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State Visit from the Netherlands: Speech by Her Majesty

Speech by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix at the Gala Dinner at the Royal Palace during the State Visit to Norway, June 2010.

Your Majesty,

It gives me great pleasure to be able to make a State visit to Norway for the second time. Some years ago, in nineteen eighty-six, Prince Claus and I paid a state visit to King Olav. On many other occasions you and Queen Sonja have welcomed my family and myself with warm hospitality and enabled us to enjoy many impressive features of this lovely and varied country. On these visits we have become acquainted with the overwhelming beauty of nature and the self-assurance and vitality of your people. The ties between our families now span five generations, from my grandmother Wilhelmina to our children and grandchildren. It is a precious friendship that we cherish.

Norway is a land of paradoxes. Your territory is vast but the number of people is relatively small. Even though your country was a kingdom more than a thousand years ago, the present independent state of Norway has existed only since nineteen hundred and five. In that short space of time, little more than a century, so much has taken place. Prosperity has grown spectacularly. From a relatively poor, somewhat inward-looking country on the edge of Europe, Norway has changed into a modern welfare state, which occupies an important place in Europe and the world, and is an exemplary democracy.

Norway attaches particular importance to the social aspects of its prosperity and to the participation of all segments of society in the labour process. Promoting women's share of the labour market plays an important role here. This policy has rightly attracted a great deal of international attention. I shall have an opportunity to learn more about this during my visit.

For many centuries Norway, like our country, has focused strongly on shipping, fishing and seaborne trade. As long ago as medieval times, Viking ships appeared off our coasts. Later, in the era of the Hanseatic League, extensive, peaceful trading contacts were established, and these flourished still further in the seventeenth century, when tens of thousands of Norwegians settled in our country. In later centuries, fishing continued to be an important industry for Norway and remains so to this day. But now, the situation regarding fishing is causing serious concern. Fortunately, all stakeholders are becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable management of fish stocks. This issue is a matter of priority for Norway as well. Moreover, your country's traditional focus on the sea means that Norway enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of marine biology and biodiversity conservation.

In the recent past Norway has witnessed the development of an important new activity: the extraction of oil and natural gas. This has sharply reduced the role played by coal and has effected a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. An impressive initiative in the energy sector was the construction of NorNed, the longest submarine power cable in the world, which now links Norway and the Netherlands. The clean energy thus made available plays a significant part in our joint efforts to achieve sustainability. I use the word 'sustainability' intentionally, for in the report named after your former prime minister Mrs Brundtland, the originator of this term, Norway presented the world with a new, important, shared goal, one that is for ever associated with your country.

This principle, which has now become familiar throughout the world is also applied in your own country. We can see one example close by in the region north of the Arctic Circle. That is where the Norwegians and the Dutch encountered each other centuries ago, when our countryman Willem Barents discovered Spitsbergen in fifteen ninety-six and Dutch seafarers and whalers became active in those waters. Sovereignty over this region was awarded to Norway in the last century. It is good to note that your country is highly conscious of the responsibility entailed by the governance of this vulnerable area and acts accordingly. In the International Polar Year, two thousand and seven to two thousand and eight, many countries devoted their attention to scientific research into the Polar regions. Biodiversity there is under threat and the rise in temperature is even making the passage of ships and the exploitation of natural resources possible. The great danger this poses to the conservation of the natural environment is obvious. This is a matter that concerns not only Norway but us all!

Your Majesty,
Like my country, Norway remained neutral during the First World War, but in the Second World War we were both invaded and occupied. We both drew the same lesson from this experience, renounced our neutrality and joined NATO. We have both worked to achieve prosperity in Europe, although we differed in our views on the form European cooperation should take. Both countries strive to make a constructive contribution to the international community. With its informal peace diplomacy aimed at the resolution of conflicts, Norway has set the world an impressive example.

Your Majesty,
'The strongest man on earth,' said Henrik Ibsen, 'is he who stands most alone.' The opposite is true of nations. Only collectively and in close cooperation will we be able to advance towards the future and face the major problems confronting the world. Norway is fully convinced of this and plays a unifying and inspiring role in the many international fora in which it is involved, thus earning respect on all sides.

May I invite those present to join me in a toast to your health, Your Majesty, to that of Queen Sonja, and to the happy continuation of the friendship between our families and between the Norwegian and Dutch peoples.


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