King Harald V of Norway

The Speech from the Throne by His Majesty the King on the Occasion of the Opening of the 153rd session of the Storting

The Storting, 2 October 2008

Translation from the Norwegian 

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.

The Government’s goal is to set a new course for Norway. We must address the major tasks we are facing together, as a community. Everyone must have the opportunity to contribute to value creation in our country, and goods should be distributed equitably. Step by step, the Government will seek to renew and improve our welfare society by cultivating diversity and recognising the potential of each individual human being. Our diversity means that together we are stronger. Everyone must have the opportunity to participate in society, contributing whatever resources they have. The Government will preserve the Norwegian welfare model.

Norway must to be a nation of peace and an environmental nation. We must make use of the opportunities available to us to combat poverty and promote peace.

The Norwegian economy and the Norwegian welfare model are facing great challenges because of the ageing population, globalisation and transboundary environmental problems. The Government will discuss the foundations for sustainable economic development in its white paper on the perspectives for the Norwegian economy, which will be presented this autumn.

Norway is to be in the forefront of efforts to promote sustainable development. The Government will follow up the Action Plan for Sustainable Development.

Norway’s oil and gas assets provide great opportunities, not only for us, but also for those who come after us. The purpose of the Government Pension Fund is to ensure that future generations are also able to benefit from these assets. In spring 2009 the Government will present an evaluation of the Fund’s ethical guidelines to the Storting.

One of the Government’s main goals is to facilitate universal employment, provide a good working environment, prevent social dumping and ensure a labour market with well-regulated pay and working conditions. The Government will continue its cooperation with the social partners. This is an important element of the Norwegian welfare model.

The Government aims to present a bill on old age pensions under the National Insurance Scheme to the Storting this autumn. It further aims to present a proposition to the Odelsting in spring 2009 on the introduction of a new disability benefit and the calculation of old age pensions for disabled persons. The Government will further increase minimum pensions.

There is still a need to improve the quality of day-care centres, schools and nursing and care services. The Government will continue to improve municipal finances, so that the municipalities can improve the services they offer their inhabitants. The Government will assist the municipalities in their restructuring and reform efforts.

In 2009 the changes in the municipal revenue system will be implemented. This will help to achieve a more even and equitable distribution of income among municipalities. The Government will present a white paper on regional policy.

The Government will take steps to make it even easier to participate in the next parliamentary election. Polling stations will be allowed to stay open longer, the criteria for being allowed to hold elections over two days will be less stringent, and opportunities for absentee voting will be improved.

The Government will present a white paper on administrative policy, focusing on the government administration’s role in public sector reform.

The Government will continue efforts to provide user-friendly e-government services that are open 24 hours a day and offer satisfactory self-service solutions.

Fighting poverty is an important priority for the Government. Many people have a hard time paying their rent or mortgage. The Government will therefore present a white paper on housing benefits, and will continue efforts to combat homelessness.

The number of day-care places has been increased substantially so far in this parliamentary period, but it is also important to ensure that day-care services are of high quality. The Government will present a white paper on the quality and content of day-care services. The right of all children in Norway to day-care services will be introduced in 2009.

Good teachers are essential in order to improve schools. The Government will seek to raise the status of the teaching profession and further improve teachers’ training so that it is well adapted to the needs of teachers in primary education. The Government will therefore present a white paper on the role of the teacher and teachers’ training. It will improve learning conditions in schools and focus on the quality of the teaching.

The parties to the agreement on climate policy have undertaken to give a major boost to climate-related research, and in 2009 designated research centres will be engaged in research on the threat of climate change. Their task will be to provide the knowledge basis required to meet this threat.

The Government will intensify its efforts aimed at the elderly and people in need of care by providing better housing alternatives and more staff, and by improving the quality of the care offered to dementia patients.

The Government will continue to improve the financial situation of the hospitals, and seek to ensure high-quality health and care services based on user participation. The Government will start work on a reform to improve coordination between the different actors in the health sector in order to provide better and more integrated health services to the patients.

The efforts to improve the mental health sector will continue, and the Government will give priority to vulnerable groups such as children and young people, the elderly and people with particularly complex needs.

The Government will propose legislative amendments designed to ensure that the health sector adequately follows up children of parents who are mentally ill or have a substance abuse problem.

The Government will develop an action plan for crime prevention.

The Government will present a proposition to the Odelsting with proposals for the final part of the new Penal Code, which will contain the specific penal provisions.

A new white paper on Svalbard will be presented in spring 2009.

A new white paper on men, male roles and gender equality will also be presented.

The Government will hold a public consultation on a proposal to incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into the Human Rights Act.

