King Harald V of Norway

The Speech from the Throne by His Majesty the King on the Occasion of the Opening of the 151st Session of the Storting

The Storting, 2 October 2006

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.

Norway is a country of opportunity. We have long-established democratic traditions, abundant natural resources, well-developed public welfare services and a high level of education and expertise. Our ability to create wealth and distribute it equitably has made Norway one of the world’s best countries to live in.

Our economic prosperity is also giving us greater opportunities to contribute to international efforts to combat poverty and promote peace. Norway will have a clear profile as a nation of peace and an environmental nation. The Government will continue to work to strengthen the UN, for example by playing an active role in the reform efforts.

Norway’s oil and gas assets generate substantial revenues, but the management of these assets also entails great responsibility. It is essential that future generations are also able to benefit from our petroleum wealth. The Government will give high priority to the sound management of our common financial wealth and will follow up the ethical guidelines for the Government Pension Fund.

The main objectives of the Government’s economic policy are employment for all, equitable distribution and improved welfare schemes. All economic policy measures will be coordinated in the efforts to achieve these objectives.

The Government’s budget policy will be based on the fiscal rule for the use of petroleum revenues, with a view to ensuring stable economic development in both the short and the long term. Our tax system will generate stable revenues for society, at the same time as it helps to achieve an equitable distribution of income, has a positive impact on the environment and leads to a high level of value creation throughout the country.

The labour force is our most important resource. We must create the conditions necessary to enable as many people as possible to make use of their abilities and participate in working life. Achieving a high level of labour force participation and reducing poverty require a labour market policy that also includes people with reduced work capacity or with weak attachment to the labour market. The Government will present a white paper on employment, welfare and inclusion, and an action plan for combating poverty.

In order to get more people into jobs or other activities and reduce the number of people on benefits, a new integrated and user-oriented labour and welfare service is being set up. Local labour and welfare service offices will be established in all municipalities in Norway by 2010.

The Government will continue its cooperation with the social partners. Moderate wage settlements are necessary to maintain the competitiveness of the internationally exposed sectors of the economy and low unemployment rates. Another objective is to ensure a labour market with well-regulated pay and working conditions, and to prevent social dumping.

The Government is seeking to create an inclusive society that is free of racism. Labour force participation is essential for successful integration. The Government will present a separate action plan on integration and inclusion of immigrants. It will also present a bill for a new immigration act. The purpose of the new act will be to facilitate controlled and socially beneficial immigration.

The Government will put the whole country to use, and will work to maintain the main features of the current settlement pattern. In the autumn of 2006 it will present a white paper on public administration reform. The purpose is to strengthen our democracy and make the best possible use of local and regional strengths for the benefit of society as a whole. The Government will also present a white paper on the development of the Oslo area.

The Government’s aim is a strong, efficient public sector that provides the population with high-quality welfare services. Sound municipal finances are an important foundation for a good welfare society. The Government therefore intends to maintain the high level of revenue in the municipal sector in 2007.

The Government will work to provide full day-care coverage by the end of 2007. The aim is to make high-quality, reasonably priced day-care places available to everybody who wants one.

The Government is working to strengthen the state school system and will propose amendments to the Private Education Act in spring 2007.

The Knowledge Promotion Reform, which will be implemented over a three-year period beginning in the autumn of 2006, will lead to a number of changes in the substance, structure and organisation of primary and secondary education.

The Government will follow up the evaluation of the quality reform of higher education in Norway, which will be completed at the turn of the year 2006-2007.

The Government will present a white paper on education and social cohesion.

Research efforts will be intensified. The Government will put forward a proposal regarding Norwegian participation in the EU’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technology.

The Government will present a national health plan for the period 2007-2010. The hospital services offered to patients will be further developed and improved through increased user participation. The escalation plan for mental health services will be followed up. The assistance provided to substance abusers will be increased and better coordinated. The goal of an additional 10 000 man-years in the care sector will be followed-up by improving municipal finances.

A white paper on dental care services will be presented, in which patient’s rights and publicly funded dental treatment will be key topics.

In the spring of 2007 the Government will present a white paper outlining a strategy for reducing social disparities in health care.

