When I think about Ukraine – a country with a population ten times that of Norway – many associations come to mind.
Ukraine is Europe’s past. Ukraine is today proving to be Europe’s present. And Ukraine is aspiring to be Europe’s future. A future that Norway will share with you, a democratic future, a future for the rule of law, for peace, progress and human development.
And right now, I am looking forward to watching the Ukraine football team in the 2006 World Cup Finals. Norway missed the opportunity – so we will side with you. Ukraine was the first European team to qualify for the Finals, and I am particularly looking forward to seeing the AC Milan (or soon Chelsea, as rumour has it) striker Andriy Shevchenko, whom I am big fan of. I’ll be glued to my TV screen when Ukraine plays Spain in Leipzig on 14 June.
It is a great honour for me to be here today, and to address the students and teachers at this venerable institution. Many foreign politicians have had this opportunity, which reflects that the Mohyla Academy promotes free political thinking and a concern for contemporary political challenges.
I imagine that many of you were involved in the historic Orange Revolution. I followed these events on television, but you were part of them. The colour orange became a symbol of peaceful change, of involvement and participation, of democracy and freedom. A continuation of the peaceful changes that swept through Eastern and Central Europe in the 1980s and ‘90s.
I will now take a long step back in time, to the Viking era. The great Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl promoted the theory that the people of Scandinavia originally came from this part of Europe, from Azov. The historical ties between our two countries date back more than a thousand years. Old Norse literature records close contacts between the people of Kievan Rus and the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
So “globalisation” is not an entirely a new phenomenon. People from different parts of the world met, exchanged views and found wives many centuries ago. Longboats carried people far across the seas and down great rivers, as the web does today.
Norway’s hero king, Olav Tryggvason, spent his teenage years at the court of Vladimir the Great, in Novgorod, and later moved to Kiev, around the year 980. He was followed by Olav Haraldson, who was later canonised. Saint Olav spent the last year of his life here in Kiev as a guest of his friend Yaroslav the Wise, leaving his young son Magnus behind with Yaroslav. Soon afterwards, Olav Tryggvason’s half-brother Harald Hardraade, later King of Norway, came to Kiev. He married Yaroslav’s daughter Elizaveta, who became Queen of Norway.
This is Europe. There are ties among people, cultures and traditions. It is exciting to be back among old relatives, so to speak, and to connect with our shared history.
One hundred years ago, the Norwegian writer (Bjørnstjerne) Bjørnson, an ardent champion of Norwegian independence, campaigned vigorously in European newspapers for the right of Ukrainians to use their native language, which was – as you know - restricted under the rule of Polish nobles and Russian tsars. In (October) 1906, he published an influential article in Le Courrier Européen defending the rights of oppressed Ukrainians in Halychina. Ivan Franko, the great Ukrainian writer and nationalist, translated many of Bjørnson’s works into Ukrainian.
A couple of decades later, the Norwegian explorer, scientist and humanist (Fridtjof) Nansen helped save many Ukrainians from starvation in the famine that followed the end of World War I and the Soviet Revolution.
Today, I have paid my respects to the victims of the systematic programme of starvation of the early 1930s. Those were terrible times.
The main point of my address to you here today is this:
We have a common past and we can build a common future. A European future. Ukraine’s traditions, beliefs and language have grown from the same cultural roots as those of other present-day European nations. Ukraine is at the heart of Europe, where East and West, and North and South meet, and this makes your nation an important partner for the European Union and for other international organisations. And for Norway.
The EU is now the primary economic and political force shaping the future of the continent, and Ukraine has made membership one of its strategic goals. Ukraine’s participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy is an important step in this direction. It offers new opportunities for the Ukrainian people.
Before I explain my own country’s relations with the EU, let me briefly outline our foreign policy, which, in response to the many global challenges of our times, follows three main tracks:
The first track is Norway’s support for the development of an international legal system that regulates the use of force and prevents the domination of the weak by the strong. A system that promotes the benefits of cooperation between the world’s nations and peoples to find common solutions to the major issues. I believe one of the most important tasks is to strengthen and reform the UN and other multilateral institutions.
