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Statement when lighting a Christmas tree in London

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms Anniken Huitfeldt's statement when she lighted the Christmas tree in London together with her british colleague James Cleverly.

Utenriksministrene Anniken Huitfeldt og James Cleverly. Foto: Tuva Bogsnes, UD
Utenriksministrene Anniken Huitfeldt og James Cleverly. Foto: Tuva Bogsnes, UD

Dear friends in the Foreign Office,

There is a place in Norway called London.

It is one of the most remote places in the kingdom. Located on a small island just off Spitzbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago.

Back in 1906, marble was found there. An enterprising businessman presented this to his wealthy friends in London as “nothing less than an island of pure marble».

And within a short while, he had raised shared capital of more than one million pounds. Houses were built. A small railroad was even built. Norwegians jokingly named the place London, because of the Brits present there. And British investors anticipation a huge economic profit from this arctic marble.

A few years later, a larger trial batch of marble was shipped to the real London, in England. To convince the market. But during transport, the marble-blocks disintegrated.

Upon arrival in England, they looked more like a load of gravel. The eternal frost in the Arctic had blown up the marble, and when it reached warmer areas, it disintegrated.

And that was the end of London, Norway. The houses were moved across the fjord, to the settlement New Ålesund. Nato’s northernmost settlement.

I mention this marble-story because sometimes, something that looks good when it is shipped from Norway, does not necessarily look quite as good when it arrives in London. Such as marble from Svalbard. Or such as a twenty-one meter long and sixty years old Norway spruce.

Known as the Christmas tree on Trafalgar Square.

That tree receives its share of comments and tweets. Every year. I can understand that. Londoners want a perfect Christmas tree.

But the world is not perfect. Nor is any spruce which has been dragged out of the forests of Oslo and transported across the North Sea.

It is bound to get a scar or two along the way.

Like we all are in life.

But trust me when I say that our intentions are the best. It is a gift from Norway to the UK, as a symbol of gratitude for your help against the tyranny during the second world war. And as a token of the close relation between our two countries.

This year, it is special for me. As we once again have a war in Europe. And once again, the UK and Norway stand united. As we most often do when things get rough.

I hope the Christmas tree here in the Quad will also be a reminder of our unity. And of the friendship stretching across the North Sea.

As mentioned, the old houses from London, today in New Ålesund, are a visible part of Nato’s northernmost settlement. As allies in Nato, we have sworn to defend each other. And every inch of Nato territory.

So, I would like to invite you there, James. Together we can visit the old houses from London, on Svalbard.

I wish you all a merry, merry Christmas.