The Prime Minister’s speech at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) annual conference

“We have enough land area in our country to be able to develop onshore wind power wisely and responsibly. And soon we will be holding the first auction for offshore wind projects. This represents a milestone”, said Prime Minister Støre.

Transcript of the speech as delivered (translated from Norwegian)

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Eurasia Group think tank recently published its forecast of political risks for 2024, calling it the ‘Voldemort of years’. Anyone who has read Harry Potter knows that this means the coming year could be very difficult. Eurasia Group predicted that three wars would dominate world affairs in 2024. Russia versus Ukraine, Israel versus Hamas and the US versus itself. Something we can take from this, and this is my basic starting point, is that Norway versus itself is not on that list. And that is an advantage to bear in mind.

I would like to thank the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO) for organising this conference under the theme of ‘leadership and solutions’. NHO plays a key role in putting important issues on the agenda. It is precisely by working together that can we achieve good leadership and effective solutions.

We have just held the annual national Sports Gala. There, we were celebrating the accomplishments of individuals, but it was clear to me that each of their outstanding performances was also the result of the efforts of an entire team and support network.

Achieving good leadership is a team effort

We have two recent examples of precisely this. Of successful cooperation between the business sector and the authorities, making things happen together, creating arenas for partnership. The first was when President Zelensky was in Norway and you, Ole-Erik Almlid, brought together the network of Norwegian companies involved in supporting Ukraine. President Zelensky came here to secure Nordic and Norwegian support for Ukraine’s fight to defend itself against the missiles raining down on its territory. And from Norway he received air defence and various other forms of military support. But then in the afternoon there was a meeting scheduled with the business network. I knew that President Zelensky had not slept much, and I thought to myself, it would not be at all surprising if he drops off now. But Zelensky is a leader who is always looking for opportunities, intent on rebuilding his country. And he listened carefully to the good ideas presented by the Norwegian business leaders, and told me afterwards that there was definitely something to build on here. It was an inspiring example of teamwork and leadership in action.

The other example was the visit I made to Japan before Christmas together with Minister of Trade and Industry Jan Christian Vestre. We travelled with a delegation from the seafood industry, with which we have had many discussions over the past year. It was a successful trip; we were able to reaffirm the importance of Norwegian seafood in Japan – Norwegian salmon and Norwegian mackerel – as well as Norwegian shipping. And we were able to have meetings with representatives of the Japanese business community and Japanese politicians. One of the things they asked us was why there were so many women in the Norwegian delegation. There were no women on the Japanese side of the table. And our answer was simple – that’s just how it is in Norway. We make the best use of all the talent we have in our country. Which, as I see it, is what teamwork and leadership are all about.

I would call myself a rational optimist. I believe that we can find the opportunities we need. In the midst of all the challenges we are facing, we must not lose heart. We must seek out those opportunities. Let me expand on this. I’ll focus on four areas.

Turning point

The first is that I think there is reason to believe that we are close to reaching a turning point in the economy. Largely thanks to you. Some 6 000 new companies are established every month in Norway. Investment in mainland Norway is now 20 % higher than in 2019. Our exports are at a record high. And we have created 130 000 new jobs. And when I say ‘we’, I really mean you; 9 out of 10 of these jobs are in the private sector. So, we have an excellent basis to build on. Of course, there are some branches that are facing challenges. The construction industry in particular. And we must work together to address these too.

But our starting point is good. And the reason I say that a turning point is near is that it looks as if inflation has peaked and is starting to level off. Interest rates may have reached their peak too. And it is not just me saying this – Statistics Norway and Norges Bank are also saying that potential increases in purchasing power are on the horizon. And now we wait for the employer and employee organisations to conduct their negotiations in the spring.

Our economy has a strong foundation. That is why I believe that we can have a soft landing, and improve people’s financial situation. The Government will adopt responsible budgets and foster cooperation as part of the effort to achieve this.

And let me assure this forum, the present Government will continue to work to reduce inequality, increase trust and promote opportunities across the country. Of course, there will be discussions to be had. I can see that. But I think the frank exchange of views is what enables us to work together as a team. And enables our communities to pull together. That was the first area I wanted to talk about.


The second area is the energy transition. I often say that Norway is not living in the oil age, but rather in the energy age. Two very different chapters. We can and must write the next chapter together. Local communities, municipalities, the business sector, big and small players in the supplier industry and the energy industry. Standing on the shoulders of those who came before.

Now it is offshore and onshore wind power and solar power that are set to become the new giants. With regard to onshore wind power, as I see it, the broad agreement on the resource rent tax reached in the Storting lays the foundation for us to exploit the opportunities. The tax gives the municipalities greater incentives to take part, and Statkraft’s announcement of its investment plans yesterday shows that we can truly achieve great things together.

There will be debate and disagreement. But here too, we must make use of the ability we have in Norway to engage in dialogue, talk to each other, look to other industries and find good solutions. We have enough land area in our country to be able to develop onshore wind power wisely and responsibly.

And soon we will be holding the first auction for offshore wind projects. This represents a milestone. This part of the new story has begun. And yes, there have been some problems getting off the starting block, not just in Norway, because so many actors have been trying to do the same thing at the same time, and we have had to contend with higher prices, problems with supply chains etc.

But make no mistake, offshore wind is going to become one of the world’s main sources of energy in the time ahead. There are already many bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines in the North Sea basin. But meeting future global demand for offshore wind power will call for floating solutions. And with our long coastline and all our wind resources, this will represent our great opportunity. With the first auction now, further areas opened in 2025, and more auctions after that. We will develop our coast, and we will do this together. If we are to succeed, we will need to work as a team, consult each other closely and listen to each other.

