State visit to Portugal: Speech to the Prime Minister
Prime Minister Sócrates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Queen and I would like to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for your kind words and express our sincere appreciation for the warm welcome we have been given here in Portugal.
As we yesterday anchored up with the Royal Yacht, vivid memories of our two countries’ proud maritime past as explorers were brought forward. Sharing a seafaring history Portugal and Norway have many interests, but also challenges, in common.
Since 1974 our cooperation within the EFTA context, and later within the EEA Agreement, has extended into different areas of the Portuguese society. Many have been linked to the maritime and marine sectors, but also to sectors like health research and health care, environmental protection and sustainable development. Norway – even though not a member of the EU – participates actively in many EU agencies and conferences. I know that many Norwegian ministers visited Portugal last autumn during your EU presidency, and I would like to congratulate you on the many achievements made during this presidency. I hope that the bilateral bonds that were established last autumn will continue and be strengthened in the future.
Trade between our two countries has been growing, but is still quite modest. Tourism, particularly from Norway to Portugal, on the other hand, has shown a positive trend over the last years. I believe there is scope for further increases both in the exchange of goods and services between our two countries
Resources from the sea – in particular the “bacalhau” – has been, and still is, a main feature in our bilateral trade. Salted and dried cod has been imported to Portugal since early 1600 in return for salt and Port wine. For the last 150 years this trade has been the backbone of our commercial relations. In the 1920s this trade was so important to Norway that the government felt obliged to revise its policy on alcohol prohibition to again allow imports of port wine and spirits. The Portuguese and some of their Mediterranean allies had refused to buy dried cod from Norway unless the ban was lifted! After this small, but significant trade quarrel between our countries, trade has been growing steadily.
Our common interest in preserving a viable stock of codfish in the Atlantic and the Barents Sea has led Norway and Portugal to enter into a bilateral agreement to fight illegal fishing and promote sustainable harvesting of our resources. Today representatives from our two governments and businesses are discussing our cooperation in Responsible Fisheries. The aim is to secure common future interests - both in terms of environment and resource management and in terms of trade and consumer interests.
We also share a common concern for climate change and the environment. Portugal is at the forefront when it comes to development of renewable energy resources and has set ambitious goals for the coming years. Norway has equally ambitious goals and has – largely due to our experiences offshore – been able to develop state of the art technology in the field of renewable energies, particularly relating to offshore windmills and wave energy. The first commercial wave energy plant operating in the world, is a joint undertaking between Portuguese and Norwegian companies. I hope this is but the beginning, and that further cooperation and new business opportunities will follow from our visit.
Mr. Prime Minister,
Your government has ambitious programmes and made great achievements in public reform and economic modernization. So has the Norwegian government. Our two countries have become leaders and award winners for their advanced solutions in on-line services for citizens. Today, seminar participants from our two countries are discussing these topics and I am sure that new advances and solutions can be worked out together.
It is my sincere hope that today’s seminars, and our visit, will draw attention to the many interesting opportunities for cooperation that exist between our two countries, and that the good relations between Portugal and Norway will grow even stronger in the years to come.
I would like you all to join me in a toast to you, Mr. Prime Minister, to the people of Portugal, and to the friendship between our two countries.