Speech/statement | Date: 06/10/2022 | Office of the Prime Minister
By Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (European Political Community meeting in Prague)
Prime Minister Fiala, President Zelensky, colleagues and friends. It is great to be here in Prague. In this extraordinary building. In this beautiful city. To meet with friends and allies. To come together at a time of great difficulty for our continent and for our countries.
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In the previous century, this city was at the centerpiece as our continent confronted a different expression of totalitarian brutality – most notably with the Soviet invasion in August 1968. As we meet to manage the consequences of the senseless war in Ukraine, it is sobering to reflect on the shadows of the past.
In recent weeks, Russia has taken several steps to escalate the war in Ukraine. Those steps are illegal. They are dangerous. But, perhaps most tellingly – they are a clear indication that the Russian war effort is not going well.
As we convene here for this first meeting of the European Political Community, it is essential that we maintain a common stance. That we speak with a unified voice.
I would like to give a special tribute to Poland and the other countries bordering Ukraine. For their care for refugees fleeing the war, and for facilitating the transit of aid and equipment through their territory.
Like many other countries, Norway has made historic decisions as part of the response. For the first time since the 1950s, we have exported weapons to a country at war, including heavy artillery, missiles and increasingly sophisticated equipment, in addition to economic and humanitarian support.
Thousands of refugees have landed in Norway,
Ukraine is paying most of the costs associated with this war. But no one is untouched. It has consequences for all of us.
Over the course of the last year, it has become increasingly evident that Russia is manipulating the energy market in an all-out effort to sow division in Europe, and to undermine our ability to support Ukraine.
It has been – and remains – our view that the single most important contribution Norway can make, is to ensure a high and stable level of production from the Norwegian continental shelf.
Let me state clearly: High and volatile gas prices in Europe is not in Norway`s interest. They lead to explosive electricity prices in large part of Norway.
They hurt industries in Europe – our trading partners.
They create social tensions in many of your societies – our partners and allies.
As a trusted and reliable partner – we wish to contribute to stabilization of energy markets.
Together with the field operators, we have turned every stone:
We have permitted the export of gas that normally would have been reinjected or kept in the reservoirs for longer-term recovery of oil.
We have allowed the postponement of non-critical maintenance.
We have allowed reduced extraction of heavier components in the gas, thereby increasing energy deliveries in the pipelines to the continent.
We have increased flexibility in the gas transportation system, in order to allow higher deliveries to markets where scarcity is highest.
As a result of these measures, the companies operating on the shelf, Norwegian and European, are on track to deliver 122 billion cubic meters of gas in 2022. This level is historically high, and up by 8 percent from last year. To put this figure in perspective: 122 billion cubic meters is the equivalent of close to 1/3 of the total amount of gas consumed in the EU in 2021.
At this level, we are at our maximum – with the primary constraint being field capacity.
I know that many of you are under immense pressure at home, and are worried about the political consequences of high energy prices. We hear it, we understand it – it worries us too.
Norway is a serious and reliable partner. As I have communicated to the Commission, individual member states and in public – Norwegian authorities and companies are ready to explore proposals that can stabilize the energy market, while ensuring that we maintain high levels of production and accelerate the development of renewable energy.
It is in this context we have established an ad hoc task force on energy with the European Commission. We take the welfare of our friends and allies seriously, and will do our utmost as we approach the coming winter, especially to ensure a continued high-level of production from our continental shelf.
An essential responsibility that follows from our role as a key provider of energy to Europe is the protection of critical infrastructure on the Norwegian Continental shelf, and in the North Sea.
This has always been a priority for Norway, but we have taken additional steps this year. First in February, then in September – and more recently following the sabotage against Nord Stream. On this we are actively coordinating with allies, and thank you for your offers of support.
Let me add – to complete the picture: Beyond this immediate term – we need to look ahead and significantly scale up production of new renewable energy resources – land wind, offshore wind, hydrogen and CCS – Norway stands ready to be Europe`s close industrial partner.
In closing, let us also remind ourselves of the broader picture – the global ramifications of the war in Ukraine.
It is clear that the consequences of high inflation, energy and food shortages are dire in many developing countries. Hard fought progress on poverty alleviation is being eroded as we speak. While we deal with the consequences of these crises for our own continent, it is important that we do not turn inwards – and forget about the rest. That would be a mistake.
We must continue our engagement with the global south, and redouble our investments in much needed public goods. We are just coming out of a pandemic, and have considerable work ahead to limit and mitigate the effects of climate change. The world needs Europe to succeed, and our success will require collaboration and partnerships that go far beyond our continent.
Going back to where I started, the city of Prague and its experience with totalitarian brutality – let us make no mistake, we are again in a situation where our way of life, our freedoms, our system of governance, is being challenged.
As winter is coming, let us find comfort in our strengths – and recognize the weaknesses so clearly displayed in the process that led President Putin to initiate an unnecessary and destructive war in Ukraine.
In contrast to those who govern without checks and balances; with no regard for the rule of law; and no room for dissent, political competition or open debate – we have demonstrated over the last year the inherent strength of liberal democracy.
Inspired by the unfaltering President Zelensky, and the courageous people of Ukraine, let us continue to make the case for democracy and freedom – in the best of the European tradition.