The second track of our foreign policy is partnership with our friends and allies. Our membership of NATO is a key pillar, so are our close ties with the EU countries. We have a close partnership with the United States, and with Russia - our common neighbour. Norway can only promote its own values and interests if there are other like-minded countries that are prepared to listen, understand and support our views.
The third track is the role we play in promoting peace, reconciliation and development around the world. We are privileged to be engaged in a number of peace processes. And the fact that we are in a position to play this role gives us a responsibility. Our involvement in Sri Lanka, Sudan and the Middle East may be well known to some of you.
But let me return to Europe’s political landscape and the question of our relations with the European Union. The Norwegian people have twice – in 1972 and in 1994 - rejected EU membership in national referenda. And yet Norway is an integral part of Europe, and we have established a good working relationship with the EU. We have close allies, neighbours and long-standing friends in the organisation, as well as our most important economic partners. We are pursuing a proactive European policy, contributing towards the common European goals. We take our share of the continent’s responsibilities.
We are closely linked to the EU through a series of formal and informal arrangements. The most important of these is the European Economic Area Agreement – the EEA Agreement - between the EU and the three of EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). The EEA unites the 25 EU Member States and these three EFTA States in an internal market characterised by the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.
The Agreement ensures that Norway takes part on an equal footing with the EU members. Our companies, our workforce and our consumers are benefiting. Important new opportunities are arising every day.The figures speak for themselves: 80 per cent of our exports go to the EU, and 70 per cent of our imports are from the EU.
But there are many global trade mechanisms, and I believe that Ukrainian membership of the World Trade Organisation – the WTO - is an important step towards future EU membership. I am aware that some economic reforms are still needed, but I would like to underline that Norway supports Ukrainian accession to this world organisation.
An important part of European cooperation in the field of justice and home affairs is cross-border investigations and prosecutions. Norway is part of the Schengen cooperation, aimed at securing a common border control regime. We take part in police cooperation initiatives both within the EU and with other countries. We must stand together in the fight against international organised crime.
Every nation must make its own choice when it comes to security and political anchoring.
The ongoing EU enlargement process is important for stability and growth in Europe, and is bringing about a historic transformation of our part of the world. We share the responsibility for ensuring the success of this process. Norway is contributing approximately 1.2 billion euros, over a five-year period, through the EEA Financial Mechanisms, for development projects located primarily in the new EEA member countries. These funds will open up new opportunities for many cross-border projects involving Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
Norway fully supports the EU European Neighbourhood Policy, which includes partnerships and an action plan for Ukraine that promotes democratisation and the rule of law. We will support cross-border projects between Ukraine and Poland, and Hungary and Slovakia, with a view to enhancing local democracy, development and projects in fields such as environment, justice, education and civil society.
Membership of the OSCE and the Council of Europe has been – and still is – an important part of both our countries’ paths towards integration into Europe. As you know, the OSCE played an important role during the Orange Revolution.
A safe environment means a secure, stable and peaceful environment - including peace with neighbouring countries. I have noted Ukraine’s further ambitions as regards Euro-Atlantic integration, including its strong pursuit of NATO membership.
NATO membership has been one of the cornerstones of Norway’s foreign policy for nearly 60 years, and remains so today, in an era of changing political landscapes and expansion of NATO’s role on the global stage.
Ukraine has persistently shown that it is willing to follow democratic rules and principles. The elections in March were described beforehand as an important test, and Ukraine passed with great success.
This has made a strong impression on the international community, and I believe it has strengthened Ukraine’s prospects of further Euro-Atlantic integration.
We expect the new government of Ukraine to be formed in the near future. I hope it will show a strong commitment to continued democratic reforms and even closer ties with Europe and NATO. There is still some way to go – and more challenges to meet - on the nation’s road towards democratic, economic and judicial reforms in various sectors.
