government implemented extensive financial policy measures with a view to reducing job losses. In addition, a number of measures aimed at improving the money and credit markets were launched in the autumn of last year.
A swap scheme that allows banks to borrow government bonds in exchange for Norwegian covered bonds (obligasjoner med fortrinnsrett) was established in October last year. The scheme, which has had a ceiling of NOK 350 billion in 2008 and 2009, has made it easier for banks to provide credit, and has helped to significantly improve the situation in the money market.
The Government has also established the Norwegian State Finance Fund and the Norwegian Government Bond Fund, which both have a ceiling of NOK 50 billion.
In order to alleviate the situation of export companies, the Government has increased the ceilings of the Norwegian Guarantee Institute for Export Credits (GIEK) and Innovation Norway. An agreement has also been concluded on a government loan of NOK 50 billion to Eksportfinans, the Norwegian export credit institution for export financing.
The equity of Kommunalbanken, a local government funding agency, has been increased to ensure that municipalities have access to credit.
Since October last year, Norges Bank, Norway’s central bank, has reduced the key interest rate by 4.5%, to 1.25%. The key interest rate has never been this low before.
Turmoil in the financial markets, lower interest rates and lower oil prices contributed to a marked depreciation of the Norwegian krone last autumn. It has, however, appreciated in the course of 2009.
There is good reason to believe that the financial policy and monetary policy measures that have been undertaken have had a positive effect on the financial markets and the Norwegian economy.
Unemployment continued to rise in the first half of 2009, but at a slowing rate as the year progressed.
Compared with many other countries, Norway has fared well through the global economic crisis. The Government has this year increased its support to countries that have been more severely affected, both in our neighbouring areas and in the South.
Norway has, through Norges Bank, made approximately NOK 30 billion in additional lending funds available to the International Monetary Fund, and has also concluded an agreement with Iceland concerning a long-term loan of about NOK 4.2 billion.
The Government has increased its support for efforts to fight global poverty. The goal of raising Norway’s official development assistance to 1% of GNI was reached in 2009. This spring the Government presented a white paper on development policy.
Vaccination programmes for children in the poorest countries is one of the Government’s main priority areas. The Government has extended these efforts to include maternal health. Norway now plays a leading role internationally to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child health are reached.
Efforts to prevent war, poverty and climate change are another main priority for Norway. This is reflected in the white paper on the main features of Norwegian foreign policy (Report No.15 (2008–2009) to the Storting), which the Government presented this spring.
A strong UN is in Norway’s interests. The Government is therefore working to make the UN more effective, both as an arena for international cooperation and as a promoter of peace and development.
Norway actively supports the UN’s peace efforts in Somalia, and we are contributing one frigate to the EU’s anti-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa. Norway is also participating in the UN mission in Chad.
Afghanistan is still the most important priority area for Norwegian military and civilian participation in international operations. Our military engagement continues at a high level and is increasingly focused on training and supporting Afghan security forces. Our civilian engagement has been stepped up significantly, in line with Norway’s view that no country can be stabilised by military means alone.
The Government attaches great importance to maintaining NATO as the most important transatlantic forum for security and defence matters.
The Government gives high priority to its efforts in the High North. In March it presented the next step in the Government’s High North Strategy, New Building Blocks in the North, which explores the perspectives for future efforts in the north.
The efforts to modernise the Norwegian Armed Forces have continued in accordance with the long-term plan for the period 2009–2012. The Government has placed emphasis on increasing the Armed Forces’ operational capacity and presence in the High North.
Norway is actively involved in the international negotiations on a new climate regime. The Norwegian efforts to combat deforestation have given Norway a leading role in the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.
The Norwegian emissions trading scheme is now an integral part of the EU’s scheme, which has helped to make the European carbon market tighter.
In the period 2005–2009, municipal finances have been improved through additional allocations of about NOK 32 billion. This has resulted in a considerable increase in services provided by the municipalities. The number of municipal employees has increased by between 30 000 and 35 000 full-time equivalents.
The Government has taken part in the efforts to adjust public sector occupational pensions to the pension reform. In the collective wage negotiations, the parties agreed to continue the current rules for public sector occupational pensions and the public sector early-retirement scheme with the necessary adjustments. The agreement builds on the agreement on pensions reached by the Storting in 2005.
The Government has presented a Bill on old age pensions under the National Insurance Scheme.
During the past year, allocations for health care have increased considerably. Hospitals are providing more treatment, and the Government’s plan for stepping up efforts to combat substance abuse is well underway.
The Government has strengthened fathers’ rights to parental benefits. The parental leave reserved for fathers has been extended from 6 to 10 weeks for the fathers of children born on 1 July 2009 or later.
The Government has facilitated the creation of 11 500 new full-time day-care places in 2009. This means that 271 500 children will have a place in a day-care centre by the end of 2009.
The Storting has passed amendments to the Day-care Institutions Act that entitle all children to a place in a day-care centre. In the spring of 2009, the Government presented a white paper on strengthening the educational content and general quality of day-care centres.
In June 2009, the Storting passed amendments to the Child Welfare Act that strengthen the position of the child in child welfare cases.
