Hilsen på Europa-dagen

Oslo, 9. mai 2016

Statsråd Elisabeth Aspakers hilsen på en mottakelse i regi av EU-delegasjonen 9. mai 2016.

Ambassador Campbell, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation. I am delighted to be here to celebrate Europe Day with you, and it is wonderful that Helen (Ambassador Campbell) and her team have put culture and cultural cooperation at the heart of this event.

Today's celebrations might not get as much attention in Norway as 17 May, but today is nevertheless an important event for Norwegians, too.

Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Elisabeth Aspaker celebrating Europe Day in Oslo. Photo: European External Action Service (EEAS)
Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Elisabeth Aspaker celebrating Europe Day in Oslo. Foto: European External Action Service (EEAS)

On 9 May 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman called on the nations of Europe to unite, and to make war on our continent impossible. 66 years later, his message of peace and unity is as relevant as ever. Moreover, Europe Day gives us an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable achievements made in Europe since Schuman's days and which led to the moment when Chancellor Angela Merkel and President François Hollande raised their clasped hands when the European Union received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

At the same time we should not be complacent. Especially at a time when many voices seem to be questioning the value of the European project. The peace and prosperity we have achieved in Europe are based on a deep commitment to fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law, and must not be taken for granted.

In my view, the ideas of Schuman are as valid as ever.

Many of our greatest challenges, such as those relating to security, migration, the economy and the climate can only be solved through more European cooperation, not less.

On all these issues and many others, Norway continues to have a strong partnership with the EU – politically, economically – and culturally as I am looking forward to seeing and hearing more of today.

We are not an EU member, but the European integration process has never stopped at the EU borders. The EEA Agreement is probably the most notable example of this.

The EEA agreement has made Norway more European in many respects. This is reflected in our legal order, our political life, our economy, society and population. Europe Day is therefore also a day of celebration for all Norwegians.

The Norwegian Constitution is based on European ideals and can in many ways be said to be a European constitution. That does not make it any less Norwegian. Common European ideals of democracy and the rule of law are also fundamental Norwegian ideals.

When we celebrate our Constitution next week, we will also be celebrating European values, such as the belief in the need for common rules to protect the individual and to prevent the abuse of power. Equal treatment for all. And a European tradition to be proud of.

In 1982, the Swedish songwriter Jan Hammarlund wrote a song 'Jag vill leva i Europa', or 'I want to live in Europe', famously performed by Arja Saijonma. I think we all can all identify with the sentiment expressed in the lyrics:

I want to live in Europe
I want to love and sing here
I want to laugh and cry and dance
I'm giddy and lost and in love
when I think of Europe
and about all of us who belong here.

Thank you.