I would also like to mention how much I value the stabilising role that Ukraine is playing in both regional and wider contexts. And I particularly welcome the active approach Kiev is taking to securing progress in the complex Transnistrian conflict.
Now that we are talking about the wider region, I must add that I am gravely concerned about the political situation in Belarus. We must stand together to support the democratic movement in your neighbouring country. I am glad to note Ukraine's support for basic democratic rights in Belarus. The Belarus people must - like the Ukrainians - have the opportunity to elect their own leaders, and to elect them in a truly democratic and transparent manner.
Norway also appreciates the increasingly important role Ukraine is playing in both NATO and UN operations. This is further evidence of your efforts to become more closely integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures – where you belong.
Norway supports Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO. The Alliance pursues an open door policy. The decision to apply is for Ukraine to take. Then Ukraine must continue on its process of reform.
Ukraine has already made good use of the Intensified Dialogue process with NATO. The discussions on the role of the armed forces in a modern democracy have brought real progress. But the hard work must continue. If the new government confirms Ukraine’s intention to join NATO, your country will be facing the challenge of reforming its armed forces. It is a challenge worth pursuing.
Norway has extensive experience of assisting new and aspiring NATO members in carrying out the reforms required, and we are ready to assist Ukraine, in cooperation with our Nordic and Baltic allies. Such cooperation could be an important step towards further strengthening relations between our defence forces. I am confident that your working with NATO member countries would help to consolidate the democratic standards that we now see taking root in Ukraine.
At the moment, a relatively low percentage of the Ukrainian population supports NATO membership, and support varies significantly between the eastern and western parts of the country. This is, of course, a challenge. It is important for the new government to provide the public with well-balanced information, so that the people can have a sound basis for making a decision on the question of NATO membership. As students you should take an active role in the debate.
Ukraine’s geographic location poses certain challenges – as was demonstrated during the energy crisis early this year. Our common neighbour, Russia, is a solid - but challenging - partner. Russia’s democracy is in developing. There are promising signs, but also concerns, especially in the field of the rule of law.
At times Norway and Russia have differing views on certain issues, but we also cooperate successfully on a range of issues, such as energy, fisheries, environmental protection and education. We also have a wide range of cross-border people-to-people contacts. And our relations are expanding. Russia is our main partner in the High North, and will continue to be. Norway’s policy towards Russia is cooperative, firm and consistent.
We have open and frank discussions on issues of national interest to both countries, such as fisheries. And we are developing a strategic energy partnership in the High North. At the same time we are careful to consult our other neighbours and our allies in questions of vital interest in the north.My point is: the end of the Cold War is making it possible for us to develop close relations with both Russia and the rest of Europe and North America.
Due to historical and political factors, Ukraine’s relations with Russia are, of course, different. You face particular political and economic challenges, but you also have the opportunity to be an important partner in efforts to promote an atmosphere of confidence and cooperation in the entire Euro-Atlantic area. Norway strongly supports Ukraine’s focus in this regard.
Let me turn to energy, which is a very important issue both for Norway as a producer, and for Ukraine as a consumer and transit country. The need for adequate, affordable and accessible energy has put supply security at the top of the agenda all over the world.
Norway takes its role as a stable and reliable provider of energy to Europe seriously. We are the world’s third largest exporter of both oil and gas and, together with Russia and Algeria, we are the main provider of gas to Europe.
As petroleum activities continue to move further north into the Barents Sea, we see new opportunities arising. The Barents Sea is regarded as one of the world’s most interesting petroleum provinces, and cooperation with Russia will be very important.
One of our common challenges will be finding technological solutions that make it possible to operate in an extremely cold and inhospitable region. Our companies are at the forefront in this field, and we have already developed advanced underwater production technologies. But environmental protection and management of renewable resources, such as important fish stocks, are equally important factors.