This spring the Storting deliberated a white paper on improving the training of primary and lower-secondary school teachers.
The Government has further stepped up its efforts aimed at preventing and eradicating poverty. Qualification programmes and qualification benefits will soon be offered in all municipalities as the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration expands its network of offices.
As part of the measures to combat poverty, the Government has increased the allocation for the housing benefit scheme by NOK 1 billion so that it can be extended to cover 50 000 additional households. In addition, the State Housing Bank has received funding so that it can provide support for the provision of 3 000 additional rental housing units for disadvantaged people.
In May 2009, the Storting passed a new Penal Code. The new Penal Code sends a clear signal to the courts that stricter sentences should be imposed for homicide, serious violence, rape and child abuse.
The queue of people waiting to serve prison sentences has been further reduced since the end of the third quarter of 2008 and can now be considered to be done away with.
In March, the Government presented the National Transport Plan for the period 2010–2019. It envisages the greatest boost in infrastructure development in modern times.
In the spring of 2009, the Storting passed the new Nature Management Act on the protection of the natural environment. The new Act introduces a number of new instruments aimed at preserving species and habitats, and has a broader scope than any previous legislation on preserving the natural environment in Norway.
This year, considerable investments have been made in oil spill response equipment to be stored in depots along the coast of Norway.
In the spring of 2009, the Storting deliberated the white paper on integrated management of the marine environment of the Norwegian Sea. The management plan aims to facilitate value creation based on the sustainable use of resources.
Work is well underway to implement carbon capture and storage at Mongstad. The building of the first phase of the project, the CO2 Technology Centre, has started.
The high-level conference on carbon capture and storage hosted by the Government in Bergen in May brought together political leaders from a variety of countries and put this issue at the top of the international climate agenda.
In June the Storting deliberated a white paper on research, which announced increased allocations for research and stressed how important research is for dealing with major challenges in society.
In December 2008, the Government presented the first Norwegian white paper on innovation.
In September this year, the Norwegian and Swedish Governments agreed on the principles for a common market for green electricity certificates.
The Government is in the process of implementing its cultural promotion programme and is on track towards fulfilling its goal of allocating 1% of the government budget to culture.
The Government has, in cooperation with the Church of Norway, initiated a democratic reform within the Church. The reform is in line with the agreement for the period 2009–2013 on the relationship between church and state that was concluded between all the political parties in the Storting.
The Government has intensified Norway’s disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. It is therefore encouraging that the US and Russia have expressed a will to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Our goal is a world free of nuclear weapons.
The fighting in eastern Congo has flared up again during the past year. The Government has focused particularly on the efforts to put an end to the completely unacceptable use of sexualised violence in this region.
Around the turn of the year, we once again witnessed the ravages of war in the Middle East. The Government acknowledged that Israel has the right to defend its civilian population, but deplored the disproportionate use of force by Israel in Gaza. In its capacity as chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) for donor countries to the Palestinian Territory, Norway took a leading role at the Gaza donor conference in Sharm el-Sheikh and at the subsequent AHLC meeting in Oslo.
The Government has placed emphasis on strengthening Norway’s civilian and military participation in UN-led operations, particularly in Africa.
Norway has maintained a strong engagement for peace in Sudan for many years. The 2005 peace agreement between Northern and Southern Sudan is currently in a crucial, but fragile phase. Our main goals are to facilitate the implementation of all aspects of the peace agreement and promote peaceful development.
Norway actively supports the UN’s peace efforts in Somalia. Although the current naval presence in the area, in which Norway is taking part, has improved the situation, a durable solution can only be found on land.
Norway is playing an active role in supporting the forces of reform in Zimbabwe. We hope to increase the chances of achieving sustainable democratic development in the country.
The Government intends to promote public-private partnerships between Norwegian authorities and business actors with a view to mobilising more private capital for development.
Iceland applied for EU membership in July. The Government expects that the EEA Agreement will be continued even if Iceland joins the EU.
Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Norway has provided considerable funding for reducing social and economic disparities in Europe. A great number of projects, funds and programmes have received support through these grant mechanisms. Negotiations with the EU on new EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms for the next five-year period started in September 2008. The Government and the EU have now reached agreement on the framework for these Mechanisms for the period 2009–2014.
The Government has continued its efforts to facilitate the conclusion of a new WTO Agreement. The aim is to achieve an agreement that takes into account the interests of developing countries, but at the same time ensures adequate framework conditions for Norwegian agriculture.
The Government has worked to further develop Norway’s good relations with Russia. As of 1 December 2008, it is possible to issue work permits for up to two years for unskilled Russian workers from the Barents region in all business sectors in the three northernmost counties. The visa agreement between Norway and Russia that entered into force on the same date makes it easier for people who travel frequently between the two countries to get multiple-entry visas. We will also continue our dialogue and cooperation with Russia with a view to finding political solutions to outstanding issues.
Our dialogue with our neighbours, allies and other interested parties on the High North and the Arctic has been intensified. As chair of the Arctic Council from 2006 to April 2009, Norway worked actively to strengthen the organisation. The Council is taking on increasingly important tasks in the field of climate change, environment and sustainable development.
