The Solberg Government’s inaugural address to the Storting 18 October 2013

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher The Office of the Prime Minister

Mr President,

In the general election of 9 September, the parties Venstre (social liberal party), the Christian Democratic Party, the Progress Party and the Conservative Party won a historically strong majority in the Storting. All four parties promised their voters that this would lead to new policy and a new government. The four parties have kept this promise.

During the course of talks following the election, the four parties have agreed to work together to ensure that this new political majority is reflected in government policy. They agree on a common set of values. In a number of areas, they also agree on a new political course. This has been set out in the four-party cooperation agreement.

Venstre and the Christian Democratic Party decided not to go on to the next stage and take part in negotiations on forming a new government. The Conservative Party and the Progress Party have therefore taken on responsibility for forming a government.

The new Government will base its work on the four-party cooperation agreement and the political platform set out in the Sundvolden declaration made by the Conservative Party and the Progress Party.

Mr President,

The Government’s values are based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law, and on our Christian and humanist cultural heritage.

The Government will base its policy on the principles of freedom and trust in the Norwegian people. Creativity and enterprise can create a better society. The Government will give greater leeway to those wanting to set up a new business, to those engaged in voluntary organisations and to those in elected positions who are shouldering responsibility for their local communities. The Government values their efforts and commitment and is confident that they have the best interests of the people around them at heart.

The Government will build its policy on respect for knowledge. A school system that is able to draw out the potential of every single pupil, regardless of his or her background, is our goal. We will then achieve a society where what counts is a person’s abilities and efforts, not who their parents are or where they come from. The Government will work to create a society where there is social mobility and opportunities for all. Work to build a knowledge society will therefore be a priority area for the Government.

Vocational training will be enhanced. The Government will seek to significantly increase research activity, and will give priority to ensuring a long-term approach to research policy. More world-leading research centres at higher education institutions will be established. By improving the quality of higher education and vocational training, it will be possible to meet the country’s knowledge needs.

The Government will attach importance to enhancing knowledge and skills in other areas as well. Better help for adults with literacy needs will help to underpin welfare-to-work schemes. A greater focus on improving skills in care services will result in better services for the elderly and those in need of care. More research will give us new insights and help society move forwards.

The quality of teachers is the most important factor in a child’s education. The Government will therefore pursue an ambitious education policy. Improving the quality of teachers will be a high priority. Further training and professional development for teachers will be improved. Teachers perform one of society’s most important jobs. Our vision is to make the profession so attractive that the very best young people choose to pursue teaching as a career. The Government will focus particularly on mathematics and the sciences. Together with the teachers’ associations, the Government will develop new career paths for teachers. The aim is to keep the best teachers where they are most needed – in the classroom.

The Government will base its policy on the principle that wealth must be created before it can be shared. One of the Government’s priorities will therefore be to strengthen the competitiveness of Norwegian companies. Having a job to go to gives people opportunities for personal development, social contact and financial security. For the country it provides a more secure basis for financing the welfare state. A high level of employment is therefore an important goal.

The Government will work to increase employment levels among people with disabilities. The Government’s vision is a society where everyone can take part.

The Government will strengthen welfare-to-work schemes by increasing the requirements placed on people receiving benefits. It should pay to work.

The Government will seek to ensure a good, decent working life for all. Social dumping is not acceptable. The Government will attach importance to ensuring close cooperation with the social partners.

In the years to come, our society may again face economic challenges. The danger signs are there. Unemployment has increased over the last year. The competitiveness of Norwegian companies has declined. For years, there has been too little innovation and research activity. The value created per inhabitant in the mainland economy is hardly any higher than it was before the financial crisis.

The division of the Norwegian economy is an important challenge. In relation to the size of the Norwegian economy as a whole, investment in the mainland industries is now low.

The Government will pursue a policy that promotes continued high employment. The competitiveness of Norwegian companies must be strengthened. The Government will therefore develop infrastructure faster and reduce taxation. The Government will also reduce the red tape that companies have to deal with, and direct more attention to knowledge and research. This will give Norway more strings to its bow in economic terms, as well as a more secure society.

The Government will base its economic policy on the fiscal rule. The increased use of oil revenue is to be redirected to investments in knowledge and infrastructure as well as to tax relief to stimulate economic growth. Public spending will be adjusted to the economic situation within the framework of the fiscal rule.

The Government will attach importance to building up the country, with particular emphasis on investments in more modern infrastructure. New approaches will be taken in order to build roads faster and more efficiently than is the case today. Better roads will improve access, enhance competitiveness and increase traffic safety. Intensified efforts to improve the railways and other forms of public transport will reduce CO2 emissions, help to address challenges in the housing market, and give towns and cities room to grow. This will make daily life easier for many people. Our maritime traditions will be continued, for example by encouraging an increase in short sea shipping transport.

Publically financed welfare schemes and the principle of social responsibility will underpin the Government’s policy. The Norwegian welfare state has been built up over generations. The first cautious steps were taken in the 19th century, before most of today’s political parties had been formed. Since then, various schemes have been developed, strengthened and improved under different governments. The Government will continue this work.