Current oil prices are a major concern for Ukraine, as they are for many other countries. While Ukraine has benefited from rising global coal prices, it is suffering under record oil and gas prices. Everyone, including the major oil-producing countries, agrees that oil prices that hover around 70 dollars a barrel for any length of time are unhealthy for the global economy.
The solution to this problem does not lie with an individual nation or a small group of countries. It requires cooperation on a global basis. And it will take time and dedicated effort. In short, we need to address the challenges of bringing adequate energy to the market at affordable prices, without destroying our environment. In order to achieve this, we need to develop transparent global energy markets.
Access to energy transportation networks, predictable investment regimes and energy efficiency measures are central issues. We need greater emphasis on research and development on new and improved technology. But, equally important, this requires human resources. We need to make sure that careers in research are attractive to students like you.
It is now 20 years since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl - a catastrophe that caused terrible suffering in Ukraine, and also hit neighbouring regions, including Norway. This reminds us that our continent is vulnerable, and thatmany of the gravest challenges can only be met if we stand together.Norway has been assisting Ukraine indealing with the consequences of this accident through the nuclear action plan. We must all strive to ensure that an accident such as this never happens again.
Environment, and energy, are just two of several issues in which the Norwegian Government is engaged on a global scale.
More importantly, efforts to promote peace and stability as a basis for human development are at the core of Norway’s foreign policy, as I have already mentioned. Reports show that in the last 15 years, the world has suffered 100 conflicts, about 30 of which are still continuing today. Nearly all of them are internal conflicts.
One effect of globalisation is that we are all affected by these conflicts.
Today’s greatest challenges – terrorism, international organised crime, human trafficking, environmental degradation and the spread of infectious diseases – originate in conflict areas far away. However, nowhere is really far away anymore. Local, internal and regional conflicts are a global problem, a global challenge.
Our efforts for peace, reconciliation and development are therefore an important part of our security policy. By helping others, we are helping ourselves.
Much of what we do is possible only because of our involvement in international cooperation efforts, our partnerships and our alliances. Our participation in UN-led initiatives has given Norway international credibility. Our peace efforts are rooted in our belief that the UN, NATO, the OSCE and European cooperation are the best means of promoting respect for human rights on a global scale.
Human rights are the cornerstone of modern civilisation, and respect for human rights has improved greatly in Ukraine since it gained independence. This development brings Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic and global community of shared values. I would like to congratulate Ukraine on its election as a member of the newly established UN Human Rights Council.
One of the many global challenges we are facing in the human rights area is trafficking in human beings. By its very definition, human trafficking constitutes a denial of all fundamental human rights.
So this is an issue that lies close to my heart, and it affects both of our countries. Trafficking is a threat to our democratic values and a threat to the stability and security of our world today. It is a major source of income for those involved in international organised crime.
We need to strengthen international police cooperation to catch the traffickers. And we need to provide an environment that protects children against abuse.
Our two countries have a common interest in combating this evil. Both Norway and Ukraine have signed the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Humans Beings, which was adopted in May 2005. Our two countries should work more closely together to make this convention a forceful instrument in the fight against trafficking in our region.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasise how much I welcome the growth in the bilateral political, economic, educational and cultural contacts between Norway and Ukraine over the last few years. We can see the results of this here, at the Mohyla Academy. For two years, the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs [NUPI] has been conducting teaching programmes in political science, ecology and international trade relations in cooperation with the Academy. Students recently attended a seminar on Norway’s relationship to the EU.
Later today, this cooperation will be expanded even further through the opening of a Telenor-financed electronic study room in this building, and a training programme for students from the Academy.
I would like to add that since 2003, Bodø University College in Northern Norway has been providing introductory courses in business administration for decommissioned officers in Sevastopol and Simferopol, supported by the Norwegian Government. We have alsosupported some of the activities ofthe student organisation European Youth Parliament.
