Speech/statement | Date: 23/10/2007 | Office of the Prime Minister
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. People are our most important resource. Good opportunities for everyone to participate in society and working life, our high level of education and our natural resources mean that we have ample opportunities for further development.
The Government will strengthen, renew and develop the sense of community among Norwegians. Our vision is for Norway to become the world’s most inclusive society, a society where no one is left out. The Government will provide a framework for creativity and sharing, enabling people to live a good and fulfilling life in all parts of the country.
According to the UN, Norway is one of the best countries in the world to live in. This privileged position entails responsibility. It means that we should make use of the plentiful opportunities available to us to contribute to international efforts to combat poverty and create a more peaceful world. Norway must be a nation of peace and an environmental nation.
The objectives of the Government’s economic policy are universal employment, sustainable development, more equitable distribution and improved social welfare schemes. Our budget policy should ensure stable economic development in both the short and the long term. The Government’s budget policy will therefore be based on the fiscal rule for the use of petroleum revenues.
Norway’s oil and gas assets generate substantial revenues. The Government Pension Fund is growing rapidly and will ensure that future generations are also able to benefit from our petroleum wealth. The Government attaches great importance to ethically sound management of the Fund.
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 in mainland Norway and low unemployment rates. Another objective is to ensure a labour market with well-regulated pay and working conditions, and to prevent social dumping.
In spring 2008, the Government will present a white paper on labour immigration.
Efforts to combat racism and discrimination will be given high priority, and in spring 2008 the Government intends to put forward a proposal for a new act prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities.
The Government will present a white paper on Sami policy.
The Government will continue to improve municipal finances, so that the municipalities can improve day-care centre provision, schools and nursing and care services. A proposal for a new municipal revenue system will be put forward in the 2009 proposition to the Storting on local government. The Government will also present a white paper on local democracy in spring 2008.
The Government will present a proposition on public administration reform to the Storting, which will include a discussion of the tasks that will be transferred to the new regions.
In 2008, the Government will introduce a support scheme for newly-established companies with growth potential in rural areas, and will in the course of 2008 establish a resource centre for regional development.
The Government will put forward a proposal for a new Planning and Building Act. The proposal will include a stricter inspection and enforcement regime for building matters and stricter requirements for universal design.
The Government will facilitate the establishment of day-care places for all those who want them in 2008. The Government’s goal is full day-care coverage of high quality at a reasonable price. The Government also intends to propose changes in the overall objective of day-care centres and primary and lower secondary education in spring 2008.
To strengthen primary and lower secondary education, the Government will lengthen the school week by five lessons for the first four grades. The Government will present a white paper on the status of languages in primary and lower secondary education.
In autumn 2007, the Government will present a white paper on the evaluation of the quality reform of higher education in Norway. It will also present a white paper on the internationalisation of education at upper secondary level and beyond.
In the course of 2008, the Government will present a white paper on the university museums, which will discuss the museums’ roles and responsibilities as regards research, management of collections and education of the public.
One of the Government’s objectives is to strengthen the research sector. Recruiting and training competent researchers is an essential step in this regard. The Government will present a white paper on the recruitment of researchers in spring 2008.
The Government will continue to improve the financial situation of the hospitals. Waiting times are to be kept down. Steps will be taken to ensure the necessary renovation of buildings and upgrading of equipment.
The Government is following up the proposals of the white paper on Care Plan 2015, which focuses on expertise, recruitment, quality and research. The Government proposes building 12 000 new nursing home places and sheltered housing units by 2015.
The reform of the administrative and legislative framework relating to substance abuse has been evaluated, and the findings show that help to substance abusers has been improved. The Government will draw up a plan for stepping up efforts in this field.
The escalation plan for mental health services will be followed up in 2008. Priority will be given to mental health services for children and young people.
The Government will put forward a national strategy for rehabilitation of persons with chronic or long-term illnesses.
The Government is pursuing an active and coherent policy for fighting crime. The Government’s goal is more effective prevention, a higher clear-up rate, faster reaction times and better rehabilitation.
The Government will continue its efforts to fight gang crime. Recruitment to gangs and gang activity will be reduced. The proceeds of criminal activity will be confiscated. Crime will not pay.
