Opening and Introduction
Ladies and gentlemen,
And welcome to Oslo!
It is an honour and a privilege for me to be invited here at the opening of the first Norwegian-British seminar of the defence and security industries, organised and hosted by the Norwegian FSi and the ADS Group.
I am very happy to be part of this event and hope it will be the start of a series of similar activities between our defence and security industries.
I would like to express the strong support of the Norwegian Government to this seminar and to a broadest spectrum possible of co-operation with the United Kingdom. Norway has a special relationship with our Ally across the channel, not least from our common experiences during World War II. This defining period in our modern history will always remain a special place in the Norwegians’ mind and identity. The relations between our countries have been developing and growing ever since. Today we witness co-operation and activities in a large variety of areas. In the defence sector we work closely in the fields of education, training, exercises and operational activities, to mention a few. But in the area of defence procurement, I must admit that we could do better. I hope this seminar will be the turning point for closer industrial co-operation with the aim of providing our armed forces with the best materiel and equipment necessary, supporting their operational requirements.
I would also like to express my support to the Norwegian-British MoU-meeting that took place yesterday between representatives from the two Ministries of Defence. I have been told that it was a successful meeting, during which the delegations discussed a wide variety of topics of common interest, taking forward our bilateral co-operation on defence procurement.
In the same spirit, I welcome the new MoU between FSi and ADS Group, signed yesterday. This agreement sends a strong and clear signal of common intent for further, industrial co-operation. The Norwegian Government salutes such an initiative on deepening the relations in the private sector with core allies.
Economic Situation and security environment
Ladies and gentlemen, even though this seminar will take place in a warm and friendly setting, we cannot escape the harsh realities of our economic environment. We have to keep in mind the challenging economic situation in Europe. Business is struggling, public budgets are being cut, and unemployment rates are rising, especially among the younger generations. On the world stage, we see emerging new challenges together with global trends towards the classic, relative competition and rivalry between states, seeking influence and resources. In this setting, we have to protect our interests and secure our society.
From a Norwegian point of view, we are happy to see the renewed focus from London on Northern Europe, the High North and the British initiative on forming the so called Northern Group, containing increased dialogue with the countries in our part of the world. Norway shares this view and strongly supports the initiative.
In a rapidly changing world, with tremendous economic challenges, in a new security environment, I believe working together in the broadest possible way is the only solution. That is why our government places such emphasise on developing the relations with our allies and partners in the most suitable manner. In the field of security and defence policy, NATO is the most important institution. But to keep it that way, we must make sure NATO stands the trial and remains our core tool for dealing with such challenges. Hence, we must keep on developing NATO and provide it with the resources necessary. Smart Defence, the new initiative of the Secretary General, is vital in that respect. It will be one of the major points of focus for the NATO-summit in Chicago next month: Maintaining and developing relevant and strong capabilities in the joint effort of common security. That is why Norway is advocating a strong NATO where all member states contribute to our common capabilities and fulfil their share of the responsibilities.
From a Norwegian perspective
Norway finds itself in a fortunate situation and has the economic resources to fund our goals. On defence policy, we have the will and the way to invest in defence materiel and infrastructure.
In addition to financial priorities, we adapt our defence. The transformation of the Armed Forces in Norway has been going on for the last ten years. It is driven not by necessity but by design and a clear intent. The aim is to develop relevant capabilities needed in facing the new security environment and a wide range of emerging threats.
The transformation of the Armed Forces has been the largest organisational modernisation and restructuring in Norway. But we are far from finished. We continue to transform. The new Long Term Plan was presented to Parliament earlier this spring. It focuses on the Air Force and how to adjust the Army, in addition to the restructuring of the personnel and competencies structures.
The new Fighter Aircraft will be most important in the upcoming years. In making the largest public sector investment, our government is underlining the importance for industrial co-operation with the US and the manufacturer: The American doors for mutual co-operation in the industrial field must remain open for Norwegian business.
Ladies and gentlemen, the defence industry in Norway is highly competent, economically competitive, containing niche areas that provides advanced products to Norwegian and allied armed forces. The industry has succeeded in making remarkable success stories in exporting products to allies. Despite these positive results, the industry in Norway experiences difficulties entering the markets of several allied and partner countries, due to various protectionist actions and regulations. This is a situation we do not like, and we are putting large efforts in reducing such trends. Our clear goal is that the industry can compete in an environment of level playing field, where our soldiers, sailors and airmen and –women are provided with the best equipment at the best value possible.
Norway imports about two thirds of its defence materiel. It illustrates our intentions of fair competition. And on the other hand, we demonstrate that Norway already to a large extent has achieved the objective of the new EU Directive on procurement: Increased possibilities for industries to compete on equal terms in an open market. At the same time, we expect the other European countries to open access to their markets as well.
For the representatives of the defence industry, we encourage you to see the new directive as an opportunity for increased export and co-operation, instead of a threat leading to reduced markets and closing businesses.
While we wait for the new European framework of defence markets to come into play, I am reminded of the approximately 130 million pounds of off-set obligations from the UK to Norway.
The contributions from the Industry
As a politician, I feel I have contributed to creating framework for co-operation in our changing world. The NATO-transformation, focus of High North and gathering of the Northern Group: We work each day to maintain an open dialogue on all levels of government, where we may find areas of co-operation.
Now it is time for the industry to join in as well, and contribute in developing the best and most cost-efficient capabilities to meet our common challenges for the future.
The industry, both nationally and internationally, has to work together, open their dialogue, see possibilities and seek solutions. This seminar is an excellent opportunity for the industry to find partners and develop co-operation for our common good and interest.
If we are to succeed in reaching our goals in the future, we must seize opportunities like today to make the difference.
So I urge you all in this room here to spend these two days at the seminar well, creating possibilities and solutions.
I wish you a successful seminar. Best of luck.