The speech from the throne by His Majesty The King on the occasion of the opening of the 160th session of the Storting

The Storting, October 2 2015

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.

Many people have come to Europe after fleeing their homes. Some of them have come to Norway in search of safety and freedom.

The Government will receive the refugees with decency and respect. The immigration authorities, voluntary organisations and individuals are all doing invaluable work.

A rapid increase in the number of asylum-seekers will be challenging for Norway, as it is for other countries. The Government has submitted a proposal for additional funding to deal with the situation, and requests that the Storting considers this proposal without delay.

The Government has taken the initiative for a donor conference to raise funds for the internally displaced in Syria and the refugees in the neighbouring areas. Inadequate access to food, education and basic health care services explains why so many people are risking their lives in fragile vessels at sea.

The Government will continue its efforts to save lives in the Mediterranean.

The situation requires joint European solutions. Norway is not a member of the EU, but part of the Schengen Agreement and the Dublin regulations. The Government is following deliberations in the EU closely, and we will participate in several of the initiatives that are now being launched. 

Norway will shoulder its part of the responsibility.

Throughout our history, many others have given us help when we have needed it. Now it is our turn to help people in need.

The security policy situation in Europe has changed. In the east, Russia’s violations of international law in Ukraine and its conduct elsewhere in the region have created uncertainty.

In the south, Europe’s security is being challenged by the deteriorating situation in the Middle East and North Africa.

Membership of NATO is the cornerstone of Norway’s security policy.

Our Armed Forces must be adapted to meet current threats and challenges. The Government will continue the work of increasing the Armed Forces’ operational capacity, and will present a new long-term defence plan.

Developments abroad influence the level and types of threats we are facing here in Norway.

The Government will work to strengthen security and emergency preparedness. We will increase the capacity and competence of the police. More training exercises will be held, and more personnel will be trained to deal with terrorism and other types of serious incidents.

Efforts to prevent and combat radicalisation and violent extremism will continue to be important.

Resolving the conflicts that force people to flee their homes is one of the greatest challenges facing us today. Other major challenges include fighting poverty and global climate change.

2015 is a turning point for global cooperation on climate change. The Government has raised its ambitions both nationally and internationally. Norway will do its part to help achieve a climate agreement in Paris that is as ambitious and effective as possible. 

It is work that has created our society.

It is our concerted work, and the work of the generations before us, that has created the society we are all proud of.

It is because such a large share of the population is employed that our society has the resources to support those who are unemployed. Through our work, we contribute to the greater good.

Work also makes it possible for individuals to realise their dreams and ensure security for their families, regardless of their backgrounds.

A high workforce participation rate and low unemployment rate is the foundation on which the Norwegian model is built.

This year marks 50 years since the start of Norway’s petroleum operations, which ushered in an era of growth and higher employment levels.

Large petroleum revenues combined with high productivity in the Norwegian mainland economy have enabled us to develop our social welfare system more than has been possible in other countries. We have also set aside funds for future generations.

Few other countries have had similar opportunities. And hardly any have managed to transform a temporary revenue stream into lasting wealth.

Since 2005, productivity has increased more slowly than we had become used to. At the same time, activities in the petroleum sector have driven up costs and crowded out less productive industries and jobs.

The petroleum sector will continue to be important. However, there are strong indications that industries outside the petroleum sector and new types of jobs will have to carry our society into the future. Conducive conditions must be provided for creating these new jobs in private enterprises in the tradable sector. This is the long-term adjustment we need to make.

In last year’s speech from the throne, the Government emphasised that failure to adapt in time will be the greatest threat to our social model.

Although much has been achieved, over time our society has not invested enough in infrastructure, knowledge, research and innovation.

The Government will give priority to measures that facilitate long-term adjustment.

The drop in oil prices means that this adjustment will have to take place more quickly than we had hoped.

More people are now experiencing job and income insecurity.

It is important that we deal with the long-term adjustment process and the short-term insecurity at the same time.

Measures to reduce unemployment in the short term may create more unemployment in the long term if workers are locked into their jobs and the necessary adjustments do not occur. However, measures to speed up the adjustment process may result in too many people being unemployed for too long.