The Government’s efforts in the cultural area are at an all-time high. Cultural activities and voluntary work are being actively facilitated in all parts of the country in line with the Government’ Cultural Initiative.

The Government will follow up on the agreement reached in the Storting on the relationship between church and state, for example by strengthening democracy within the Church of Norway.

The Government will continue its efforts to pursue a humane asylum and refugee policy. It aims to reduce the processing time for cases dealt with by the immigration administration and make the return of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected more efficient. The Government will continue efforts to facilitate more rapid integration into working life and Norwegian society of refugees who are granted residence and are to be settled in Norway.

Wealth must be created before it can be shared. The Government will present a white paper on innovation.

The Government expects companies in which the state has an ownership share to be leaders in the area of social corporate responsibility. The Government will follow up this issue by means of an ongoing dialogue with such companies.

The Government will seek to maintain a viable agricultural sector in all parts of the country. The Government wishes to ensure that income development and social conditions in the agricultural sector are in line with those in other sectors, and that there is strong import protection for domestic agricultural production.

Clean seas and healthy marine resources are essential if we are to maintain viable coastal communities and secure the production of healthy, safe seafood products for markets round the world. The Government will ensure sustainable growth in the aquaculture sector and sound management of wild marine resources. The prevention of illegal fishing in the Barents Sea will continue to be given high priority.

A well-functioning transport system is an important welfare good, and is crucial for ensuring the competitiveness of the business sector. The Government will present a white paper on the National Transport Plan for the period 2010–2019. The plan will address the major challenges facing our transport sector and will help to provide efficient, safe and environment-friendly transport in all parts of the country.

In spring 2009, the Government will present a white paper on integrated management of the Norwegian Sea. As did the integrated management plan for the Barents Sea and the sea areas off the Lofoten Islands, it will set out a framework for activities in the sea areas concerned, so that the overall pressure on the environment does not exceed an ecologically acceptable level.

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 cooperation with other industries.

Norway is at the forefront in the field of carbon capture and storage. This technology will be one of the most important tools in the fight against global warming. The goal is to further develop Norwegian expertise and technology, so that Norway can become a leading nation in this field.

Norway will take an active part in the efforts to conclude an ambitious international post-Kyoto climate agreement in Copenhagen in 2009. Greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation of rainforests account for nearly 20% of annual global emissions. The Government will therefore participate in efforts to halt deforestation in tropical areas.

Measures to develop and modernise the Norwegian Defence are being implemented according to the long-term plan for the Norwegian Defence that was debated by the Storting in June.

The Government will particularly seek to enhance Norway’s operational capacity and presence in the High North. The Government will seek to focus the attention of our allies and close partners on the challenges in our neighbouring areas. The Government will continue to promote closer defence policy cooperation between the Nordic countries.

The Government will continue to strengthen Norway’s ability to participate in operations abroad. Afghanistan will remain the main priority area. The Government has, together with the other Nordic countries, begun to consider a new, joint contribution to a UN-led operation in Africa.

The Government will present a proposition to the Storting on the purchase of new combat aircraft.

The Government will continue Norway’s active participation in the UN and NATO, and in Nordic foreign and security policy cooperation. Norway stresses the importance of using peaceful means to resolve conflicts in Europe and deplores any attempt to redraw borders by means of military force.

In the north the Government will continue its broad, long-term efforts in line with the goals set out in the High North strategy. Knowledge is at the heart of this strategy. The Government will also stimulate onshore value creation by developing the potential of the High North as regards tourism and technologies adapted to the Arctic climate. Cooperation with Russia will be given high priority. Energy and climate issues will be key topics in our dialogue with other countries and in the Arctic Council.

The Government will present a white paper on foreign policy.

The field of development assistance is changing. The Government will present a white paper on Norway’s overall development policy. The white paper will explore the importance of environmental issues in development policy and the effect of climate change and wars and conflicts as obstacles to development.

The Government will pursue a proactive European policy that safeguards Norway’s interests in close consultation with EU institutions and member states. The work programmes on EEA matters, on justice and home affairs and on foreign and security policy will provide guidelines for our cooperation with the EU.

The Government will continue Norway’s active engagement in the World Trade Organization (WTO) with a view to concluding an agreement that safeguards both Norway’s interests and those of developing countries.

There has lately been great unrest in the international financial markets, and this has to some extent also affected Norway. Norway is well prepared to deal with situations of this kind. We have attached importance to developing effective, modern and comprehensive regulatory mechanisms for all parts of the financial sector. Furthermore, our economic policy framework stresses the importance of stable economic development. The Government will closely follow the international financial turbulence.

I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 153rd session of the Norwegian Storting to be open.

Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 26 September 2008