This spring, the Government presented a white paper on Norwegian humanitarian policy. On 3 December 2008, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was signed in Oslo. This was the culmination of an initiative headed by Norway. The signing represented a significant strengthening of international humanitarian law.
This spring the Storting passed a Bill presented by the Government on legislative amendments to strengthen the rights of Armed Forces personnel, including their right to compensation and medical follow-up. A white paper on care for personnel before, during and after participation in operations abroad was also presented.
The Government has launched a broad range of measures to strengthen the rights of Armed Forces veterans, improve the services they are offered and ensure that they receive due recognition.
The Government has decided to reintroduce the War Cross for outstanding service by individuals during and after the Second World War and in operations today.
On 19 December 2008, the Government presented a proposition to the Storting on the acquisition of new combat aircraft for the Armed Forces. The proposition was deliberated by the Storting on 8 June this year, and there was broad support for the Government’s proposal on starting the negotiation process for the acquisition of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter planes.
The Government has actively promoted closer security and defence policy cooperation between the Nordic countries.
As part of the follow-up of the long-term plan for the Norwegian Defence, a joint headquarters has been established at Bodø, and the respective inspectors general are now co-located with the various branches of the Armed Forces.
A major effort to follow up the long-term defence plan for 2009–2012 has been initiated. On 15 May 2009, the Government presented a proposition to the Storting on investment in the Norwegian Defence, with proposals for substantial investments in real property, building and construction, and materiel.
The Storting has endorsed the Government’s proposal to make it compulsory for women to appear before a draft board for possible recruitment to military service. This is an important part of the Government’s efforts to increase the number of women in the Norwegian Defence.
In the 2009 spring session, the Government presented a new white paper setting out long-term challenges for the Norwegian economy and public finances (Perspektivmeldingen 2009).
The consumer price index rose by 3.8% from 2007 to 2008, while growth adjusted for tax changes and excluding energy was 2.6%. In the period January–August 2009, the consumer price index increased by 2.5% compared with the same period last year. Adjusted for tax changes and excluding energy products, the increase was 2.8%. From 2007 to 2008, the number of employed people increased by around 76 000, which is equivalent to a growth of 3.1%.
In 2007, 2.5% of the workforce was unemployed. During 2008 unemployment reached 2.8%.
In the second quarter of 2009 unemployment reached 3.1%.
The rate of employment increased rapidly for several years. From 2007 to 2008, the number of people employed increased by 76 000. Figures from the labour force survey by Statistics Norway show a levelling off of the rate of employment in the second half of last year, and that the employment rate so far this year has been stable.
Labour market measures constitute one of the most important tools for promoting a well-functioning labour market. The Government has planned for a total of 75 000 places in such schemes for job seekers who have a moderate need for assistance and reduced work capacity.
The rules for the payment of wages and unemployment benefit in the event of lay-offs have been altered to allow for a more flexible use of lay-offs, and thus avoid redundancies.
The Government presented a Bill on the administration of social services in the labour and welfare sectors, including a requirement that municipalities carry out internal control of such services.
In the first quarter of 2009, the sickness absence rate was 7.7%. This was an increase of over 3% from the first quarter of 2008. It is now at approximately the same level as in 2001. A dialogue with the social partners on further development of the agreement on a more inclusive workplace has been started.
The Government has reached agreement with its negotiation partners on adjustment of the basic amount in the National Insurance scheme from 1 May 2009.
In response to the large increase in the number of asylum seekers, it was decided in September 2008 to implement 13 measures to tighten the rules for immigration. These were followed up with the introduction of eight new measures in July 2009.
At the same time, conflicts in various parts of the world have resulted in more people being given protection in Norway. A home and a job are the key starting points for building a new life. In 2009, the municipalities will receive 6 000 new inhabitants.
The Government has appointed a committee to examine how the Norwegian welfare model functions during times of increased migration to and from the country.
In June this year, the Storting passed amendments to the Working Environment Act, including provisions to ensure equal calculation of working hours for employees working on shift work and rota systems.
Major restructuring, a difficult period of reforms and the introduction of new tasks have affected operations in the Labour and Welfare Service. It has therefore received additional funding totalling more than NOK 926 million over the last year.
After reaching a level of almost NOK 750 per barrel in July 2008, the oil price fell sharply last autumn, to around NOK 275 per barrel by the end of the year. The oil price has increased somewhat this year, and at the end of August was about NOK 440 per barrel.
Norway’s gross national income (GNI) for 2008 was NOK 2 572 billion. In nominal terms, this is 12% higher than the previous year.
Norway’s current account balance showed a surplus of NOK 498 billion in 2008. This was NOK 134 billion higher than in 2007.
In the first half of this year, the export and import values of traditional goods were respectively 18% and 14% lower compared with the same period last year.
The revision in May of the government budget for 2009 allowed for the use of petroleum revenues amounting to NOK 129.9 billion, measured in terms of the non-oil deficit. This is NOK 38.7 billion more than the expected return on the fund.
The Government has presented an action plan for the period 2009–2013 for universal design and increased accessibility (Norge universelt utformet 2025).
