Good morning everyone, It is an honour for me to warmly welcome Germany’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Robert Habeck back to Norway.
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Germany and Norway are close allies and partners. We share a bond and a common understanding developed through decades of cooperation.
The backdrop to the visit – and to our frequent exchanges over the last year – is serious. Following the Russian attack on Ukraine in February last year, our Continent has been grappling with its worst security crisis of a generation.
The costs are primarily borne by the people of Ukraine, but the crisis has global ramifications. It touches everyone.
In this context, it has been of the greatest importance that Europe has stood together in support of Ukraine. With a common stance in the face of Russian aggression, and with intense collaboration to reduce vulnerabilities, and to minimise the disruptive consequences of the war.
As Europe’s leading provider of natural gas, Norway is acutely aware of the importance of high and stable deliveries from our Continental shelf. We were able to increase gas production by 8% in 2022.
The increase alone represents 100 TWh, or the equivalent of approximately 2/3 of total Norwegian hydropower production. With the shortfall of Russian gas, this increase was important to fill German and other European storage facilities before this winter.
We have also increased our vigilance – including with the assistance of allies such as Germany – to ensure uninterrupted flow of gas to the continent.
We now provide about a third of German natural gas needs, and as I discussed with the Vice-Chancellor, maintaining and safeguarding this remains our number one priority in the months ahead.
For the long run, we recognise that the crisis unfolding now demonstrates the need to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future in which energy sources are both renewable and reliable.
Following my meeting with Chancellor Scholz in Berlin in January last year, we have therefore worked with our German friends to establish a Strategic Partnership on Climate, Renewable Energy and Green Industry. I am pleased to announce that we are launching this today, aiming to create new green industries and jobs, while reaching the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.
This partnership will complement the Green Alliance that we are developing together with the European Union, and will encompass closer cooperation on hydrogen, offshore wind, batteries, carbon capture and storage, green shipping, microelectronics and raw materials.
On hydrogen, we are issuing a joint statement to accelerate the creation of a functioning European hydrogen market, and to underline our commitment to exploring the technical and infrastructure needs required to build a commercially viable value chain.
These are areas where Norway can make significant contributions to the green transition underway in Germany and in Europe, and importantly, where we can develop jobs and economic opportunities for future generations.
It is therefore hugely encouraging that Equinor and RWE are also announcing today that they are entering into a strategic collaboration on energy security and decarbonisation, with ambitious goals for using hydrogen in power generation.
Their agreement today signals the readiness of Norwegian and German businesses to develop projects and jobs for a new industrial era. And I believe, it is only one of many partnerships that puts Norway and Germany in pole position for leading the way in the energy transition.
In closing, Robert, let me thank you for your personal commitment to the partnership we are launching today, and for the close contact you and I have had since taking office.
Let me also say here that we appreciate Germany’s leadership in these turbulent times.
Europe has embarked on a momentous undertaking in its efforts to green its economy and to reduce its reliance on Russian petroleum.
This will require operations on an industrial scale, competence, willingness to take risks, creativity.
I am encouraged by the fact that this has all been hallmarks of the collaboration between Norway and Germany for decades.
Thank you, and please take the floor.