Climate change

The third area is climate change. Clearly a massive challenge. But we should not feel ‘completely desperate’ and it is not ‘controlled panic’ that we need, as some have said. We must have a clear plan.

We are moving towards 2030, and we are going to achieve our climate targets, in non-ETS sectors. For the first time, this is set out in our climate status report and action plan, our ‘green book’. Obviously not everyone will agree with everything that is written there. But now we have a plan that will enable us to meet the target. And we are going to implement it. We will also be taking ambitious steps to reduce emissions in ETS sectors, in industry, in our business sector.

And the NHO President is right in saying that when it comes to carbon capture and storage (CCS), the whole world has come to realise that Norway’s expertise in this area is invaluable. My Government is currently processing applications for licences to drill in the North Sea. Not just in search of oil and gas, but in search of reservoirs that can be used to store large amounts of CO2 from Europe, for generations to come.

I have worked in Norwegian politics and diplomacy for long enough to remember when Europe had no time for CCS. We talked about ‘moon landings’ and laughed at what were considered unrealistic ambitions. And yet here we are, in 2024; Northern Lights, the value chain, the Øygarden facility, will soon be operational. Then we will be truly on our way.

It will not be possible to reach any of the world’s climate targets if we do not succeed in the area of CCS. But we are now heading in the right direction. We have aimed high, and we are making vital progress.

International cooperation

The fourth area is Europe. You know what my view is. I think on the whole Norway gains most by being where things happen. We benefit more from this than most other countries.

But at the same time, I think that in the current situation, good leadership means not spending all our time on what divides us and creates polarisation and discord. We will have those debates. But let’s focus on what we have now: we have the EEA Agreement and a relationship with Europe that provide significant opportunities for Norway, and we must make the most of them. 1 January 2024 marked the 30th anniversary of the EEA Agreement, but few champagne glasses were raised in its honour. It deserved at least a glass of something bubbly, I would say. Because it has served us incredibly well.

Just think about it for a moment – more than 600 000 jobs are directly linked to our access to the European market. That is one in five jobs in Norway. And think about what we achieved together with our European partners over the past two years. We secured Europe’s energy supply when crisis struck. Our energy sector was able to deliver to Europe partly thanks to the EEA Agreement and its rules.

We have now entered into our first agreement with the EU on strengthening cooperation on climate action, environmental protection and the green industrial transition, a Green Alliance. Norway is the second country to sign such an agreement with the EU. Second after Japan, the world’s third largest economy. A comprehensive document where areas in which Norway has particular expertise, such as CCS and hydrogen development, are identified as key priorities. Hugely important for Norway.

And we are now drawing up industrial partnerships with Germany, with the US, and also with France, to be signed any day now. These are important agreements in key sectors, and our partners have sought this cooperation with us. And the reason they have come to us is that we have rules in place, and can ensure predictability and equal rights. If anyone is treated badly, they can seek redress in a court. This is the rule of law in practice, and this is of the utmost importance.

This year, Norway has been invited by Germany to participate as Partner Country at Hannover Messe, the world's leading trade fair for industrial technology. We must seize this opportunity with both hands. This is a unique chance for Norway to showcase products and solutions for the green industrial transition to countries that are our most important markets.

And there is another thing, admittedly a bit beyond Europe, that I would like to mention here. Brazil currently holds the Presidency of the G20, which represents 80 % of the global economy. Norway has been invited to participate as one of eight guest countries under Brazil’s Presidency. This will give us the opportunity to influence the agenda right at the centre of power. This could possibly form the basis for a future version of the political TV drama Makta (or Power Play as it is called in English). I could play myself perhaps…


And finally, as you all know, ultimately, it is all about people. Here too, we have a job to do together. I will focus on three points in particular.

First, over the past 10 years, school performance has declined in a way that should worry us. This has to do with learning skills, time spent using digital devices, the impact of social media, and the many challenges facing our young people today. We must do something about this – together. We are working on it, but this also requires close cooperation with the companies and organisations that will be our young people’s future employers.

The issue of AI, which I know will be a key topic of discussion here, is another thing we have to tackle together. I have established a new ministry, under a highly competent minister, which is now actively seeking closer cooperation with the business sector in order to harness the opportunities and address the challenges of AI.

And my third point here is that in many sectors, the problem we will face in Norway will be a shortage of labour, not a shortage of funds. It is all about people. Some 100 000 individuals under the age of 30 are neither employed nor in education or training. If we do not do something about this, we risk losing the resources they represent altogether, and they may never get the chance to fulfil their potential. And this at a time when there is a need for people in many of the branches you represent, in the health sector and in other sectors as well.

We must equip people for working life, give them the training they need, and we must try new approaches. And here let me add a final point: all Norwegian governments, mine and those that have come before, have done their utmost to achieve this. And there are people here today who have devoted their entire political careers to this, not just from my party, but from other parties too. This has been, and still is, a key priority.

But the number of people who are neither in education nor employment has remained disconcertingly stable. We must continue to implement measures we know are successful and at the same time not be afraid to try new things. And we must do this together, you and us, business and government, in order to enable the hundreds of thousands who have a reduced capacity for work to participate in the workforce and truly benefit from our welfare-to-work schemes. We must not mess with these schemes, we must improve them, create a framework that helps more people to find meaningful employment.

Because ultimately, it is all about people. Motivating people, setting clear goals and working together to achieve these goals. And this, as I see it, is the true power of leadership.

Thank you.