Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende launched the Government’s status report on Norway’s Arctic policy, the first of its kind, in Hammerfest today.
The Government has proposed a total allocation of nearly NOK 3 billion for High North activities in 2015, an increase of well over NOK 0.5 billion from 2014.
‘The figures themselves are not the most important thing here. What matters most is how we use these funds. We have abundant resources and world-leading research communities in the north. We must now use these to promote business development and growth,’ Ms Solberg said.
Five priority areas
The Government will give priority to the following five areas: international cooperation, the development of a knowledge-based business sector, knowledge development, infrastructure, and emergency preparedness and environmental protection.
‘It is the people living in the north who can best see the opportunities on offer, who have the knowledge, drive and ability to make things happen. We will make it easier for people to create new jobs, we will support those seeking to establish new companies and we will promote business activity based on work carried out by our outstanding research communities. We will give people the tools they need to enable North Norway to meet the demands of the future,’ Ms Solberg said.
The Arctic is an area not only of regional importance, but also of national and global importance.
‘The world is turning its attention towards the Arctic now more than ever before. Greater access to energy resources and other natural resources, and the opening up of new trade routes in the north are creating new opportunities, but also challenges. We can only meet these challenges if we develop more knowledge, act responsibly and foster international cooperation. We share a common interest in maintaining predictability and stability in this vulnerable and strategically important region. In a world with many conflicts and where there is competition for resources, it is crucial that we work to ensure that the Arctic remains a region characterised by close people-to-people cooperation and dialogue across national borders,’ Mr Brende said.
North Norway – a region in a state of growth
North Norway is thriving, and the region offers great potential for value creation. Most of Norway’s valuable mineral resources, estimated at a value of NOK 1 400 billion, are in the north. The supplier industry to the petroleum sector recorded a turnover of NOK 4.7 billion in 2013, and is growing. North Norway accounts for a third of the Norwegian seafood industry’s value creation, and since 2004, the industry has experienced an annual growth rate of over 20 %. According to Konjunkturbarometeret for Nord-Norge (“Business Trends Barometer for North Norway”, Norwegian only), which is issued twice a year by Sparebank 1, growth is higher in North Norway than in the rest of the country, and exports from North Norway are expected to increase significantly, by some 6–7 % per year, in the period up to 2016.
‘There are local variations, but the overall picture is very positive. Over the past ten years, the negative population trend in North Norway has been reversed, and people are now moving to this part of the country. This is the result of the successful efforts of previous governments and investments made by the business sector. However, it is primarily thanks to the population of North Norway itself. Educational institutions, the number of doctorates awarded, industries, innovation and infrastructure – all of these areas are in a state of growth. The Government will seek to further develop North Norway so that it becomes one of the country’s foremost regions in terms of value creation and sustainability,’ Ms Solberg said.