Speech/statement | Date: 11/05/2017
By Former Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen (Oslo Militære Samfund, 11 May)
Minister of EEA and EU Affairs, Frank Bakke-Jensen's statement at the Erasmus program's 30th anniversary and the celebration of the Europe Day by the Delegation of the EU to Norway.
Check against delivery
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear fellow Europeans!
I would like to thank Helen for inviting me to this celebration of Europe Day 2017.
Celebration - Europe!
These are two words I think we should put together far more often.
And it seems very fitting that we should celebrate Europe and the visionary declaration made by French foreign minister Schuman in 1950 on the ninth of May, on the day after we mark the end of the Second World War.
This year in particular gives us many chances for celebration.
The EU has celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the Rome Treaty.
We in Norway last week celebrated the 25th anniversary of the EEA agreement.
These celebrations are a way of reminding ourselves of how Europe transforms people's lives for the better.
Through building inclusive and peaceful prosperity out of the ashes of war. Or more recently in the case of the central and eastern part of Europe: out of the despair and oppression left by the cold war.
In fact, one of the best images of how Europe transforms our lives is another anniversary: The Erasmus program.
This program for mobility for students and young people across the continent was started 30 years ago. Thanks to Erasmus and Erasmus Plus, more than thirty thousand Norwegian students have spent a semester at a European university since 1992.
The total impact is even much larger: overall, more than eighty thousand Norwegians have participated in some kind of exchange program under Erasmus.
In Norway, Erasmus is co-ordinated by the Centre for International Co-operation in Education (SIU), and the Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) which are both represented here.
I know from my own daughter of 21 years how studying in another country broadens the horizon, and opens up new opportunities.
The photo competition we see the results of here today is a wonderful illustration of how Erasmus affects and connects people.
In a wider European context, nine million people have travelled and lived abroad under the Erasmus umbrella.
I understand many of you here in the audience also have your personal story to tell about Erasmus.
In Norway the EEA agreement is the underpinning of our relations with the European Union, including Erasmus.
For me it is crucial to defend and promote all the positive aspects of this agreement, beyond a very important market access.
Likewise, I believe in highlighting how European co-operation evolves for the better. Sometimes in a very concrete manner: like when every tourist this summer will find that - thanks to the EU - there are no more roaming costs when going for a holiday within the European Economic Area.
For some of you here today, the Erasmus experience may be something you are still looking forward to.
I hope you will in the future stand up for close relations with our European neighbors.
And that when you return home you will bring ideas on how we can cooperate even closer in Europe.
I wish you the best of luck!
And belatedly to everyone: Happy Europe Day!