Norway and Ukraine: a renewal of age-old ties

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Jun 1 12:44:11 UTC 2006

 Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Jonas Gahr Store

Norway and Ukraine  a renewal of age-old ties
Kiev, 31 May 2006

Rector Briukhovetsky,
Professors, Students,

When I think about Ukraine a country with a population ten times that of
Norway many associations come to mind. Ukraine is Europes past. Ukraine is
today proving to be Europes present.  And Ukraine is aspiring to be
Europes future. A future that Norway will share with you, a democratic
future, a future for the rule of law, for peace, progress and human
development. And right now, I am looking forward to watching the Ukraine
football team in the 2006 World Cup Finals. Norway missed the opportunity
so we will side with you. Ukraine was the first European team to qualify
for the Finals, and I am particularly looking forward to seeing the AC
Milan (or soon Chelsea, as rumour has it) striker Andriy Shevchenko, whom
I am big fan of. Ill be glued to my TV screen when Ukraine plays Spain in
Leipzig on 14 June.

It is a great honour for me to be here today, and to address the students
and teachers at this venerable institution. Many foreign politicians have
had this opportunity, which reflects that the Mohyla Academy promotes free
political thinking and a concern for contemporary political challenges. I
imagine that many of you were involved in the historic Orange Revolution.
I followed these events on television, but you were part of them. The
colour orange became a symbol of peaceful change, of involvement and
participation, of democracy and freedom. A continuation of the peaceful
changes that swept through Eastern and Central Europe in the 1980s and
90s. I will now take a long step back in time, to the Viking era. The
great Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl promoted the theory that the
people of Scandinavia originally came from this part of Europe, from Azov.
The historical ties between our two countries date back more than a
thousand years. Old Norse literature records close contacts between the
people of Kievan Rus and the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

So globalisation is not an entirely a new phenomenon. People from
different parts of the world met, exchanged views and found wives many
centuries ago. Longboats carried people far across the seas and down great
rivers, as the web does today. Norways hero king, Olav Tryggvason, spent
his teenage years at the court of Vladimir the Great, in Novgorod, and
later moved to Kiev, around the year 980. He was followed by Olav
Haraldson, who was later canonised.  Saint Olav spent the last year of his
life here in Kiev as a guest of his friend Yaroslav the Wise, leaving his
young son Magnus behind with Yaroslav. Soon afterwards, Olav Tryggvasons
half-brother Harald Hardraade, later King of Norway, came to Kiev. He
married Yaroslavs daughter Elizaveta, who became Queen of Norway.

This is Europe. There are ties among people, cultures and traditions. It
is exciting to be back among old relatives, so to speak, and to connect
with our shared history. One hundred years ago, the Norwegian writer
(Bjornstjerne) Bjornson, an ardent champion of Norwegian independence,
campaigned vigorously in European newspapers for the right of Ukrainians
to use their native language, which was as you know - restricted under the
rule of Polish nobles and Russian tsars. In (October) 1906, he published
an influential article in Le Courrier Europen defending the rights of
oppressed Ukrainians in Halychina. Ivan Franko, the great Ukrainian writer
and nationalist, translated many of Bjrnsons works into Ukrainian.

A couple of decades later, the Norwegian explorer, scientist and humanist
(Fridtjof) Nansen helped save many Ukrainians from starvation in the
famine that followed the end of World War I and the Soviet Revolution.

Today, I have paid my respects to the victims of the systematic programme
of starvation of the early 1930s. Those were terrible times.

Dear friends,

The main point of my address to you here today is this:

We have a common past and we can build a common future. A European future.
Ukraines traditions, beliefs and language have grown from the same
cultural roots as those of other present-day European nations. Ukraine is
at the heart of Europe, where East and West, and North and South meet, and
this makes your nation an important partner for the European Union and for
other international organisations. And for Norway.

The EU is now the primary economic and political force shaping the future
of the continent, and Ukraine has made membership one of its strategic
goals. Ukraines participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy is an
important step in this direction. It offers new opportunities for the
Ukrainian people.

