Official dinner in Tallinn
Ladies and gentlemen,
Head sõbrad (Good friends)
On behalf of the Crown Princess and myself, I would like to thank you, Madam President, for your kind hospitality. We are honoured to have been invited to your beautiful country in the year when you celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.
You have good reason to celebrate! First you had to fight for your freedom. Later you were forced to endure another 50 years of foreign rule.
Norwegians of my generation have heard the stories of the occupation in our country from our parents and grandparents. But you know first-hand, from your own experience, what it means to not be free. And because of that, you know the true value of freedom.
Relations between our peoples extend far back in time. In the Viking age, trade and contact between Estonia and Norway were quite frequent – and mostly of a peaceful nature. But not always.
Olav Tryggvason spent six years as a child slave in Saaremaa. Olav Haraldson, later known as Saint Olav, was involved in battles with Estonian Vikings.
Today, I am happy to note that our relations are more harmonious. And Saint Olav is still honoured in Tallinn by the church and the Guild Hall that bear his name.
Our countries are close to each other, not only geographically, but also in terms of human experience and cultural heritage. This gives us a solid foundation for a true partnership - at multiple levels – between our two governments, and between businesses, organisations and individuals.
Both our peoples have learned to survive in a demanding environment. Throughout our history we have used the same methods to preserve food for the winter. Our traditional music and instruments are not that different. The embroidery of our national costumes and the patterns of our knitted sweaters are similar. And we share the same passion for skiing. Names like Andrus Veerpalu, Jaak Mae and Kristina Smigun are well known in Norway.
However, some Estonian sports are less familiar to us: sauna marathon, wife-carrying and something called kiiking are three examples. To my fellow Norwegians who do not know these sports – ask one of the Estonians at your table. We know that we can learn a few things from Estonia in the area of digitalisation. There may be more for us to learn in the area of sports too!
We also share interests within music and literature. Works by the great composer Arvo Pärt are frequently on our concert programmes. Our classical choirs know each other well, and Estonian talents such as Maarja can be heard at music festivals in Norway. The Jazzkaar festival is taking place this week, with Trondheim Voices and Ellen Andrea Wang from Norway in the line-up. Other Norwegian artists will be performing in Estonia this summer. On the literary scene, I understand that Norwegian writers such as Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgård are widely read in Estonia.
On Estonia’s National Day recently you said: ‘Small countries need big ideas and they need to aim big, we cannot just tag along in the wake of history’.
Estonia has gained international recognition for the way you are making use of digital tools to offer improved services to your citizens.
One of Norway’s main achievements has been to demonstrate that vast natural resources can be managed in a transparent and responsible way. Now we are facing the challenges of greening our economies and keeping up with the digital revolution. We should be in a good position to handle these challenges, especially if we work together.
I have been told that Estonians are relatively modest in how they express themselves. When life is good and things are going really well, you do not choose big words like “fantastic”, or “great” - but instead you say that things are “normaalne”.
I would therefor like to express my hope that this evening – and the relations between our countries – will continue to be “normaalne”!
As nations, we share the same fundamental interest in a rules-based international order. We work together bilaterally, regionally and globally. And most importantly, we cherish and seek to safeguard our independence and freedom.
On behalf of the Norwegian people, I am happy to congratulate you on the 100th Anniversary of the Republic of Estonia!
I would like to propose a toast to you, Madam President, to the people of Estonia, and to continued partnership and friendship between our two countries.
Skål – Terviseks (To your health)