New Year's Address 2017

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher The Office of the Prime Minister

National radio and television, 1 January 2017.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Credit: Audun Braastad/NTBscanpix

The oldest written record of the name ‘Norway’ is from the end of the 9th century. And it’s not actually from Norway but from England.

It dates back to a Viking chief who came to England from the north of Norway to trade, and wanted to explain where he came from.

Ever since the Viking age, Norwegians have looked to the world beyond Norway. To climb mountains, to reach the north and south poles, to hunt whales and sell fish.

At the height of the age of sail, when world trade was thriving, we were the world’s third largest shipping nation.

Today, most of our oil and gas is sold abroad. As is most of our cod from the sea and most of our salmon from our fish farms. The same applies to our aluminium and our fertiliser.

Our contact with the world around us safeguards our jobs, keeps our pay levels high, and finances our welfare services.

I am therefore pleased that Norway has re-established normal relations with China.

History has taught us what it’s like to be a pawn in the major powers’ game.

It has taught us that we are most secure when we stand together with other countries that share our democratic values.

Our history has shown us that both our security and our welfare are best safeguarded together with others.

Forces that are sceptical of trade agreements and common security are now on the rise.

Forces that are challenging what has been the basis for Norway’s success for centuries.

I can see that this is causing a sense of uncertainty.

At the same time, this is the context in which we must prevent unemployment from becoming entrenched after the fall in oil prices.

And this is the context in which we must restructure our economy now that our petroleum activities have peaked.

We must also make sure that our aging population has the care it needs, we must integrate newly arrived refugees into our society through job opportunities and education, and we must ensure a successful transition to a low-carbon society.

We have major challenges ahead.

But although we are living in times of uncertainty, I am optimistic.

I believe in Norway.

And I believe in the Norwegian people.

We are proud of what we are able to achieve together. And with good reason. We work well together. We help each another. And we trust each other.

Collectively, we make a good team. But we also need the many individuals who spur our society forward.

Politicians can provide conducive conditions for job creation in the private sector, but it is bold women and men who actually create the jobs.

We can allocate funding for research, but it is creative minds who make the important breakthroughs.

We can prohibit discrimination, but it is brave individuals who break taboos and barriers.

Looking ahead, we need to create more space for personal initiatives.

We must cheer these individuals on.

Just as we cheer on the sports heroes who inspire us.

Let me mention some of the people who have inspired me.

I met one of them – Christian Mide – in Ballstad, a beautiful village on one of the Lofoten islands.

In his work as a GP, Christian saw the need for a simple, safe way of removing used needles from hypodermic syringes.

So he designed a new syringe.

This is now on sale in a range of countries all over the world.

The potential is huge. Billions of syringes are used every year.

The company’s headquarters is in Ballstad, with a branch office in Oslo.

In the years to come, more of us will have to take initiatives like this.

Another source of inspiration is James Lorens and the company BerGenBio.

James led a group of researchers at the University of Bergen that developed the technology that BerGenBio is now further developing.

They have recently tested their new cancer drug.

The results for leukaemia were even better than expected. An important breakthrough.

Now the drug will be tested on other forms of cancer.

More and more of us are being diagnosed with cancer. It is tragic to watch cancer breaking down a healthy person. When someone close to us is torn away far too soon.

New and better drugs give cause for hope. They give cancer patients precious extra years with their loved ones.

We want more breakthroughs like this.

This is why the Government has considerably increased funding for research.

And this is why we will make Norway a good country for doing business.

For creating jobs.

And for solving major challenges for individuals and for society.

Our welfare state is dependent on financing.

But simply having a job provides a lot of welfare in itself. The many thousands who are currently out of work know this all too well, and they are particularly in our thoughts at the start of the new year.

We must have enough jobs, and we must ensure that as many people as possible are in work.

This is something Aisha Ali Mohammed has taken seriously. She is a mother of three and Oslo’s first Somali woman bus driver.

She has challenged the attitude in her community that women should work in the home.

She has been criticised for doing a man’s job and for wearing trousers.

But she has also been criticised by ethnic Norwegians for driving a bus in a hijab.

