State Visit from South Africa: The King's Speech
Mr President and Mrs Zuma,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to Norway. We hope that your visit will be interesting and rewarding, and that it will further enhance our bilateral relations.
It is with fond memories that the Queen and I look back on the warm reception we received and on our thought-provoking stay in your beautiful country during our state visit in November 2009. The visit confirmed that even though we live far apart geographically, we share the same values: democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech and human rights and respect for diversity.
This visit is taking place against the backdrop of the horrendous acts of violence that struck Norway on 22 July. The shock and grief we felt when we began to realise the scale of the terror was devastating. Yet we are not frightened. We will fight this message of hate, and we will come out even stronger than before.
Let me take this opportunity to thank you, Mr President, and South Africans from all walks of life for the solidarity and sympathy you have shown. The fact that the world mourns with us has had a tremendous impact and made it less painful for us to absorb the shock and trauma. Having caring sisters and brothers all over the world brings invaluable consolation and strength in times of darkness.
We all have a responsibility to combat human degradation even if we ourselves are not victims. In the case of South Africa, there was a strong united force against hatred and bigotry. For the many Norwegians who stood by you in the battle against the evils of apartheid, it was a fulfilling experience and a demonstration of the huge potential that lies in people power. The bonds that grew out of this common determination constitute a fundamental element in the warm relations between Norwegians and South Africa post apartheid. We are proud and grateful that you accepted us as partners in the internal struggle that led to the fall of apartheid and to freedom at last for all South Africans.
Thus we have a firm platform for our relations. We must never forget the past. But at the same time we must look forward and continue to cooperate in areas where we have common interests and can make a difference.
South Africa has come a long way since 1994, and we are all impressed with the results. But you have not tried to hide the challenges you still are facing in equalising living conditions between the affluent minority and the under-privileged majority.
Yet your people have shown to the world that you can rise above challenges to produce amazing results. Like you did last summer when South Africa hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Let me congratulate you on this huge success, which verified the decision to hold this event in Africa for the first time.
In November/December this year you will host another event that hopefully will have great impact on our common future. The 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate, the so-called COP 17, will be crucial in the efforts to ascertain international measures to fight climate change. I wish South Africa and Foreign Minister Mashabane all the best in your challenging and important task as host and president of COP 17.
The challenges of climate change and environmental degradation require research and innovation. This is an area where I think there is great potential for increased cooperation between our two countries, both in academia and in the public and private sectors.
I sincerely hope that we will see increased trade, research cooperation and investment in our respective countries in the years to come.
I am very pleased to see that the cultural cooperation between our countries is developing in many different ways. The unique Jazz Festival that takes place during the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown is highly appreciated by Norwegian jazz musicians, who were exceptionally well represented there this year. In November one of our leading performing arts companies, Jo Stømgren Kompani, will visit South Africa with their performance “The Border”.
Only if we act collectively and cooperate closely will we be able to advance towards the future and address the major problems confronting the world. Norway, like South Africa, is fully convinced of this and plays a unifying and inspiring role in the many international forums in which we are involved. Experience shows that the possibility of gaining acceptance for our views is greatly enhanced when we join forces with others.
I would now like to invite you all to join me in a toast to you, Mr President, and Mrs Zuma, to the people of South Africa, and to the lasting and friendly cooperation between our two countries.