The Government will give priority to improving care for the elderly and sick. Today, many people have to wait for an unnecessarily long time to receive healthcare, or are given inadequate care. As a result, health problems get worse. People have to take sick leave or fall out of working life altogether. This creates insecurity. The Government therefore wants the state to assume greater responsibility for ensuring a more rapid increase in care provision capacity. Improving the quality of care and raising activity levels of those receiving care are key goals. The last years of a person’s life should be meaningful, also for those who suffer from dementia or other health problems.

The Government will introduce free choice of healthcare provider in the health service. The aim is to reduce patient waiting time, and give patients greater freedom of choice. The Government will ensure good emergency and maternity services throughout the country. Hospitals must be equipped with ICT systems that facilitate effective electronic communication.

The Norwegian welfare state has many strengths. Most of us receive the help we need, when we need it. Nevertheless, there are still groups that are not sufficiently protected by the social safety net. The Government will therefore attach importance to strengthening the social safety net so that fewer fall through it. For too long, patients with mental health or substance abuse problems have not been given the priority they deserve. They need to be given access to better services. The needs of adults who lack basic skills need to be better assessed and met.

Society takes over responsibility for children when their families are no longer able to care for them themselves. This is one of our society’s strengths. However, we have not been able to provide children and young people in care or in residential treatment for substance abuse with the education they need in order to have equal opportunities. Many of them have been let down. The Government will intensify efforts to ensure that they are not let down again.

Many children grow up in poor families. These children are not responsible for the situation that their parents are in. Nevertheless, their childhood years and their opportunities will be affected. The Government will increase the requirements placed on welfare recipients with a view to lifting more people out of poverty and into work. It should be easier to move from social security to employment, and it should pay to work. The Government will increase the lump sum maternity and adoption grants, and will promote a fairer system for determining the fees paid by parents for child day care centres and the after-school care scheme. The result will be that more children will have access to important social arenas. One of the Government’s important goals will be to ensure that children who grow up in poor families have equal opportunities.

In this way, the Government will strengthen the social safety net.

The Government will pursue a strict, but fair, immigration and asylum policy. The Government will follow up the cooperation agreement between the four parties in this field. The Government will attach greater importance to expert assessments relating to children in asylum cases. The rules governing family immigration will be tightened up. At the same time, it will be possible to use discretion to a greater extent in cases that obviously do not entail forced marriage or couples that are unable to support themselves. Case management must be more efficient. The Government will work to ensure that people who are not entitled to reside in Norway and criminals who are foreigners are sent out of the country more quickly.

Integration policy should aim to ensure that immigrants feel they are part of Norwegian society. All Norwegian citizens are full members of society, with the duties and rights that entails. In its integration work, the Government will attach importance to Norwegian language learning and participation in the labour market. Legal residents should be properly followed up.

The Government will combat discrimination and injustice. The Government will work for the introduction of a universal anti-discrimination and equal opportunities legislation. All people should be treated as independent individuals and should not be held responsible for other peoples’ words and actions. In its gender equality policy, the Government will emphasise equal opportunities and individual freedom of choice.

The Government will base its policy on the general public’s need for security. Security in day-to-day life and better emergency preparedness will therefore be important priority areas. Individuals should be able to feel safe in and outside their homes. Basic staffing levels in the police must be increased in order to enhance operational capacity, crime prevention and local police presence.

The tragic events of 22 July 2011 have shown that emergency preparedness must be improved. The Government will take steps to ensure that Norway is better equipped to meet future crises. The Gjørv Commission’s report and the police analysis provide a good starting point for the work that needs to be done. The Government will improve coordination of emergency preparedness work and the ability to respond effectively.

The Government will base its policy on ensuring the best possible utilisation of our common resources. Our society has become too bureaucratic. And there is too much micromanagement. The Government will therefore focus on creating a simpler day-to-day life for the general public. Legislation will be reviewed with the aim of removing unnecessary prohibitions and requirements. We must base our society more on trust, and less on regulation, bureaucracy and control.

The Government will base its policy on stewardship and the precautionary principle. Climate change and poverty are major global challenges. With this in mind, a broad agreement on climate policy has been reached in the Storting. The Government will base its work on this agreement. At the same time, the four parties who signed the cooperation agreement following the election wanted to go further in several areas than the commitments made in the broad agreement on climate policy. The Government will take responsibility for safeguarding the planet for coming generations by contributing to the development of internationally binding agreements on emission reductions, and by investing in research into and development of new technology that can help us to realise a low-emission society. Research and innovation will be crucial in this context.

The Government will base its policy on international law, international solidarity and universal human rights. Norway has a duty to combat need and poverty in other parts of the world. The Government will maintain a high level of aid. At the same time, the Government will make some changes to development policy. Foreign policy, climate policy and trade policy must all pull in the same direction as development policy. There will be greater emphasis on geographical and thematic concentration and on achieving results. The success of development policy must be measured first and foremost in terms of the real development achieved. Democracy, the rule of law and human rights will be at the core of the Government’s foreign and development policy.