‘I represent the company and have to be polite. That is why I just smile back,’ she said to the national daily Dagbladet.

Barriers that may seem small can in practice be quite big.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself on a bus she is driving, I hope you will give her a warm smile.

And in this way contribute to integration in our day-to-day lives.

Aisha Ali Mohammed is a representative of the Norway that King Harald described at the garden party in the Palace grounds in September.

He said that his greatest hope for Norway is that we will take proper care of one another. That we will continue to build this country on a foundation of trust, solidarity and generosity of spirit. That we will remember that – despite our differences – we are one people. That Norway is one.

His speech made a strong impression. It is a beacon showing the way forward. Now it is up to us to follow that beacon.

I would like the thank The King and The Queen for being a rallying point for Norwegians and for setting an example for us all in the work they do for our country.

Not everyone is an entrepreneur. Just as important are the initiatives that enthusiastic employees take at work.

Such as the initiative taken by Mohsen Jamei, a nurse at Bjørkelia care home in Gjøvik, where I met him recently.

He told me that the elderly residents hadn’t been eating enough. Several had been undernourished.

Under the previous routine, breakfast, lunch and dinner had all been served by half-past one.

Mohsen Jamei changed the time dinner was served to half-past three. And he made sure that the residents had more time to enjoy each meal.

The results have been fantastic.

The residents have put on weight. They sleep better at night. And they are more active.

Mohsen Jamei’s initiative has given other people a better and more dignified life.

Up to 60 % of elderly residents in institutions are undernourished.

Now the Government is working to ensure that all elderly residents in institutions eat dinner later in the day.

Small changes in the welfare services can bring about huge improvements.

In order to improve the quality of our care for the elderly, we must work smarter. This means that we need more ideas like Mohsen Jamei’s.

Peer support is another form of personal initiative.

For example, former convicts who help recently released prisoners to find their way back into society.

Or people with serious or chronic illnesses who help others because they know what it feels like to be in that situation.

I recently met Jimmy Pedersen in Tromsø. He is one of the driving forces behind Kafé X.

Kafé X provides people who have a drugs problem with activities in a drug-free setting.

Visitors to the café have spoken of the sense of security it gives them to talk to others who understand what they have been through and the challenges they are facing, and who can help them find their way forward.

There are many similar organisations that are doing important work. Such as Retretten (The Retreat), Wayback, and various patient organisations in Norway.

The knowledge acquired through direct experience is important. The Government is working to reform the child welfare services.

With a little help, many families with problems are able to give their children a good upbringing.

But when a child is seriously neglected or ill-treated, society must intervene, and the child must be moved.

We must give these children a better start to life, give them the love and care that they didn’t get at home.

This is why we are working with the foundation Forandringsfabrikken. Here we can meet children and young people who have experience of the child welfare services and can give us valuable advice.

We will make use of this advice as we shape the future child welfare services.

There are also Norwegians abroad who are carrying out important work for others.

I would particularly like to send a greeting to the Norwegian soldiers, aid workers and volunteers who are working outside Norway at this time.

Many of you are spending Christmas and New Year far from your families. You are in our thoughts. And we are proud of the work you are doing.

The examples I have highlighted show what can be achieved by individuals with dedication, initiative and courage.

They inspire us and give us confidence in Norway.

Norway is a small country with an open economy.

We are used to competition and change.

So far we have managed well.

People who lose their job are given help to find new work.

In the meantime, they are assured an income and have the opportunity to enhance their skills.

We see new companies being established.

And we see Norwegian companies doing more research.

For the first time, Norwegian children are scoring above average in reading, mathematics and science.

We are moving in the right direction, although a good deal remains to be done.

In the future, we will need even more new private companies.

As we enter the new year, let us cheer on all those who are creating new jobs.

In Norway there must be room for failure and room for success.

Let us all consider whether there is any initiative we can take. Through voluntary work, at our workplace, or as an entrepreneur.

In the future, we won’t be able to rely on our oil industry as much as we have done.

We will all have to rely more on our own initiative and ability to look ahead.

Happy New Year.