The Storting has passed legislative amendments proposed by the Government providing for the establishment of a commission to quality assure all expert reports in child welfare cases. The amended Act will come into force on 1 January 2010.
The Government has appointed a public commission to carry out a full review of adoption matters.
The Government is seeking to improve the child welfare service’s ability to respond to the individual needs of children and families and to strengthen expertise in the service.
In the spring of 2009, the Government presented a white paper on the organisation of the public administration with focus on political control, appropriate division of responsibilities and streamlined organisation (Ei forvaltning for demokrati og fellesskap).
The Government’s broadband initiative has been successful. As of 30 June 2009, broadband was available to 99.9% of all households.
The Government has presented a white paper on improving the public procurement system and making it more professional.
The Government has presented a white paper on men, male roles and gender equality. There have been positive changes in this area in recent years, particularly in terms of greater involvement of men in the home and more contact between fathers and their children.
The Government has proposed amendments to the Children Act regarding parental responsibility, place of residence and visitation rights, to help to ensure that children of separated/divorced parents can maintain and develop close contact with both parents.
In the new Act on municipal crisis centres, which the Storting passed in the spring of 2009, the Government makes it clear that the municipalities are responsible for ensuring that victims of domestic violence receive protection, assistance and follow-up.
The Storting has passed the Bill presented by the Government on the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into the Human Rights Act.
The Government has proposed legislative amendments that will require differential treatment on the basis of gender or sexual orientation in religious communities to be objectively justified. Greater protection for pregnant women has also been proposed in the form of a statutory prohibition against asking job applicants about pregnancy, adoption and family planning.
The Government has presented an action plan for the period 2009–2012 to promote equality and prevent ethnic discrimination. The target groups are immigrants and their children, Sami and other national minorities.
The turmoil in the financial markets has affected the fishing industry. The collapse of the credit markets has, together with the general economic downturn in important importing countries, created problems both for the traditional white fish fisheries and for the cod farming industry. Exports of salmon, trout, herring, mackerel and capelin are at a good level, but there has been a decline in exports of cod and haddock. In addition to the measures to boost the business sector and credit market in general, the Government has implemented a number of special measures for the fisheries and aquaculture industries. For example, a new guarantee scheme for first-hand sales of fish has been established, and funding has been allocated for extraordinary marketing measures for cod and for the transport of fish.
The Norwegian seafood industry exported seafood worth NOK 38.5 billion in 2008, an increase of 5% compared with 2007. The aquaculture industry accounted for more than 50% of the value of exports. A total of 740 000 tonnes of salmon, 75 000 tonnes of trout and 18 000 tonnes of cod were produced in 2008.
The Government has attached great importance to the environmental impact of aquaculture, and a strategy for environmentally sustainable aquaculture has been presented. In addition, the Government’s competitiveness strategy for the aquaculture industry, which was presented in 2007, has been followed up, and 65 new salmon farming licences have been awarded.
Norway has presented a proposal to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the introduction of international guidelines to reduce discards and unintentional by-catches. The proposal won broad support in the FAO’s Committee on Fisheries, and work is now underway on drafting a global code of conduct for responsible fisheries.
The Government has given high priority to measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Illegal fishing in the Barents Sea was reduced by 84% from 2005 to 2009.
Active bilateral cooperation and the new port state control regime under the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission have been decisive for reducing overfishing in our region. Norway has also followed up the initiative in the FAO to establish a global regime for port state control in connection with fisheries.
The Government has implemented several measures to improve recruitment to the fishing fleet, for example by increasing the tax deduction for fishermen. In addition, a three-year project has been launched to increase recruitment to the marine sector and ensure that more people in the fisheries and aquaculture industries have formal qualifications.
In order to help young, motivated fishermen to acquire their own vessels, the Government has established a scheme under which 30 start-up grants of NOK 250 000 have been made available for the purchase of fishing vessels in 2009. Another scheme has been introduced under which 10 three-year permits to participate in fisheries will be awarded each year.
On 14 May, the Government presented its strategy for sustainable seafood production (Alfa og omega), which reflects the increased focus on protecting the environment, preventing climate change and promoting sustainability in the management of our sea areas.
In 2009, funding was allocated for removing the wreck of the cruiser Murmansk, which ran aground in Hasvik municipality. The preparatory work for the raising of the submarine U-864, which was wrecked off Fedje during the war, has started.
On 10 February 2009, the Storting passed a new Act on ports and fairways, with provisions aimed at ensuring good navigation conditions, safe passage and sound management of fairways.
The Government has presented a white paper on the coordination of health and care services, a proposal for legislation on county responsibility for public health, and a new national HIV strategy.
The vaccination of girls against cervical cancer has been incorporated into the children’s vaccination programme, and an agreement on the purchase of vaccine against influenza A (H1N1) has been entered into.
The Government has proposed legislative amendments to improve the follow-up of children of parents with a mental illness, substance abuse problems, or serious physical illness or injuries.
A white paper on coordinated antenatal, delivery and postnatal care has been presented.
A prohibition against the display of tobacco products has been adopted.
The Government has presented an overall strategy for the prevention of various problems in different sectors of society. The main objective of the strategy is to prevent rather than repair.
