Address at the Rebooting Europe Conference

The Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Marit Berger Røsland's address at the Research Council of Norway's conference Rebooting Europe.

Check against delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am grateful to have the opportunity to address this distinguished audience of researchers and observers of European politics. Director Jesper Werdelin Simonsen, I would like to thank you and your staff at the Research Council of Norway for arranging this interesting conference for us all.

Over the last couple of years, we have all realised that the old Europe we used to know is changing. Rapidly. On the one hand, this is nothing new: the world around us has always changed, and Europe has had to change with it.

Yet it is hard to escape the feeling that the pace of change has picked up: technological change is faster, the effects of climate change are now clearly visible, economic competition from around the globe is affecting us, migration is having a major impact, and this is continuously magnified by the media straight to our small and large screens, 24/7.

All of these changes are interacting in complex and unpredictable ways with changes in cultural habits, societal norms and political preferences. We have seen sudden changes that are altering the course of Europe: changes such as brexit, the surge in support for right-wing populist parties, exemplified by the entry into the Bundestag of the Alternative für Deutschland, and challenges to the EU's fundamental values from within. On the other hand, we also have a new French president with a new reform-oriented and strongly pro-European movement.

And we see a new sense of purpose among EU's leaders, who in the context of President Tusk's Leaders' Agenda will take more responsibility for the EU's future and further integration.

None of this is of course new to you. What is perhaps new is that your role as researchers and observers has become more important than ever.

The Government is now updating its EU strategy for the next four years. Our goals are already set out in the white paper Setting the course for Norwegian foreign and security policy. We want a safe, free and economically strong Europe, based on cooperation. In order to attain this, we need to be a close, constructive and creative partner for the EU and promote closer European cooperation. How exactly can we manage this? The short answer is that we don't have all the answers.

If we are to base our policies on up-to-date knowledge, we need input from the advanced research sponsored by the Research Council's 'Europe in Transition' programme more than ever.

The EU itself is facing critical challenges. I believe the most important one is the need to generate growth and create new jobs, especially for the younger generation. For example, there is a potential for more cooperation on stimulating green growth, through digitisation of the public sector and green investment in innovation and research. We will work closely together with the EU on implementation of the Paris climate agreement, both through the Emissions Trading System and through sectors not covered by this system. This will prepare our industry for the future and opens market opportunities for our companies.

The EU also needs to handle migration, which is one of the most divisive issues in many European countries. There is a need to find common ground for managing the migration challenge and at the same time ensuring safe and inclusive societies.

Issues such as these affect all of us and yet none of us can solve them on our own. On the contrary, at least part of the solution to all these challenges is European. I must admit that – looking at EU's Leaders Agenda I get a bit envious at the EU-member-states. It highlights that some of the most important issues that requires close international cooperation – will be discussed among the EU leaders the next 18 months. For Norway – a country that is always seeking international partnerships and cooperation – it feels almost unnatural not to be part of this agenda.

However, we acknowledge our share of the responsibility to secure a stable and prosperous Europe, and we will continue to do our best to be a relevant and interesting partner and contributor in the discussions at the European level.

Norway also plays a role through the EEA and Norway Grants, which aim to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe and strengthen our bilateral relations with the fifteen recipient countries. The Grants' specific focus on civil society, for instance, is unique in a European context. Clearly our work with the EEA and Norway Grants programme also benefits from academic input from you and will continue to do so.

I am proud to say that in recognition of the need for advanced research on European Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has committed to provide NOK 10.5 million in support for the Research Council's Europe in Transition Programme every year for the next four years. I am very happy to see that for 2018, these funds will be supplemented by another NOK 10 million from the Ministry of Education and Research, and one million from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.

Given the tremendous impact of the ongoing changes in Europe on Norwegian industry and exporters of goods and services, I would also welcome contributions to this research programme from the private sector.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I understand there is now a new Call for proposals for the Europe in Transition programme, with a particular focus on some of the most burning issues we face: first and foremost brexit, but also the challenges to the EU's fundamental values and lastly the forces shaping the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy.

I understand there will be a Call for proposals relating to climate change and energy policy will follow in the first half of 2018.

I hope that some of you here today will be inspired to grasp these opportunities, because as policy-makers we really need your input. I wish you every success with writing your applications, and hope you will find this conference interesting and have fruitful discussions throughout the day. Thank you.