The Government will pursue a policy that promotes value creation and low unemployment rates in both the short and the long term.

Being unemployed is a serious matter for the individual concerned. 

The relevant public services are prepared to help those who have lost their jobs in their transition to new jobs.

The situation for young people and other vulnerable groups is being closely monitored. Young people are given priority for participation in labour market programmes.

The years of adjustment ahead may be a demanding time.

However, we have a good starting point.

We have a well-educated population, a high level of technological expertise, equitable income distribution and abundant natural resources. Low interest rates and a weak currency are cushioning the impact of reduced activity in the petroleum sector. The social partners exercise social responsibility. The level of activity in the areas of infrastructure, research, education and innovation is being stepped up.

The budget for 2015 has given a substantial boost to the domestic demand for goods and services, thereby countering unemployment.

The Government will present a budget proposal for 2016 that promotes employment, economic activity and structural adjustment.

The tax system will be adapted to stimulate growth and value creation to a greater degree than previously.

Better infrastructure will mean lower costs for industry. The Government will seek to reduce the maintenance backlog and realise new infrastructure projects.

The Government wants Norwegian pupils to learn more at school. New national strategies for the sciences and for literacy have been designed to improve motivation, learning and results.

Work has begun on a white paper on life-long learning and those who have been left behind.

The Government will follow up the long-term plan for research and higher education.

Tertiary vocational education is important to meet the new requirements that are emerging in the labour market. The Government will present a white paper on vocational colleges.

The Government will present a bioeconomy strategy as part of the structural adjustment needed in the business sector, and part of the green shift in the economy.

The Government will promote value creation by simplifying the administration of uncultivated areas and giving the municipalities more responsibility.

Awarding licences for new areas within an environmentally sound framework will contribute to long-term value creation on the continental shelf.  

Development of the Johan Sverdrup field is one of the largest industrial projects ever undertaken in Norway. The field will provide substantial revenues and employment. 

The Government will present a white paper that takes an integrated approach to energy supplies, the challenges posed by climate change and business development.

The Government will strengthen the Green Fund for Climate, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Measures. Support for the development and deployment of new energy and climate technologies is intended to make it attractive to invest in Norway.

Creativity drives innovation. The Government will promote value creation and employment in the cultural and creative sector and the retention of more of the value chain in Norway.  

High value creation and high employment levels make it possible to continue developing our welfare schemes.

In the Government’s view, this is both necessary and possible.

There are still too many people whose needs are not being met by the social safety net. There are too many children without the security or the opportunities that most children enjoy. There are too many people waiting too long for essential health care. 

The Government will promote a number of steps to strengthen welfare schemes.

The Government will present a plan for stepping up efforts to combat substance abuse for the period 2016–20.

The Government intends to present a new dementia plan for the period up to 2020 by the end of the year.

The Government will establish a statutory right to round-the-clock care and conduct a pilot scheme for state financing of care services.

The Government will draw up a plan for a skills development programme for the municipal health and care services.

The Government will enhance the level of expertise in the mental health service by increasing the number of psychologists in municipalities.

The statutory right of patients to choose their healthcare provider will be implemented.

The Government will further develop its policy for the provision of assistive aids.

The Government will give vulnerable children more equal opportunities and follow up the strategy to combat child poverty.

In 2016, the Government will launch a pilot scheme involving increased municipal responsibility for child welfare services.

The Government will present a white paper on improving the day-to-day lives of children in foster care and of foster families.

The public sector has the primary responsibility, and there is much it can do.  

At the same time, the efforts of the voluntary sector are invaluable when it comes to reaching out to people who are lonely, helping newly arrived immigrants to integrate, giving children a better start and making the everyday lives of elderly people more meaningful.  

This huge voluntary effort – all that we do for our fellow human beings – is one of the finest aspects of our society.

The Government will support the voluntary sector in its efforts.

The Government looks forward to cooperating closely with the Storting.

In this session, the Government will place particular emphasis on maintaining a high level of employment and value creation, facilitating structural adjustment, strengthening the social safety net and ensuring that Norway takes its part of the responsibility for addressing the major global challenges. 

I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 160th session of the Storting to be open.

Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 25 September 2015

Under Our Hand and the Seal of the Realm

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