State visit to Slovakia: Opening speech at business seminar
When the Norwegian Embassy opened its doors in Bratislava in 2005, new opportunities opened up for developing a stronger partnership between our countries.
One year earlier Slovakia became a member of the European Union. You then became a member of the European single market, of which Norway is also a member – this represents another strong connection between us.
In addition, the EEA and Norway Grants continue to provide numerous opportunities for strengthening our ties. With our like-mindedness and shared interests, we also cooperate in arenas such as NATO and the United Nations. These arenas provide good opportunities for our countries – together – to advance prosperity, peace and democracy.
One of Norway’s most celebrated writers dedicated his life to promoting these very same values. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was a true friend of Slovakia. With his deep humanist convictions, he fought for the rights of the Slovak nation. And as a result, he is almost as famous in this country as he is in Norway.
The realities of the world have radically changed since Bjørnson. But the values and principles he advocated – empowerment, individual freedom and responsibility – still inspire our democracies today. “Good deeds save the world,” said Bjørnson.
This is a good starting point for today’s conference, which will explore how corporate social responsibility and social dialogue can benefit both businesses and society.
We firmly believe that companies that are aware and conscious of their social and environmental responsibility will prove to be the best performers. They will in the long run generate the greatest benefits for their owners. They can, moreover, help raise standards in important areas such as working conditions, human rights, the fight against corruption and protection of the environment.
The programme over the next two days will give a broad range of Norwegian and Slovakian companies ample opportunity to discuss this topic. I am sure that you will find common ground, and that this can pave the way for an even closer bilateral economic relationship.
We are pleased to note that the social partners, civil society, public authorities and the business sector are all represented at this conference.
I am convinced that we have a great deal to learn from each other, and that both Slovakia and Norway have much to gain from closer relations between our countries.
I wish you well in your endeavours, and I hope today’s seminar will be a useful contribution to your further work.