State Visit to Slovenia
Today Their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja began their State Visit to Slovenia. They were welcomed by President Danilo Türk and Mrs Barbara Miklič Türk at Brdo Castle outside of Ljubljana.
Norway and Slovenia have enjoyed excellent diplomatic relations since January 1992, when Norway officially recognised the new nation of Slovenia. This is the first State Visit by Norway to Slovenia, and the King and Queen are accompanied by a large delegation of representatives from the Norwegian government and business sector.
Official welcoming ceremony
The visit began with a formal welcoming ceremony at Brdo Castle. Built in 1510, the castle is located about 30 kilometres outside of the capital city of Ljubljana. The castle is often used as the site for important diplomatic meetings and other important official events.
From the castle grounds, King Harald, Queen Sonja, President Türk and Mrs Miklič Türk continued into Brdo Castle for discussions. There was an exchange of gifts and reciprocal conferral of orders.
Following the welcoming ceremony, a plenary session was held between the Norwegian and Slovenian delegations. King Harald and President Türk headed the discussions between the delegations and later presided over the signing of two memorandums of understanding that establish guidelines for the allocation of Norway Grants and EEA Grants up until 2014 (see fact box).
During the day, King Harald also held meetings with Slovenias President of the National Assembly Dr Pavel Gantar and Prime Minister Borut Pahor.
Queen Sonja visited Plečnik House, which is part of the Architecture Museum of Ljubljana. The house takes its name from the architect Joe Plečnik (1872-1957), who lived and worked there for many decades. The exhibit inside the house displays the architects tools, personal effects, models, pictures and letters.
Although Mr Plečnik worked in both Vienna and Prague, he made his greatest impact in his hometown of Ljubljana. Many of his works – including bridges and locks, seaside boardwalks, parks and squares – contributed to the citys development. He also designed monumental buildings such as the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and the library at the University of Ljubljana.
Tour of Ljubljana
In the afternoon King Harald and Queen Sonja were given a tour of Ljubljana. First they visited City Hall, where they met with Mayor Zoran Janković and Ms Mija Janković. City Hall is located in the centre of the Old Town and is also used as a concert venue. Several Norwegian musicians have performed there in recent years.
King Harald and Queen Sonja also visited several of Ljubljanas most important historic sites, such as the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the Central Market and Preeren Square, named after Slovenias national poet, France Preeren.
The legacy of Joe Plečnik is evident throughout the city, including Triple Bridge – one of the citys landmarks. There are historical references to a wooden bridge at the site dating back to 1280, and stone bridges were erected through the centuries. Based on the bridge from 1842, Mr Plečnik designed a triple bridge by adding pedestrian bridges on both sides. The area was designated as car free in 2008, and all three bridges have since been exclusively for pedestrian use.
On their tour around the city the King and Queen were accompanied by Dr Peter Krečič, an art historian with a special focus on architecture and the works of Joe Plečnik.
This evening King Harald and Queen Sonja will be the guests of President Türk and Mrs Miklič Türk at an official gala banquet held at Brdo Castle.
Facts about the Republic of Slovenia
Capital city: Ljubljana
Largest cities: Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper
Total area: 20 273 km²
Population in 2011: Slightly more than 2 million
Official language: Slovenian, as well as Italian and Hungarian which are spoken in some municipalities along the borders.
Form of government: Republic
Head of State in 2011: President Danilo Türk
Slovenia and Norway established diplomatic relations in 1992, and ties between the two countries are very good. This is the first State Visit from Norway to Slovenia. Former President Milan Kučan paid a visit to Norway in 1997, when he was granted an audience with King Harald.
Source: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Facts about the Norway Grants/ EEA Grants
The EEA Grants and Norway Grants represent the contribution of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to reducing economic and social disparities in the European Economic Area and to strengthening bilateral relations with the 15 beneficiary states in Central and Southern Europe.
In the period 2009-2014, funding may be sought for 32 programme areas. The agreed areas of priority between the individual countries are specified in a memorandum of understanding.
Norway gives priority to projects in the areas of:
- Climate and the environment
- Working conditions
- Research and education
- Gender equality
- The legal system