The 29th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice was held in Tromsø in June 2009. More than 200 participants from the 47 member states took part in the conference, which was entitled “Breaking the silence – united against domestic violence”.
The report the commission appointed to evaluate the legislation on the use of new covert investigation measures by the Police (Official Norwegian Report 2009: 15) was submitted to the Ministry of Justice and the Police in June 2009.
In August 2009, the Government presented a Bill for a new Act on the handling of information by the Police and the prosecuting authorities.
In June 2009, amendments to the Act governing security guard services were passed, which set more stringent requirements for good conduct and better training of guards, and stricter control of companies that provide such services.
The prohibition against the purchase of sexual services in Norway and abroad came into force on 1 January 2009.
In August 2009, the Government presented an action plan on strengthening and coordinating Norway’s overall crime prevention efforts (Gode krefter).
The intake to the Norwegian Police University College, which reached a record high of 432 students in 2008, has increased further to 552 students.
The Police Service was strengthened with 460 civilian full-time equivalents under the Government’s package of measures in response to the financial crisis (Proposition No. 37 (2008–2009) to the Storting) of February 2009.
The Government has entered into a new agreement on the regulation of working hours in the Police Service. Under the new agreement, the Police work one more hour a week. This corresponds to 230 additional full-time equivalents.
The Government has negotiated a draft agreement with the EU on Norway’s participation in the Prüm Treaty.
The Government has established a nationwide network of children’s shelters as part of its efforts to improve the assistance available for children who have been abused.
The Government is currently establishing a nationwide network of Alternative to Violence (ATV) centres for the treatment of violent offenders.
The Government has started to follow up the recommendations of the commission appointed to study the situation of rape victims (Official Norwegian Report 2008: 4), and has appointed an expert group of four investigators from the Norwegian National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (KRIPOS) with a view to establishing a country-wide Police unit for combating sexualised violence, SEPOL.
In February 2009, an evaluation of the allocation and use of resources in the Police Service was launched.
In the spring of 2009, the Storting deliberated a white paper on Svalbard. Svalbard is an important element in the Government’s High North efforts. We intend to strengthen our presence and exercise authority in a stable and predictable manner, in line with the objectives of Norway’s Svalbard policy.
In the spring of 2009, the Storting passed legislation on new rules for municipal emergency response obligations.
The Government has presented a white paper on fire safety, with the objective of strengthening fire-prevention efforts. The Government will seek to reduce the number of deaths in fires, prevent the loss of irreplaceable cultural heritage, and prevent fires that bring essential services that are critical to the functioning of society to a standstill, in addition to strengthening general contingency and response capacity.
The Government has decided that the number of municipal fire services along the Norwegian coast that provide fire rescue services at sea is to be increased from four to seven.
The Government has set up 24-hour response and rescue services at all rescue helicopter bases on the mainland. A new rescue helicopter base will be opened in Florø in September 2009.
The Storting has endorsed a new white paper on public legal aid. There is broad political agreement on the main elements of the new legal aid system. The objective is to address legal issues in an efficient manner so that more conflicts can be resolved effectively at an early stage.
The construction of new premises for the Gulating Court of Appeal was started in 2009.
Reconstruction work was started in connection with the establishment of the Inntrøndelag District Court in 2009 in connection with the restructuring of the courts of first instance.
The commission appointed by the Government to evaluate the mechanisms for monitoring the Police submitted its report in May 2009.
The Government has increased the maximum income limits for eligibility for free legal aid, with effect from 1 July 2009. This is an important step in the Government’s efforts to reduce poverty.
The Government has increased the maximum amount payable for compensation to victims of violence from 20G (20 times the basic amount in the National Insurance scheme) to 40G with effect from 1 July 2009.
In the spring of 2009, the Storting passed amendments to the Education Act and the Private Schools Act that set out requirements for early intervention and for an increase in the number of teachers in Norwegian/Sami language and mathematics for pupils in grades 1 to 4, and for more time for physical activity for pupils in grades 5 to 7.
The Government’s 2009 stimulus package to address the financial crisis included increased funding for companies that take on apprentices and trainees. The interest-compensation scheme for investments in schools and swimming facilities was strengthened.
The Storting has passed a new Act on adult education which includes provisions on adult education associations, independent distance learning institutions and certain schools/colleges that are currently governed by the Private Schools Act, as well as new schools/colleges that may be approved under the new Act.
A new manifesto against bullying in schools has been signed, and the funding for anti-bullying efforts has been increased.
A publicly appointed commission has presented an Official Norwegian Report (NOU 2009: 18) on the right to education, and education for children, young people and adults with special needs. The commission has, among other things, examined how the special education support system can be strengthened.
The strategy for further education for teachers (Kompetanse for kvalitet) has been implemented. So has the new school leadership training programme for newly appointed head teachers in primary and lower-secondary schools.
The white paper Education Strategy sets out several measures for improving upper secondary education, for example a pilot scheme under which work-related training is introduced as a new subject at lower secondary schools, a review of the targets in teaching plans and support for county councils for closer follow-up of pupils.
A public commission has been appointed to look into the teaching of children, young people and adults with minority languages.