The Government will intensify the efforts to combat forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

The Government is taking a resolute line on fighting crime. The position of victims will strengthened. A pilot project for electronic tagging of perpetrators of violence and threats will be carried out. The Government will increase capacity in the prison and probation service and will submit a bill proposing statutory amendments designed to eliminate the queue of persons waiting to serve their sentence and improve the activities and programmes for inmates.**

Norway will contribute to fighting terrorism and organised crime, both nationally and internationally. A number of exercised are planned for 2007.

The Government will encourage a diversity of cultural activities and artistic expression. The efforts to improve the framework conditions for the voluntary sector will be continued.

The Government will continue implementing the policy aims set out in the white paper on cultural policy. A bill for a separate act on culture will be put forward with a view to strengthening the position of culture in society.

The Government plans to carry out a broad-based public consultation on the relationship between the State and the Church of Norway. If changes are to be made to the present model, the aim is to obtain the widest possible backing in the Storting for the decision.

The Government wishes to facilitate the development of new, profitable business ventures and will present a white paper on public corporate governance. By exercising active ownership the State intends to play a role in ensuring that companies are managed and developed in a way that is beneficial to society.

The Government will work to maintain a viable agricultural sector in all parts of the country, ensure that income development and social conditions for the agricultural sector are in line with those in other sectors and pursue a policy of strong import protection for domestic agricultural production. The aim is to ensure that all food that is produced or imported is safe.

Clean seas and healthy marine resources are essential if we are to maintain viable coastal communities. Top priority will be given to preventing illegal fishing in the Barents Sea. The Government will work to ensure sustainable fish farming and resource management.

Transport and communications are an important element of the Government’s private sector policy and are vital to maintaining viable rural areas. The Government will propose a significant increase in construction and maintenance of the road and railway network.

The Government will present a white paper on information and communications technologies. One of the Government’s aims is to provide broadband access to everyone who is interested.

The Government attaches great importance to developing a more secure and varied supply of energy. The use of renewable energy and natural gas will be increased.

The Government will pursue a proactive environmental policy based on the principle of sustainable development. High priority will be given to the efforts to achieve a more comprehensive and ambitious climate agreement when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires.

This autumn the Government will present a white paper on hazardous substances containing proposals for the introduction new, more stringent measures.

The Government will continue to pursue a proactive policy to restrict construction less than 100 metres from the shoreline and to improve public access to the shore.

The Government’s goal for the petroleum sector is to ensure that resource management and wealth creation on the Norwegian continental shelf have a long-term perspective and take place within an environmentally sound framework and in coexistence with other industries. Ensuring the sustainable development and exploitation of the petroleum resources in the Barents Sea in cooperation with Russia is of key importance.

The High North is a strategic priority area for the Government. Our strategy for the High North will be based on knowledge development, sound use of resources and an active presence. The Government will further develop cooperation with Russia, the US and other key Western countries within the framework of the High North dialogues.

The Government will continue to work actively in the UN and NATO, which are the mainstays of Norway’s foreign policy.

The UN’s crisis management capability must be strengthened, and Norway will contribute to this process by providing military and civilian resources. Our participation in international operations is both an expression of international solidarity and a means of enhancing Norway’s security. Norway will maintain its commitment in Afghanistan.

The Government will continue to restructure and develop the Norwegian Defence to make it better adapted to meet new security challenges and to strengthen its capacity to exercise sovereignty and public authority in the North. The Government has appointed a broad-based defence policy committee to prepare the basis for a new long-term plan.

The Government will continue its efforts to promote nuclear disarmament and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The Government will pursue an active European policy and continue Norway’s close cooperation with the EU, based on a more active follow-up of the EEA Agreement.

It is in the interests of Norway and the international community to further develop an open, rules-based and fair trading system. The Government will work for the resumption of the negotiations on a new WTO agreement. The Government will also intensify efforts in connection with EFTA free trade agreements.

The Government will strengthen Norway’s development cooperation with other countries and do more to fight world poverty. In particular Norway will give priority to efforts to improve the situation of women, and promote environmental protection, peace and the equitable management of natural resources. Our commitment to providing vaccines to the world’s children will be strengthened.

The Government will take the lead in efforts to liquidate the outstanding debts of the poorest countries.

I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 151st session of the Norwegian Storting to be open.

Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 29 September 2006