Before I explain my own countrys relations with the EU, let me briefly
outline our foreign policy, which, in response to the many global
challenges of our times, follows three main tracks:

The first track is Norways support for the development of an international
legal system that regulates the use of force and prevents the domination
of the weak by the strong. A system that promotes the benefits of
cooperation between the worlds nations and peoples to find common
solutions to the major issues. I believe one of the most important tasks
is to strengthen and reform the UN and other multilateral institutions.

The second track of our foreign policy is partnership with our friends and
allies. Our membership of NATO is a key pillar, so are our close ties with
the EU countries. We have a close partnership with the United States, and
with Russia - our common neighbour. Norway can only promote its own values
and interests if there are other like-minded countries that are prepared
to listen, understand and support our views.

The third track is the role we play in promoting peace, reconciliation and
development around the world. We are privileged to be engaged in a number
of peace processes. And the fact that we are in a position to play this
role gives us a responsibility. Our involvement in Sri Lanka, Sudan and
the Middle East may be well known to some of you.

But let me return to Europes political landscape and the question of our
relations with the European Union. The Norwegian people have twice  in
1972 and in 1994 - rejected EU membership in national referenda. And yet
Norway is an integral part of Europe, and we have established a good
working relationship with the EU. We have close allies, neighbours and
long-standing friends in the organisation, as well as our most important
economic partners. We are pursuing a proactive European policy,
contributing towards the common European goals. We take our share of the
continents responsibilities.

We are closely linked to the EU through a series of formal and informal
arrangements. The most important of these is the European Economic Area
Agreement  the EEA Agreement - between the EU and the three of EFTA
countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). The EEA unites the 25 EU
Member States and these three EFTA States in an internal market
characterised by the free movement of goods, persons, services and

The Agreement ensures that Norway takes part on an equal footing with the
EU members. Our companies, our workforce and our consumers are benefiting.
Important new opportunities are arising every day. The figures speak for
themselves: 80 per cent of our exports go to the EU, and 70 per cent of
our imports are from the EU.

But there are many global trade mechanisms, and I believe that Ukrainian
membership of the World Trade Organisation  the WTO - is an important step
towards future EU membership. I am aware that some economic reforms are
still needed, but I would like to underline that Norway supports Ukrainian
accession to this world organisation.

An important part of European cooperation in the field of justice and home
affairs is cross-border investigations and prosecutions. Norway is part of
the Schengen cooperation, aimed at securing a common border control
regime. We take part in police cooperation initiatives both within the EU
and with other countries. We must stand together in the fight against
international organised crime.

Every nation must make its own choice when it comes to security and
political anchoring.

The ongoing EU enlargement process is important for stability and growth
in Europe, and is bringing about a historic transformation of our part of
the world. We share the responsibility for ensuring the success of this
process. Norway is contributing approximately 1.2 billion euros, over a
five-year period, through the EEA Financial Mechanisms, for development
projects located primarily in the new EEA member countries. These funds
will open up new opportunities for many cross-border projects involving
Ukraine and neighbouring countries.

Norway fully supports the EU European Neighbourhood Policy, which includes
partnerships and an action plan for Ukraine that promotes democratisation
and the rule of law. We will support cross-border projects between Ukraine
and Poland, and Hungary and Slovakia, with a view to enhancing local
democracy, development and projects in fields such as environment,
justice, education and civil society.

Membership of the OSCE and the Council of Europe has been  and still is
an important part of both our countries paths towards integration into
Europe. As you know, the OSCE played an important role during the Orange

A safe environment means a secure, stable and peaceful environment -
including peace with neighbouring countries. I have noted Ukraines further
ambitions as regards Euro-Atlantic integration, including its strong
pursuit of NATO membership.

NATO membership has been one of the cornerstones of Norways foreign policy
for nearly 60 years, and remains so today, in an era of changing political
landscapes and expansion of NATOs role on the global stage.

Ukraine has persistently shown that it is willing to follow democratic
rules and principles. The elections in March were described beforehand as
an important test, and Ukraine passed with great success.