The decision was taken to establish a national centre in Tromsø for ICT in education. It will be in operation from 1 January 2010.
As of the 2009–2010 school year, all pupils in upper secondary school are entitled to free teaching material. This means that the gradual introduction of free teaching material has now been completed.
Altogether, 104 238 people applied for higher education places in the autumn of 2009, an increase of 7% from last year. Funding has therefore been made available for 3 800 new places at universities and university colleges and around 400 new places in vocational training institutions. There has also been an increase in the number of places available for Masters studies, and continuing education and net-based education programmes have been increased in order to ensure that everyone has access to higher education programmes regardless of where in the country they live.
Teachers with good teaching and subject qualifications are the most important precondition for high standards of education. The Government has therefore established the GNIST partnership, a broad-based initiative to improve the quality of teacher training and further develop the teaching profession.
In 2009, the building of student accommodation has reached a record high, using funds from the ordinary budget as well as from the package of measures in response to the financial crisis. Funding has been approved for a total of 1 285 student housing units in 2009.
The provisions of the Act relating to Universities and University Colleges concerning the recognition of qualifications from other countries have been amended to make it easier for immigrants to use their qualifications in Norway.
The number of doctorates completed at Norwegian universities and university colleges in 2008 was record high. The total of 1 244 doctorates represents an increase of 60% since 2004.
Funding has been provided to start construction of four new buildings in the university and university college sector: a building for the Department of Clinical Dentistry at the University of Bergen, a building for nursing training at Oslo University College, a main building for Sogn og Fjordane University College, and a new building to house Bergen University College where all the departments will be co-located.
The Government attaches particular importance to research on climate change and the environment. The research element of the agreement on Norwegian climate policy reached by most of the political parties in January 2008 has been followed up. In this connection, eight centres for research on clean energy have been established. Klima 21, a steering group tasked with developing a strategy for climate research, has also been appointed.
In 2009, public funding for research has been increased by some NOK 1.8 billion. This, together with the skatteFUNN tax deduction scheme, now amounts to 0.94% of GDP. Thus Norway is close to reaching the target of allocating public funds amounting to 1% of GDP to research.
The Fund for Research and Innovation has received an additional allocation of NOK 6 billion, two-thirds of which is earmarked for scientific equipment. The Government has also established seven regional research funds, which have received a further NOK 6 billion. These are intended to boost research and innovation in the regions.
The Government has decided to introduce a new VAT compensation scheme for non-governmental organisations. This will come into force on 1 January 2010, and funding will be increased by NOK 1 billion in the period leading up to 2014.
The Government has started work on the renewal and development of Norway’s pilgrim traditions.
New members of Arts Council Norway have been appointed with effect from 1 July 2009, in line with new rules for the Council, under which the number of Council members is reduced to ten and all members are to be appointed by the King.
The opera and symphony orchestra enterprise in North Norway (Nordnorsk Opera og Symfoniorkester AS) has been established.
The Government has presented a white paper on libraries as a public arena for knowledge and learning and a meeting place in our digital age.
A white paper has been presented on a national strategy for the digitisation and dissemination of cultural heritage resources.
In August 2009, a white paper on museum reform was presented.
An architectural competition has been held for the new National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design on the Vestbanen site in central Oslo.
An architecture policy document was also presented in August this year.
The Government has presented a white paper on the responsibility of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) in connection with coverage of the elections (NRK-plakaten – dekning av valg). The proposals set out in the white paper were endorsed by the Storting.
The Government has launched a new three-year action plan to combat gambling problems, with measures for both prevention and treatment, including measures to combat problems relating to video games.
In response to a Government proposal, the Storting has decided to prohibit gambling transactions that are unlicensed in Norway.
The Government has introduced the “grass roots share” scheme, under which people who bet with Norsk Tipping can give part of their stake directly to a voluntary organisation.
In 2009, the Government implemented the new distribution formula for profits from Norsk Tipping.
In 2009, support was given for the establishment of 26 new volunteer centres.
Under the Government’s package of measures in response to the financial crisis, NOK 250 million was allocated to municipal sports facilities over the government budget in 2009. In addition, NOK 78 million was allocated to various measures in the cultural sector.
Under the same package, NOK 6.4 billion was allocated to the municipal sector, including NOK 4 billion that was earmarked for the maintenance, upgrading and rehabilitation of municipal buildings, facilities and roads.
The new municipal revenue system came into effect as of 1 January this year. This will ensure more even distribution of revenues and provide a better starting point for long-term planning in the municipalities.
Two Bills have been presented on legislative amendments to foster sound administrative practices and ethical conduct in the municipal sector.
The Government has presented a Bill on amendments to the Election Act and the Local Government Act to ensure that all eligible voters are able to participate in elections. Municipalities and counties now have a statutory right to hold local advisory referendums.
In recent years, there has been increased migration to rural areas. The number of rural municipalities with growing populations is now at the highest since the 1980s.
The Government has presented a white paper on rural and regional policy. The Government’s focus has been on expanding room for action at the local level with a view to achieving its main goals of ensuring real opportunities to settle in any part of the country and bringing about bottom-up economic growth.