It is vital togive support to networking, to exchanges and to the younger generation. They – I mean, you - will be the future leaders of Ukraine. You will be able to travel across borders much more easily than your parents. You are already able to search for all the information you need.[And all the information you don’t need!].
Good relations between nations - like ours – consist primarily of contacts between people, including students, artists and journalists, and between schools, businesses and civil society organisations. Today, governments’ foreign policy strategies are supplemented by – as well as challenged by – input from a whole range of public diplomacy players.
Exchanges lead to changes. Networks create new workplaces.
Friends, I am confident that there is scope for further expansion of Norwegian-Ukrainian cooperation in the field of research and higher education. Now that Ukraine has become a member of the Bologna process, we share the goal of creating a common European area for higher education. I believe that we should strengthen the practical cooperation betweenuniversitiesand research institutions in Norway and Ukraine.And I believe the relevant authorities on both sides should meet as soon as possible to identify concrete projects.
For my part, I am prepared to discuss a new, long-term framework agreement aimed at supporting educational reforms in Ukraine, and at developing undergraduate and graduate exchange programmes.
Higher education, openness, democratic standards and more open borders are vital for the free passage of ideas and impulses back and forth between our countries.
I am therefore delighted to see that Ukrainians are also beginning to discover Norway as a tourist destination and as a place to work. A growing number of visas are issued at our Kiev Embassy, almost three times more today than in 2002.
The proposed visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Ukraine will be followed by a similar agreement between Norway and Ukraine. Simplifying the procedures should mean even more visitors. I would like to commend Ukraine for taking a first and important step towards easing border restrictions by abolishing visa requirements for the citizens of most European countries.
More frequent visits and closer contacts will also lead to more business activity and growth. Our bilateral relations are now expanding rapidly in the economic area. Trade and investment are surging. Norwegian companies, especially the telecom company Telenor, are investing in Ukraine.
A growing number of non-governmental organisations dedicated to safeguarding democratic rights have also been established in Ukraine. Norway has offered support to these NGOs on an ad hoc basis, and we will continue to do so. It is important that your civil society grows independently, utilising its own resources. I am pleased to note the contacts between our organisations and yours. International NGO networks are also very useful, as they can assist Ukraine in its integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.
One of the main achievements of the Orange Revolutionis that Ukraine has now establishedfull freedom of the media. Ukrainian journalistsmade a significant contribution to the struggle for full democratic freedoms. It is important that media freedom is defended and preserved as it is a fundamental pillar of democracy.
I remember listening to a BBC interview with the Ukrainian writer Andrei Kurkov [in September 2005]. When asked what has changed since the Orange Revolution, he said: “There is a greater sense of democratic accountability now. People know that if they do not like the government, they can throw it out when they vote. And the politicians know that too.”
The contact between our two nations is growing and our relations are developing fast. What I believe we are seeing is a renewal of ties that date back over a thousand years.
The Vikings were able to overcome the geographical distance between our countries, and they developed close family ties with your people.
I believe personal bonds are still the best platform for relations between nations and governments. Today, geographical distance is becoming less and less important. And fortunately we are rapidly bridging the geopolitical divide that so hampered our relations until recently.
Dear friends, this year marks the 100th anniversary of our great playwright Henrik Ibsen’s death. Ibsen was primarily a citizen of the world, and it is fitting that his plays are being performed in Kiev and Lviv – and in many other parts of the world – in the course of the year. Ibsen speaks with a clear and bold voice. He brings important issues onto the agenda, and his work remains innovative and provocative in the context of our times, touching as it does on themes such as personal morals, gender equality, freedom of expression, corruption and abuse of power. He once wrote to King Carl XV of Sweden of Norway that he wanted to “arouse his countrymen out of their lethargy and direct their attention to the great questions of life”, adding that his most important task was to “awaken the people and inspire them to think about the bigger issues”.
Thinking about the bigger issues – this is no mean task. But we should allow ourselves to be inspired by it.
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