Norge-Kroatia - 30 år med bilaterale forbindelser

Innlegget skulle vært holdt på et seminar på Norsk utenrikspolitisk institutt (Nupi) 1. mars som markerte 30 år med bilaterale forbindelser mellom Norge og Kroatia. Utenrikministeren måtte imidlertid avlyse sin deltakelse på seminaret.

Dear Foreign Minister Radman,
ladies and gentlemen. 

In these dark days for Europe, it gives me truly pleasure – and hope – to look back at the road travelled by Croatia during the past three decades. And to the way our bilateral relations have evolved.

In December 1991, a large spruce – a Christmas tree - travelled from the north to the south of Europe. Its destination was the main square in Zagreb. The Christmas tree was a gift from the city of Tromsø. As a symbol of solidarity and sympathy with the Croatian people.

One month later, on 15 January 1992, Norway recognised the Republic of Croatia. Diplomatic relations were established in February.

This seminar is about our bilateral relations.

But today, it would be impossible for me not to mention another country whose independence was gained at the same time. Only five days differ Norway’s recognition of an independent Croatia from that of an independent Ukraine.

The Republic of Croatia was born with armed separatists occupying a substantial part of its territory. 30 years later Croatia is a peaceful haven in Europe. And the main topic on our bilateral agenda are cooperation and promising business relations.

We are friends, partners and allies. In Nato and in European politics. When the American aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman recently visited Croatia, it was escorted by the Norwegian frigate Fridtjof Nansen. An illustration of the solidarity within the Alliance.

We stand together. We are more united than ever.

While Ukraine, 30 years after recognition, has been invaded by brute military force by Russia.

30 years after recognition, an independent democracy in the middle of Europe is fighting for survival.

We live in a time of paradoxes. Europe 2022 is a Europe of paradoxes.

The cooperation has never been deeper and broader.

At the same time, we are facing the most dangerous moment in European security for many decades.

Croatia and Norway stand side by side. As allies, and as defenders of dignity and international law. Both our countries have condemned Russia´s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. And through common European efforts we do what we can to stop the Russian aggression.

Bilateral cooperation

But here, today, at NUPI, we are celebrating 30 years of excellent bilateral cooperation.

A small exhibition soon to open in Zagreb will take us through these 30 years.

  • From the Christmas tree in 91,
  • the rehabilitation of the frontline hospital in Vinkovci,
  • the protection of the church archives in Skradin and Dubrovnik.
  • And beyond to much more.

From a time of war to the current era of Erasmus and modern business.

Today, there is more contact and cooperation between our two countries than ever before:

  • Croatia is one of the favourite destinations for Norwegian tourists. In 2019, pre-covid, some 200.000 Norwegians flocked to Croatia to enjoy your hospitality.
  • In the Norwegian mountains, a Croatian company is working to modernise and expand our electricity grid.
  • Several Norwegian companies are present in Croatia. The renewable energy giant Statkraft opened an office in Zagreb last year.
  • The company Kongsberg has been operating in Croatia for several years. Its subsidiary Navis Consult in Rijeka has nearly 150 employees.
  • Collaboration between Det Norske Teatret in Oslo and the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb is ongoing.
  • More than 50 Norwegian students are studying medicine in Split.
  • Cooperation between maritime and marine industries in our two countries are in focus once again, with enormous potential.

EU/EEA cooperation - EEA/Norway grants

We are partners in the European single market.

Our cooperation within the EU/EEA has made it easier for students, investors, workers and others to forge contacts and pursue possibilities.

It provides opportunities to every citizen in both our countries.

Let me take the opportunity to commend Croatia for concluding a successful EU presidency last year.


The EEA and Norway Grants scheme is a relatively new instrument in our bilateral toolbox.

The Grants are important tools for building a more competitive, equal, green and fair Europe.

More than 103 million Euro has been made available for activities in Croatia in the current funding period. Across five programmes and a bilateral fund.

There are programmes focusing

  • on the justice sector,
  • on business and innovation,
  • on local development,
  • on education
  • and on civil society.

Some of the programmes are well underway, while others are still in their initial stages. During the coming year, we look forward to seeing tangible results in all sectors.

Our hope is that the EEA and Norway Grants will promote more direct cooperation between businesses, institutions and organisations in Norway and Croatia.

We are confident that these efforts will be successful, but we must be prepared to learn as we go.

The Croatian torpedo

Ladies and gentlemen, I have mentioned our cooperation in Nato several times.

But a sort of Croatian-Norwegian military cooperation that took place over 80 years ago is perhaps less known.

On 9 April 1940 Norway was invaded by German troops. Early in the morning that day, a Whitehead torpedo produced in Rijeka was fired from a torpedo battery in the Oslo Fjord. Sinking the German cruiser Blücher and delaying the German occupation of Oslo.

The nazis had planned to capture His Majesty King Haakon and members of the Norwegian Government.

But the plan failed.

Much thanks to that Croatian torpedo.

The torpedo was more than 40 years old, from a time when the Habsburg monarchy ruled in Central Europe and Norway was in a union with Sweden. But it worked.

That gives food for thought these days.

And adds to the story when visiting the Torpedo Museum in Rijeka or Oscarsborg Fortress here in Norway.

Norway and Croatia have achieved a great deal since then. And a great deal since we established diplomatic relations in 1992.

But first and foremost, we have laid a solid foundation for a bilateral cooperation that will benefit coming generations.

In Norway and in Croatia.

Thank you.