The Government will give particular priority to girls’ education. Together, the world community has made impressive progress in its efforts to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. Several targets have been met several years before the deadline. But not all of them. The way things look today, primary education for all will not be achieved by 2015. The positive trend up to 2008 has slowed down. Girls’ access to education has improved, but there is still a long way to go. Targeted efforts are needed to ensure equal opportunities for girls in many parts of the world. The Government will give priority to this work.

In our globalised world, everything that happens affects us. The tragic situation in Syria is a daily reminder of this fact. No one can stand on the side lines and claim to be untouched, even though Syria and other conflict areas are far away from Norway. All this affects us in different ways, and not least as fellow human beings. Humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees and neighbouring countries is important in this context.

The Government will strengthen and modernise the armed forces to ensure that they remain able to fulfil national tasks as well as make a useful contribution to international cooperation on peace and security. The Government will base its policy on binding international cooperation. Norway will play an active part in the UN, NATO and other international organisations. In terms of shared interests and values, Norway will continue to be closest to the Atlantic, European and Nordic communities. The Government will strengthen efforts to safeguard Norwegian interests in relation to the EU. The EEA Agreement and Norway’s other agreements with the EU will form the framework for our European policy.

Our High North policy will seek to promote activity and settlement in the north. Focus on business and infrastructure development will be important in this connection. Norwegian interests will be safeguarded through a clear national presence, and in accordance with the law of the sea. The Government will further develop cooperation with Russia and the other Arctic states. The Government will work to promote sustainable management of natural resources in the north. Pollution preparedness and response and search and rescue capabilities are to be strengthened.

Mr President,
There is much that is good in Norwegian society. The Government will build on this. Where the Government intends to introduce reforms, it is to further strengthen all that is good in Norwegian society and safeguard our fundamental values. The Government considers it important to introduce reforms gradually.

These reforms will also reflect the fact that the new political majority has other values and priorities. In particular, the Government will focus more on the generational perspective, show greater trust in the the Norwegian people, and strengthen the social safety net.

The Government will make better use of the huge assets our society has acquired from petroleum activities. We must seize this unique opportunity to create lasting wealth for today’s society and for generations to come. The Government will therefore invest more in knowledge, infrastructure and environmental technology, and will seek to enhance the competitiveness of mainland industries. The framework conditions for creating new jobs are to be improved.

The Government will base its policy to a greater degree on trust. Trust that individuals generally make sensible choices, so that there is less need for regulation. Trust that elected representatives want the best for their local communities, and thus can be given more authority and responsibility. Trust that culture and voluntarism will develop on their own terms in the best interests of society, without being instruments of the authorities. Trust that families can sit down at the kitchen table and decide themselves what suits them best, and that we don’t need to organise the details of their lives for them. Trust that private and voluntary actors in the fields of child welfare, health, rehabilitation, preparedness, and many others have good intentions, and that we can use all these forces for good in a joint effort to create a better society.

Norway is a small country. Many forces for good and important resources can be lost if we turn politics into a fight between the public, voluntary and private sectors that only one can win. All sectors have a great deal to contribute. If we can show that we trust one another and bring out the best in each other, we can – together – achieve great things, even though we are a small country.

The Government will strengthen the social safety net on a broad front. There are still too many who fall through, particularly people with complex needs who require services from different parts of the public administration. They often find that the services offered are fragmented and poorly coordinated. The situation is particularly challenging for groups of users where there are major individual differences between them, in areas such as mental health, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitation, child welfare, and adult literacy. A more varied range of services with greater freedom of choice will make it possible to help many more. Over the past few years, the range of services has been reduced as a result of the closure of a number of institutions. The Government will increase freedom of choice and help to ensure a more varied range of services. This will improve the situation for many different users.

The generational perspective, greater trust in the Norwegian people and a stronger social safety net will thus be at the heart of many of the Government’s reforms.

Mr President,

The Government will work together with Venstre and the Christian Democratic Party in the Storting to ensure that the new political majority is reflected in government policy.

The Government would also like to have a good relationship with the other parties. The parliamentary situation means that the Storting’s work will gain renewed interest. The political processes will be more open. It will be possible for the Standing Committees’ rounds of consultation to lead to real changes. More decisions will be taken in the public domain. This is good for our democracy.

The extensive four-party cooperation agreement is a new phenomenon in our political tradition. How this develops in practice will become clear in the time ahead, and the Government intends to do contribute constructively to a successful cooperation.

The Government will also invite the other parties in the Storting to enter into broad agreements in areas where it is important to establish a stable majority behind long-term solutions for Norwegian society. An example here is the local government reform that the Government wishes to implement.

Mr President,
The Government has set high goals. It will undertake its work with humility and an awareness of the responsibility that this entails. Our goal is a society, a world, with opportunities for all.