Violence within the home is a public matter. The police and the legal system will intensify their efforts to combat violence against women and children. The Government will draw up a new action plan against violence in close relationships.
The Government will present a new white paper on the prison and probation service. The Government has made a great deal of progress in reducing the queue of people waiting to serve their sentences, and will intensify the efforts to eliminate it completely.
The Government will put forward a bill for a Marriage Act that applies equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
The Government will present a white paper on men, male gender roles and gender equality, which will emphasise the importance of including boys and men in future gender equality efforts.
The Government will present an action plan to combat female genital mutilation and intensify efforts to prevent forced marriages.
The Government will complete implementation of the policy aims set out in the white paper on cultural policy. 2008 is to be celebrated as Norway’s Year of Cultural Diversity, with the aim of highlighting Norway’s cultural diversity and promoting intercultural understanding.
The Government will present a white paper on the State and the Church of Norway.
The development of new, profitable business activities is important for maintaining today’s welfare society. The Government will facilitate business development and innovation in the Norwegian business sector. The Government will present a white paper on innovation policy in 2008.
Norway will take part in the EU’s new Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme for the period 2007–2013.
The Government will establish a public investment fund to promote the commercialisation of innovations. Environmental technology will be one of its priority areas.
The Government will present a maritime strategy and a national strategy for travel and tourism.
The Government will seek to maintain a viable agricultural sector with a variety of types of holdings in all parts of the country. The Government wishes to ensure that income development and social conditions for 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. The Government will ensure sustainable aquaculture and resource management. The prevention of illegal fishing in the Barents Sea will be given high priority.
The emphasis on developing a modern road infrastructure will be continued. The Government will promote environmentally friendly forms of transport, and will modernise the railways to make rail transport more competitive.
The Government will continue the efforts to provide broadband access throughout the country.
The provision of user-friendly eGovernment services that are open 24 hours a day and offer satisfactory self-service solutions is a key element of the Government’s efforts to reform the public sector. The Government will put forward a bill requiring all new ICT services for the public to follow the principles of universal design.
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.
The Government is continuing efforts to establish full-scale carbon capture and storage facilities and is providing funding towards this. The goal is to further develop Norwegian expertise and technology, so that Norway can become a leading nation in this field.
Norway will play a leading role as regards climate policy. Our climate targets are very ambitious, and Norway will act as a driving force in the efforts to develop a new, more comprehensive and ambitious international agreement to follow on from the Kyoto Protocol.
The Government will pursue an active and open European policy that highlights and safeguards Norwegian interests. Energy and climate issues will be a key element of the dialogue with our Nordic neighbours and EU member states.
The Government will continue Norway’s active engagement in the UN and NATO, which will continue to be the most important institutions for Norwegian foreign and security policy.
The Government is continuing to develop and modernise the Norwegian Defence so that structures, expertise and capacity are better adapted to the security challenges Norway is facing. In this connection, the Government will put forward a proposal for a new long-term plan for the Norwegian Defence in spring 2008.
The Government will continue to give priority to maintaining a military presence in the High North. It will also continue steps to enhance Norway’s ability to take part in international operations and multinational rapid reaction forces, among other things by strengthening the Army in 2008.
The Government will present a white paper on social responsibility and international activities and initiatives. It will deal with the conduct of Norwegian business and industry abroad and the role of the authorities as regards corporate social responsibility.
Efforts to promote nuclear disarmament and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction will be given high priority. The Government will present a white paper on Norway’s disarmament efforts in the course of this parliamentary period.
One of the Government’s main priorities will be implementation of the goals set out in the High North strategy. Cooperation with Russia, particularly on environmental, energy, business and High North issues, will continue to receive high priority. Local cross-border cooperation will be particularly important.
The Government will present a white paper on Norwegian efforts to prevent humanitarian disasters in the light of the threats posed by climate and environmental change, population growth, migration and urbanisation, and the rising number of vulnerable states.
The Government will present a white paper on Norway’s efforts for women and gender equality in development cooperation.
The Government will continue its commitment to providing vaccines for the world’s children.
I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 152nd session of the Norwegian Storting to be open.