Akershus castle, Oslo, May 4 2015
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Mr President, Mrs Cavaco Silva, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
When the Portuguese national poet Luís Camoes described Portugal as being situated ‘where the earth ends and the sea begins’, he could have been describing Norway too.
Norway and Portugal are both coastal nations on the outskirts of continental Europe. We are part of Europe, its geography, its culture and its traditions. We are also looking outwards to the wider world.
We have always enjoyed excellent relations, and we are working closely together in NATO, in the UN and in many other international organisations. Since 1974, our cooperation has intensified and today both our countries are party to the EEA Agreement, signed in Porto in 1992.
In 2008, Europe was hit by a severe economic crisis. Portugal has suffered, but also undertaken comprehensive efforts to regain control of the economy. We sincerely hope that the current growth will continue, giving room for more job creation.
In recent years, Norwegian companies have recruited more than a thousand engineers and other professionals from Portugal. Portuguese employees have quickly integrated into the workforce due to their qualifications, their language skills, their willingness to work hard, and their social skills. I imagine that some will stay, while others will return, bringing with them new skills and networks, and thus contributing to even closer relations.
Over the centuries, nothing has been more important for our relations than ‘bacalhau’. Dried cod has been exported to Portugal since the early 1600s in return for salt and Port wine. For the last 150 years, this trade has been the backbone of our commercial relations. The trade was so important that it resulted in a change in Norwegian law in the 1920s. Those were the days of prohibition in Norway, and imports of alcohol were banned. As a result, the Portuguese and some of their Southern European allies refused to buy dry cod from Norway. And so, the Norwegian Government felt obliged to lift the ban, and trade resumed.
We are cooperating closely on a range of programmes and projects under the EEA and Norway Grants. I am confident that Portugal is as proud as we are of the results that have been achieved under this scheme.
Our countries have the two largest marine economic zones in Europe. This is a major responsibility and a fantastic opportunity. We have an obligation to the rest of the world and to the coming generations to ensure sustainable use of the resources in these zones. The signing today of the MoU on research brings a new dimension to our cooperation, especially in the marine area. My Government supports this initiative, and I am sure that it will further develop our cooperation in this field, to our mutual benefit.
I am happy to note, Mr President, that your visit has given new impetus to our political cooperation. I appreciate the good discussions and the new dialogues that have been initiated.
Tomorrow your visit will continue in Bergen, my hometown. It is a vibrant coastal city, one of many along our long coast, and a hub for trade and sea-related activities. When the weather is fine, Bergen is beautiful. When it is raining, it is still beautiful.
Mr President, it is a great pleasure to receive you and your delegation. Your visit will boost both ongoing and new fields of cooperation, to the benefit of both our peoples and both our countries.
I would like to invite you all to join me in a toast to the close relations between Norway and Portugal.
To our close relations. Skål!