This has made a strong impression on the international community, and I
believe it has strengthened Ukraines prospects of further Euro-Atlantic

We expect the new government of Ukraine to be formed in the near future. I
hope it will show a strong commitment to continued democratic reforms and
even closer ties with Europe and NATO. There is still some way to go  and
more challenges to meet - on the nations road towards democratic, economic
and judicial reforms in various sectors.

I would also like to mention how much I value the stabilising role that
Ukraine is playing in both regional and wider contexts. And I particularly
welcome the active approach Kiev is taking to securing progress in the
complex Transnistrian conflict.

Now that we are talking about the wider region, I must add that I am
gravely concerned about the political situation in Belarus. We must stand
together to support the democratic movement in your neighbouring country.
I am glad to note Ukraine's support for basic democratic rights in
Belarus. The Belarus people must - like the Ukrainians - have the
opportunity to elect their own leaders, and to elect them in a truly
democratic and transparent manner.

Norway also appreciates the increasingly important role Ukraine is playing
in both NATO and UN operations. This is further evidence of your efforts
to become more closely integrated into Euro-Atlantic structures  where you

Norway supports Ukraines ambition to join NATO. The Alliance pursues an
open door policy. The decision to apply is for Ukraine to take. Then
Ukraine must continue on its process of reform.

Ukraine has already made good use of the Intensified Dialogue process with
NATO. The discussions on the role of the armed forces in a modern
democracy have brought real progress. But the hard work must continue. If
the new government confirms Ukraines intention to join NATO, your country
will be facing the challenge of reforming its armed forces. It is a
challenge worth pursuing.

Norway has extensive experience of assisting new and aspiring NATO members
in carrying out the reforms required, and we are ready to assist Ukraine,
in cooperation with our Nordic and Baltic allies. Such cooperation could
be an important step towards further strengthening relations between our
defence forces. I am confident that your working with NATO member
countries would help to consolidate the democratic standards that we now
see taking root in Ukraine.

At the moment, a relatively low percentage of the Ukrainian population
supports NATO membership, and support varies significantly between the
eastern and western parts of the country. This is, of course, a challenge.
It is important for the new government to provide the public with
well-balanced information, so that the people can have a sound basis for
making a decision on the question of NATO membership. As students you
should take an active role in the debate.

Ukraines geographic location poses certain challenges  as was demonstrated
during the energy crisis early this year. Our common neighbour, Russia, is
a solid - but challenging - partner. Russias democracy is in developing.
There are promising signs, but also concerns, especially in the field of
the rule of law.

At times Norway and Russia have differing views on certain issues, but we
also cooperate successfully on a range of issues, such as energy,
fisheries, environmental protection and education. We also have a wide
range of cross-border people-to-people contacts. And our relations are
expanding. Russia is our main partner in the High North, and will continue
to be. Norways policy towards Russia is cooperative, firm and consistent.

We have open and frank discussions on issues of national interest to both
countries, such as fisheries. And we are developing a strategic energy
partnership in the High North. At the same time we are careful to consult
our other neighbours and our allies in questions of vital interest in the
north. My point is: the end of the Cold War is making it possible for us
to develop close relations with both Russia and the rest of Europe and
North America.

Due to historical and political factors, Ukraines relations with Russia
are, of course, different. You face particular political and economic
challenges, but you also have the opportunity to be an important partner
in efforts to promote an atmosphere of confidence and cooperation in the
entire Euro-Atlantic area. Norway strongly supports Ukraines focus in this

Let me turn to energy, which is a very important issue both for Norway as
a producer, and for Ukraine as a consumer and transit country. The need
for adequate, affordable and accessible energy has put supply security at
the top of the agenda all over the world.

Norway takes its role as a stable and reliable provider of energy to
Europe seriously. We are the worlds third largest exporter of both oil and
gas and, together with Russia and Algeria, we are the main provider of gas
to Europe.

As petroleum activities continue to move further north into the Barents
Sea, we see new opportunities arising. The Barents Sea is regarded as one
of the worlds most interesting petroleum provinces, and cooperation with
Russia will be very important.

One of our common challenges will be finding technological solutions that
make it possible to operate in an extremely cold and inhospitable region.
Our companies are at the forefront in this field, and we have already
developed advanced underwater production technologies. But environmental
protection and management of renewable resources, such as important fish
stocks, are equally important factors.

