The speech from the throne by His Majesty The King on the occasion of the opening of the 157th session of the Storting

The Storting, 2 October 2012

Mr President, Representatives of the People,

I greet the Storting as it takes up its solemn responsibilities with the wish that the fulfilment of these duties will be of benefit to our country.

The Government’s aim is to ensure freedom and security for everyone in Norway, the freedom to live a meaningful life, and security as regards employment, personal finances and dependable welfare services. The Government's policies are based on the principle that a strong sense of community ensures the greatest possible individual freedom.

The Government will seek to ensure that our society is open, tolerant and diverse, and that people everywhere in Norway can develop their abilities, start up businesses and develop the country’s rich potential.

Europe is currently in the throes of economic instability, social unrest and high unemployment. While our neighbouring countries are struggling, Norway is experiencing low unemployment, innovative developments in the business sector and high labour market participation.

Social differences are small in Norway. We have confidence in one another and in our society. The Government will work to maintain these qualities.

The Government will secure jobs and healthy local communities. The Government will also invest in the future: in competent teachers, in research, in a public education system that covers the whole country. Norway is to be at the forefront in the field of environmental policy. The wealth Norway acquires from its oil and gas operations will continue to be used for the benefit of the whole population.

The Government will maintain the Norwegian welfare model, which combines equitable distribution of income, steady economic growth, high labour market participation, and macroeconomic stability. The work each person does helps to pay for our common welfare. Work also gives people economic independence. Ensuring employment for all is the most important means of preventing poverty.

The Government is following developments in the labour market closely, and will continue its efforts to prevent social dumping and unscrupulous practices. The Government will start a trial of a system that provides support for employers who take on employees with reduced work capacity.

The Government will present a bill on measures to prevent misuse of the welfare system.

The Government will maintain the long-term investment strategy for the Government Pension Fund Global, even in periods of turbulence in the financial markets. Broad agreement on the management of the Fund ensures stability and is thus a good starting point for ensuring that our petroleum revenues benefit future generations as well as our own. The Government will give an account of the Fund’s management in a white paper.

The Government will follow up the report of the 22 July Commission, and will present a white paper on this work. More and better training exercises will be held.  The Government has started work on the establishment of a new emergency management centre for the police in Oslo. The capacity of the Armed Forces to assist the police in emergencies will be enhanced. From January next year, the Armed Forces’ stand-by helicopter service at Rygge, south of Oslo, will be able to provide operational and law enforcement support to the police. The efforts to protect targets that may be particularly vulnerable to attack will be strengthened.

The Government will ensure good health services for all, and will follow up the reform to improve coordination in the health sector. The Government attaches importance to quality and patient safety in the health services, and will promote electronic coordination in this sector. The Government will present a white paper on these topics.  

Those in need of care services must be given the opportunity to master their daily lives, and should enjoy a good quality of life and feel secure. The Government will present a white paper on innovation and new technology in the care services. The Government will also draw up a new national cancer strategy.

The Government will continue to give high priority to education and research. This is crucial to secure our welfare society and ensure that we can deal with the major challenges we are facing at both national and global level. The Government will present a white paper on research, focusing particularly on the links between education, research and innovation in the business sector and society as a whole.

The Government has high ambitions for the Norwegian school system. Children are all different, and learn in different ways. Schools must therefore give all pupils opportunities to learn more. The Government will present a white paper on further efforts to improve primary education.

The Government will promote high quality in day care centres for children, and will present a white paper on future developments in this area.

The Government will further strengthen expertise and capacity in the municipal child welfare services, and aims to present a bill on amendments to the Child Welfare Act.

The Government will provide a good framework that enables local authorities to further develop their services and enhance the welfare of the population.

The Government will collaborate with the local authorities to expand housing construction, and will present a white paper on its housing policy.

The Government will present a white paper on regional policy, which will set out its policy for value creation and development throughout the country.

The Government will pursue an active business policy in all parts of the country, and will focus on areas where Norway is particularly well placed as regards value creation. The Government will present a new strategy for the mineral industry, and an action plan for culture and business. The Government will continue to develop the income and social welfare policy for the agricultural sector, and will examine how the principle of good marketing practices and the consumer interest can best be incorporated into legislation.

The Government will continue to reduce red tape with a view to reducing administrative costs for the business sector.

The Government will present a white paper on a Digital Agenda for Norway, which will examine how ICT can be used to promote growth and welfare.

The Government will present a white paper on opportunities for increasing value creation in the seafood industry along the coast through knowledge-based management and sustainable production methods.

The Government will present a white paper on an integrated management plan for the North Sea and Skagerrak. With this, the Government will have drawn up management plans for all Norway’s sea areas.

The Government will pursue a policy for sustainable development. Norway will be at the forefront of efforts to achieve an ambitious climate agreement that includes binding commitments for all countries.

The Government will present a white paper on the expected impacts of climate change for Norway and our policy for climate change adaptation and the challenges and opportunities involved.

The Government will continue to improve Norway’s flood and landslide risk management.

The Government will take a three-pronged approach in its petroleum policy: increasing recovery from existing fields and developing commercially viable discoveries; continuing exploration of opened areas; and completing the opening processes for Jan Mayen and the southeastern part of the Barents Sea.

The Government will continue to facilitate renewable energy development. Participation in the joint Norwegian–Swedish market for electricity certificates, our electricity grid policy and our proactive licensing policy will encourage the development of hydropower and wind power and enhance security of supply.

A well-functioning transport system is vital for increasing value creation, improving quality of life, and making use of the whole country. The Government will present a white paper on the National Transport Plan for the period 2014–23.

The Government aims to present a bill on amendments to the legislation on the planning and preparation of terrorist offences and on organised crime.

The Government will appoint a committee to examine the provisions of the Penal Code on criminal responsibility and the use of experts in criminal cases where there is uncertainty about whether the accused can be held criminally responsible.

In the field of immigration, the Government attaches importance to an effective return system that ensures due process. The Government’s aim is for persons who do not fulfil the conditions for residence in Norway to be returned promptly, preferably on a voluntary basis, but if necessary using coercive measures.

The objective of the Government’s integration policy is for immigrants and their children to enjoy equal opportunities, and to have the same rights and obligations as Norwegians in terms of participating in and contributing to working life and Norwegian society. The Government will present a white paper on integration.

The Government will continue its efforts to promote gender equality, and will present a white paper on equal opportunities.

The Government is implementing the Cultural Initiative. It is encouraging more people to take part in cultural activities and in voluntary clubs and associations.

The Government will complete the implementation of the agreement reached in the Storting on the relationship between church and state.

The Government is reviewing the skills and expertise situation in the defence sector, and will present a white paper on this matter. The Government will also continue the process of phasing in the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The main features of Norwegian foreign policy will remain unchanged, including our strong support for the UN and international law, our membership of NATO, the EEA Agreement and our status as a non-member of the EU. 

The High North will continue to be the Government’s most important strategic foreign policy priority. The Government will further develop Norway’s cooperation with Russia, and will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Barents Euro-Arctic Region in Kirkenes in June 2013.

The EU is Norway’s most important economic partner. The Government will pursue a proactive European policy and will work systematically to safeguard Norwegian interests vis-à-vis the EU. The Government will present a white paper on Norway’s cooperation with the EU.

The Government will present a white paper on democracy, equitable distribution and economic growth in developing countries

I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 157th session of the Storting to be open.

Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 28 September 2012

Under Our Hand and the Seal of the Realm