The Government has initiated several measures to ensure that the housing cooperative model provides a good and secure form of home ownership.
The Storting has passed new provisions on building matters under the Planning and Building Act. The amended Act, together with new building regulations, is intended to reduce the incidence of construction errors, increase the number of environmentally friendly and energy efficient buildings, and encourage universal design of buildings and outdoor areas.
A new agricultural agreement and a new reindeer husbandry agreement have been negotiated between the Government and the relevant unions and associations, and both were endorsed by the Storting in June. The framework for the agricultural agreement has been increased by NOK 1.2 billion, NOK 200 million of which is an extraordinary investment package for 2009. The agreement provides the basis for a rise in income of at least 13%, which is equivalent to around NOK 28 000 per full-time equivalent for 2010.
Investment schemes have been strengthened in 2009, both through the extraordinary investment package for the agricultural sector and through an increase of NOK 300 million in the borrowing limit for interest support, bringing this up to NOK 1 billion. The agricultural agreement is in line with the new direction in agricultural policy, for example by providing a framework to increase income levels and by strengthening the structural and regional profile of the policy measures. The reindeer husbandry agreement provides for economic measures amounting to NOK 101 million to support this industry.
A number of amendments to the Allodial Act, the Act relating to Land and the Concession Act entered into force on 1 July 2009. The amendments are intended to simplify legislation and modernise the Allodial Act.
A new Act on animal welfare was passed in the Storting and will come into force in January 2010. It provides a framework for ensuring good animal welfare and respect for animals in Norway, and will be an important element in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s efforts to improve animal welfare and prevent tragic incidents involving animals.
The Government has undertaken a detailed review of the role of the agricultural sector in addressing climate change in a white paper on this subject.
Emissions of greenhouse gases in Norway fell by 2.2% in 2008, and in some areas there was a considerable reduction in emissions of NOX and other gases that are regulated by the Gothenburg Protocol.
In connection with the implementation of Norway’s climate policy, a prohibition against landfilling biodegradable waste was introduced on 1 July 2009.
Norway has implemented in Norwegian law the new, extensive EU regulations on chemicals and their safe use, REACH, which will ensure greater protection of health and the environment.
Norway has been at the forefront of efforts to reach global agreement on negotiating a treaty to limit use and emissions of mercury.
The Government is working actively to address environmental issues in the maritime industries and has helped to increase international focus on reducing emissions from shipping throughout a vessel’s lifecycle.
Norway is thus making good progress towards compliance with its obligations under the Gothenburg Protocol.
In 2008, the Government entered into an agreement with 14 trade associations on reductions of nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions. These trade associations have also presented measures that are to be implemented during the agreement period.
The new provisions on planning in the Planning and Building Act came into force on 1 July 2009. Proposals for government guidelines on management of the coastal zone adapted to local conditions and on government guidelines for climate change and energy planning at municipal level have been circulated for comment.
The Government has now ensured the protection of some 10 274 km2 under the Nature Conservation Act and the Nature Management Act. As of 7 August 2009, around 15.7% or around 50 800 km2 of mainland Norway is protected. Reinheimen, Varangerhalvøya, Seiland, Hallingskarvet, Lomsdal-Visten, Ytre Hvaler and Breheimen have all been designated as national parks.
The Government has followed up its strategy for promoting an environmentally sound shipping industry through efforts to strengthen maritime expertise, research and innovation, and environmental projects.
The Government has facilitated trade in services within the EEA by implementing the EU Services Directive in Norwegian law, through the Act on Services. The Act will enter into force on 28 December 2009. The Government is also participating in efforts to improve the rules for trade in goods in the EEA.
The free trade agreement between Canada and the EFTA countries entered into force on 1 July 2009. Through EFTA, Norway has concluded a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain). Free trade agreements have been negotiated with Albania and Serbia. EFTA is conducting negotiations or talks on free trade agreements with Ukraine, India and Russia, and Norway and China are holding talks on a bilateral free trade agreement.
In connection with the decision to protect the Vefsna river system in the county of Nordland, a business development fund has been established for each of the four municipalities affected, Vefsn, Hemnes, Hattfjelldal and Grane, amounting to NOK 150 million in total.
Allocations to Innovation Norway have been increased considerably with a view to improving companies’ access to capital and encouraging them to continue prioritising innovation.
A new support scheme for energy-intensive industry has been established under Innovation Norway, with a budget of NOK 40 million. Companies participating in purchasing consortiums for electricity are eligible for support in accordance with the rules for de minimis aid.
In December 2008, the Government presented a proposal that the Norwegian export credit institution for export financing, Eksportfinans, should on certain conditions be offered loans by the state at market prices. With the consent of the Storting, an agreement was concluded in which the Norwegian state, represented by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, undertakes to provide loans to Eksportfinans until 31 December 2010.
The financial ceilings for GIEK’s (Norwegian Guarantee Institute for Export Credits) general guarantee scheme, building loan guarantee scheme for the shipbuilding industry and scheme for export credits in connection with investment in developing countries were increased for 2008 and 2009.
The Government has presented a new action plan for entrepreneurship in education, with particular emphasis on higher education, with a view to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship in Norway.
