Speech/statement | Date: 03/10/2022 | Office of the Prime Minister
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.
We are gathering at a time of uncertainty: There is war in Europe, there is widespread drought and flooding caused by climate change, and there are rising prices, increasing interest rates and an acute energy crisis in large parts of the world.
Norway is not shielded from what is happening in the rest of the world and Europe. Our security policy situation has changed dramatically since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and we are feeling the effects of the energy shortage and soaring prices.
We can surmount these challenges. If we stand together. If we work together with our allies and partners in the international community. And if we take the right decisions.
Because, the decisions we take now, during this period of turbulence, could determine what our country looks like, not just this year and next year, but for decades to come.
We must make the right decisions to safeguard our common values, promote peace and solidarity across the world and contribute to a peaceful Europe. To continue to be a world-leading energy nation and contribute to emission cuts.
And to be able to emerge from this period with and still maintain a strong sense of community, still seeking to reduce social and geographical inequalities, and to foster the high level of trust we have in one another, on which we depend on.
We must further develop a strong welfare state that is a safety net for all of us, a secure labour market that offers people opportunities, and policies that promote activity, development and growth throughout our country. And we must safeguard Norway by strengthening our Armed Forces and improving civil emergency preparedness.
There is a high level of activity in the Norwegian economy. Never before have so many people been in work, and unemployment is at a historically low level.
Many of those who have been outside the labour market for a long time are now in employment. This is good, not just for the individuals concerned, but also for society as a whole.
At the same time, a shortage of labour is a challenge in many branches. Employers are having to offer more to recruit people. Wages and prices can drive each other up.
The Government is seeking to prevent a sharper economic downturn in the future by pursuing a responsible economic policy and reducing the use of oil revenues. This is crucial to help those who have taken out loans to meet their loan payments, and to enable people who have now found work to keep their jobs.
Responsible economic management is essential to facilitate the development of a diverse business sector.
The Government aims to enable more people who are currently outside the labour market to find employment. The Government will, among other things, propose a new and enhanced youth guarantee and will make it easier to combine receiving benefits with paid work.
The Government will ensure that workers have more power over their daily lives, and will combat social dumping and work-related crime. The Government will continue to promote workers’ rights, increase diversity in the labour market and strengthen the organised labour market.
The Government has initiated a long-term change of course in regional policy. Work is well under way on a new white paper on regional policy, to be presented in the spring.
The Government will take steps to enable people to settle and lead good lives throughout the country, by ensuring the delivery of high-quality services to all and pursuing a dynamic business and skills policy that takes full advantage of the various opportunities to be found in the respective geographical regions.
The Government will strengthen the framework for Norwegian food production. The aquaculture, fisheries and agricultural sectors ensure food preparedness and have significant ripple effects.
Ensuring good living conditions and childhood environments is a priority for the Government. The Government has introduced a separate funding allocation for primary and lower secondary schools to counter the trend of school centralisation.
State-supported urban development initiatives in the major cities are part of the Government’s efforts to reduce inequalities.
The Government will pursue a proactive equality and diversity policy with the aim of ensuring that everyone can live safely and freely, irrespective of their background, functional ability, gender or sexual orientation. This work has become even more crucial in the wake of the attack during the Pride festival this summer.
The Government will strengthen universal welfare services for children and young people and will work to combat poverty, particularly poverty affecting families with children.
The Government’s goal is for all children to thrive, learn and develop at school and in day care. The Government will therefore continue to work to ensure that staff have the necessary skills and expertise, and that they have enough time for each child. One of the Government’s aims is for all those who start upper secondary education to complete their schooling and gain the qualifications they need to take up an apprenticeship, find employment or pursue further studies.
The Government will reverse the negative trend and work to promote a well-functioning general practitioner (GP) scheme and good accident and emergency health services in all parts of the country. Follow-up by the same GP is important to provide high-quality patient care and achieve more effective use of health services.
The Government will continue to give priority to measures that can make ordinary people’s everyday lives easier. The current high level of inflation is having an uneven impact and is hitting the poorer segments of society hardest. The tax system must contribute to more equitable distribution of social and economic goods.
The country is contending with very high electricity prices and an uncertain power situation. The Government has introduced a number of measures to reduce household electricity costs and to help the agricultural, voluntary and private sectors. The Government will continue to take steps to safeguard security of electricity supply.
The Government has also commissioned a number of reports to follow up the electricity situation and reduce the risk of similar situations arising in the years ahead. Access to clean and affordable energy must be of benefit to individuals and companies in Norway in the future as well.
The Government will give priority to accelerating renewable energy and industrial development that reduces emissions. The plans for this have been presented in a roadmap for boosting green industry. Under this initiative, the Government will facilitate the creation of new viable jobs, deliver cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and increase exports from all parts of the country.
The Government has already announced higher ambitions for Norwegian climate policy by setting an enhanced climate target for transforming the entire economy by 2030, and will gradually increase the carbon tax rate. Norway’s emissions are decreasing, but this needs to happen more rapidly.
Norway will continue to be a stable, long-term supplier of oil and gas to Europe. This is not just a matter of our own economic interests; it is a matter of European security and stability, and thus also of our national security and stability.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to growing shortages of food and energy. The Government will continue to contribute efforts to alleviate acute need and to enable poor countries to provide for their own populations in the longer term.
The Government will continue to support Ukraine in exercising its legitimate right to defend itself against Russia’s invasion. Municipalities, the voluntary sector and local communities all over the country will be supported in their efforts to ensure a dignified and efficient reception process for Ukrainians seeking refuge in Norway.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a watershed moment in European history. Rarely have we been so keenly aware of the importance of our NATO membership, our close cooperation with the US, and our Nordic cooperation, which will be strengthened by the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. The Government will continue to give priority to cooperation within the Alliance and to strengthening Norway’s national defence capabilities.
The war is a reminder that fundamental values are under pressure across the world. And it is a reminder of our collective responsibility to protect and strengthen democracy.
The Government looks forward to fruitful cooperation with the Storting in these challenging times.
I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 167th session of the Storting to be open.
Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 23 September 2022
Under Our Hand and the Seal of the Realm