Current oil prices are a major concern for Ukraine, as they are for many
other countries. While Ukraine has benefited from rising global coal
prices, it is suffering under record oil and gas prices. Everyone,
including the major oil-producing countries, agrees that oil prices that
hover around 70 dollars a barrel for any length of time are unhealthy for
the global economy.

The solution to this problem does not lie with an individual nation or a
small group of countries. It requires cooperation on a global basis. And
it will take time and dedicated effort. In short, we need to address the
challenges of bringing adequate energy to the market at affordable prices,
without destroying our environment. In order to achieve this, we need to
develop transparent global energy markets.

Access to energy transportation networks, predictable investment regimes
and energy efficiency measures are central issues. We need greater
emphasis on research and development on new and improved technology. But,
equally important, this requires human resources. We need to make sure
that careers in research are attractive to students like you.

It is now 20 years since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl - a catastrophe
that caused terrible suffering in Ukraine, and also hit neighbouring
regions, including Norway. This reminds us that our continent is
vulnerable, and that many of the gravest challenges can only be met if we
stand together. Norway has been assisting Ukraine in dealing with the
consequences of this accident through the nuclear action plan. We must all
strive to ensure that an accident such as this never happens again.

Environment, and energy, are just two of several issues in which the
Norwegian Government is engaged on a global scale.

More importantly, efforts to promote peace and stability as a basis for
human development are at the core of Norways foreign policy, as I have
already mentioned. Reports show that in the last 15 years, the world has
suffered 100 conflicts, about 30 of which are still continuing today.
Nearly all of them are internal conflicts.

One effect of globalisation is that we are all affected by these

Todays greatest challenges  terrorism, international organised crime,
human trafficking, environmental degradation and the spread of infectious
diseases  originate in conflict areas far away. However, nowhere is really
far away anymore. Local, internal and regional conflicts are a global
problem, a global challenge.

Our efforts for peace, reconciliation and development are therefore an
important part of our security policy. By helping others, we are helping

Much of what we do is possible only because of our involvement in
international cooperation efforts, our partnerships and our alliances. Our
participation in UN-led initiatives has given Norway international
credibility. Our peace efforts are rooted in our belief that the UN, NATO,
the OSCE and European cooperation are the best means of promoting respect
for human rights on a global scale.

Human rights are the cornerstone of modern civilisation, and respect for
human rights has improved greatly in Ukraine since it gained independence.
This development brings Ukraine into the Euro-Atlantic and global
community of shared values. I would like to congratulate Ukraine on its
election as a member of the newly established UN Human Rights Council.

One of the many global challenges we are facing in the human rights area
is trafficking in human beings. By its very definition, human trafficking
constitutes a denial of all fundamental human rights.

So this is an issue that lies close to my heart, and it affects both of
our countries. Trafficking is a threat to our democratic values and a
threat to the stability and security of our world today. It is a major
source of income for those involved in international organised crime.

We need to strengthen international police cooperation to catch the
traffickers. And we need to provide an environment that protects children
against abuse.

Our two countries have a common interest in combating this evil. Both
Norway and Ukraine have signed the European Convention on Action against
Trafficking in Humans Beings, which was adopted in May 2005. Our two
countries should work more closely together to make this convention a
forceful instrument in the fight against trafficking in our region.

Dear friends,

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise how much I welcome the growth in
the bilateral political, economic, educational and cultural contacts
between Norway and Ukraine over the last few years. We can see the results
of this here, at the Mohyla Academy. For two years, the Norwegian
Institute of International Affairs [NUPI] has been conducting teaching
programmes in political science, ecology and international trade relations
in cooperation with the Academy. Students recently attended a seminar on
Norways relationship to the EU.

Later today, this cooperation will be expanded even further through the
opening of a Telenor-financed electronic study room in this building, and
a training programme for students from the Academy.

I would like to add that since 2003, Bod University College in Northern
Norway has been providing introductory courses in business administration
for decommissioned officers in Sevastopol and Simferopol, supported by the
Norwegian Government. We have also supported some of the activities of the
student organisation European Youth Parliament.