In 2009, the Government started an evaluation of Innovation Norway and SIVA (the Industrial Development Corporation of Norway).
The global economic downturn during the second half of 2008 had a major impact on companies in which the state has an ownership interest. The value of the state’s shares listed on Oslo Børs fell by NOK 238 billion in 2008, to a total value of NOK 333 billion at year-end.
In November 2008, the state sold its remaining 50% ownership interest in BaneTele AS. The sale was completed in February 2009, after the consent of the Storting had been obtained.
With the consent of the Storting, the state provided its share of an equity increase in SAS AB in March 2009.
The Government has advocated Norwegian participation in the development of the European satellite navigation system GALILEO, and the Storting endorsed this on 11 June 2009.
Total electricity production in 2008 was around 143 TWh, while consumption was around 129 TWh.
In 2008, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate issued licences or granted exemptions from the licensing requirement for 81 hydropower projects. These projects included small-scale hydropower plants, upgrading/expansion of existing plants and larger power plants, which together will have an annual production capacity of around 825 GWh. Sixty-six hydropower projects were carried out in 2008, and will give a combined annual production of around 1.1 TWh. In 2008, the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate granted licences for wind power projects that will have an annual production capacity of around 730 GWh. Forty wind turbines were put into operation in 2008. They will produce around 245 GWh annually.
As part of the stimulus package presented last winter, the Government increased funding for the public enterprise Enova by more than NOK 1 billion. This has significantly boosted energy efficiency efforts and the development of renewable energy production.
The Government has strengthened energy producers’ and consumers’ right to use the transmission grid by introducing an obligation to connect for grid operators. The Government has obtained the approval of the Storting for a strategy for taking environmental and aesthetic considerations and the interests of local communities more fully into account when transmission grid upgrades are planned.
The Government has consolidated central government risk reduction and preparedness efforts in connection with landslides and avalanches. As of 1 January 2009, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate is responsible for the prevention of all types of landslides and avalanches.
During the Storting’s deliberations on the final supplement to the Protection Plan for Watercourses (Proposition No. 53 (2008–2009) to the Storting), it was decided to include the Vefsna and Langvella river systems and the lower parts of the Tovdal river system in the protection plan.
In the spring of 2009, the Government presented a Bill on offshore renewable energy and a national strategy for offshore renewable energy. The Bill puts the allocation of offshore renewable energy resources under public management and control.
A Bill amending the legislation to permit leasing of hydropower installations was passed by the Storting in June 2009.
In 2008, Enova reported that it had entered into agreements on renewable energy production and energy saving corresponding to a total of 2.15 TWh.
Total petroleum production on the Norwegian continental shelf in 2008 was 242 million standard cubic metres oil equivalent (Sm3 o.e.), which was 22 million Sm3 less than the record level reached in 2004. The decline was mainly due to a drop in oil production, which was partly offset by a rise in gas production. Oil, NGL and condensate accounted for 59% of total petroleum production.
Gas production in 2008 amounted to 99 billion Sm3. Norway exported oil and gas to a value of NOK 600 billion. This was an 18% increase in export value from the previous year. The central government’s net cash flow from petroleum activities in 2008 was NOK 470 billion.
Small and medium-sized fields such as Alvheim, Vilje and Volve came on stream in 2008.
In connection with the merger of Norsk Hydro’s oil and gas activities with Statoil, the Storting approved the Government’s proposal that the Norwegian State, as represented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, should increase its share from 62.5% to 67.5% of the new company, StatoilHydro. This was effected between summer 2008 and spring 2009.
It is important for a number of reasons, such as climate change and industrial development, to encourage internationalisation of the Norwegian energy industry. In cooperation with the industry, the Government has therefore launched a joint venture for this purpose. INTPOW – Norwegian Renewable Energy Partners – was set up in March 2009, and now has around 15 partners.
In 2009, large allocations were again made for investments in and operation and maintenance of railways and roads. For example, the Government has given high priority to traffic safety. Four years later after the launch of the national transport plan for 2006–2015, which was approved by the Storting, allocations for this sector have exceeded the framework set out in the plan.
Rules designed to strengthen the rights of employees in the public transport sector have been adopted. Employees must be ensured the same rights in the event of a tender going to another enterprise as they have in the event of a transfer of ownership to another.
The allocation for the incentives package to improve public transport and reduce car dependency was doubled in 2009. In 2009, the Ministry of Transport and Communications entered into four-year agreements with the Kristiansand and Trondheim urban regions on further measures to reduce car traffic.
In June, the Government presented a white paper on Avinor AS, which operates the Norwegian airport network. In this connection, the Government also presented an approximately NOK 900 million package to help Avinor implement necessary safety measures at its airports.
The Government has taken a policy decision on improving the framework conditions for Moss Airport Rygge.
In order to ensure good quality postal and bank services all over the country, NOK 518 million was allocated in 2009 for the government purchase of postal and bank services.
In 2009, the Government presented its action plan for the Sami language (Handlingsplan for samiske språk), as announced in its white paper on Sami policy of 2008.
Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 9 October 2009
Under Our Hand and the Seal of the Realm