It is vital to give support to networking, to exchanges and to the younger
generation. They  I mean, you - will be the future leaders of Ukraine. You
will be able to travel across borders much more easily than your parents.
You are already able to search for all the information you need. [And all
the information you dont need!].

Good relations between nations - like ours  consist primarily of contacts
between people, including students, artists and journalists, and between
schools, businesses and civil society organisations. Today, governments
foreign policy strategies are supplemented by  as well as challenged by
input from a whole range of public diplomacy players.

Exchanges lead to changes. Networks create new workplaces.

Friends, I am confident that there is scope for further expansion of
Norwegian-Ukrainian cooperation in the field of research and higher
education. Now that Ukraine has become a member of the Bologna process, we
share the goal of creating a common European area for higher education. I
believe that we should strengthen the practical cooperation between
universities and research institutions in Norway and Ukraine. And I
believe the relevant authorities on both sides should meet as soon as
possible to identify concrete projects.

For my part, I am prepared to discuss a new, long-term framework agreement
aimed at supporting educational reforms in Ukraine, and at developing
undergraduate and graduate exchange programmes.

Higher education, openness, democratic standards and more open borders are
vital for the free passage of ideas and impulses back and forth between
our countries.

I am therefore delighted to see that Ukrainians are also beginning to
discover Norway as a tourist destination and as a place to work. A growing
number of visas are issued at our Kiev Embassy, almost three times more
today than in 2002.

The proposed visa facilitation agreement between the EU and Ukraine will
be followed by a similar agreement between Norway and Ukraine. Simplifying
the procedures should mean even more visitors. I would like to commend
Ukraine for taking a first and important step towards easing border
restrictions by abolishing visa requirements for the citizens of most
European countries.

More frequent visits and closer contacts will also lead to more business
activity and growth. Our bilateral relations are now expanding rapidly in
the economic area. Trade and investment are surging. Norwegian companies,
especially the telecom company Telenor, are investing in Ukraine.

A growing number of non-governmental organisations dedicated to
safeguarding democratic rights have also been established in Ukraine.
Norway has offered support to these NGOs on an ad hoc basis, and we will
continue to do so. It is important that your civil society grows
independently, utilising its own resources. I am pleased to note the
contacts between our organisations and yours. International NGO networks
are also very useful, as they can assist Ukraine in its integration into
the Euro-Atlantic community.

One of the main achievements of the Orange Revolution is that Ukraine has
now established full freedom of the media. Ukrainian journalists made a
significant contribution to the struggle for full democratic freedoms. It
is important that media freedom is defended and preserved as it is a
fundamental pillar of democracy.

I remember listening to a BBC interview with the Ukrainian writer Andrei
Kurkov [in September 2005]. When asked what has changed since the Orange
Revolution, he said: There is a greater sense of democratic accountability
now. People know that if they do not like the government, they can throw
it out when they vote. And the politicians know that too.

The contact between our two nations is growing and our relations are
developing fast. What I believe we are seeing is a renewal of ties that
date back over a thousand years.

The Vikings were able to overcome the geographical distance between our
countries, and they developed close family ties with your people.

I believe personal bonds are still the best platform for relations between
nations and governments. Today, geographical distance is becoming less and
less important. And fortunately we are rapidly bridging the geopolitical
divide that so hampered our relations until recently.

Dear friends, this year marks the 100th anniversary of our great
playwright Henrik Ibsens death. Ibsen was primarily a citizen of the
world, and it is fitting that his plays are being performed in Kiev and
Lviv  and in many other parts of the world  in the course of the year.
Ibsen speaks with a clear and bold voice. He brings important issues onto
the agenda, and his work remains innovative and provocative in the context
of our times, touching as it does on themes such as personal morals,
gender equality, freedom of expression, corruption and abuse of power. He
once wrote to King Carl XV of Sweden of Norway that he wanted to arouse
his countrymen out of their lethargy and direct their attention to the
great questions of life, adding that his most important task was to awaken
the people and inspire them to think about the bigger issues.

Thinking about the bigger issues  this is no mean task. But we should
allow ourselves to be inspired by it.

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