Frode Overland Andersen

Interview with Norwegian Ambassador Frode Overland Andersen

"Greece is an ideal place for floating wind farms" says Norwegian Ambassador Frode Overland Andersen in an exclusive interview with Kathimerini.

Kathimerini 21.10.2019 Ιδανική χώρα η Ελλάδα για πλωτά αιολικά πάρκα

Frode Overland Andersen, the new Norwegian ambassador, began his journey from Oslo on 9 August 2019. Together with his wife and their two children he loaded the car and headed for Greece. Driving, travelling by train and by boat, they arrived three days later. "It's something I always do when I take a post abroad, it helps to gradually acclimatize us all," he explains. The last part of the trip was a pleasant surprise: the boat from Ancona to Igoumenitsa was Greek-owned, but built in a shipyard near the town where he grew up in Norway. "A proof that there are many unknown links between Norway and Greece," he notes.

It was last Christmas that he learned he will become ambassador to Greece and Cyprus. A lover of history, he began to read and (secretly) prepare for the new life of the family (he could not reveal the secret for months). When it was officially announced, he shut himself in an office at the Foreign Ministry and read all the notes and classified reports on the two countries. "If you ask me how to prepare for a country with thousands of years of history in three months, the answer is that it cannot be done," he laughs. Sure, his years as Head of the press office in his country's foreign ministry help him – he had to be well informed on any given subject and ready to answer any question at any time. He has served four different ministerial regimes and has travelled around the world in this capacity. Since the years of the Greek crisis, some images have remained of 2015, which he thought he would not see in a European country, but also in the refugee issue.

On September 24, he delivered his credentials to the Greek President at the Presidential Palace. Having attended hundreds of similar events during which he always tried to go unnoticed, he was now in the spotlight. "It was a formal and grand ceremony, a really important moment for me," he notes.
On exiting, he said he was looking forward to building partnerships and friendships between the two countries.

He is one of the "lucky" diplomats, because he will have the pleasure to see the beginning of a series of projects with grants (EUR 116.7 million) from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as part of the European Economic Area's financial mechanism. "This is not some kind of development aid. We find the areas where there is a need together and we hope that our side will also benefit from partnerships and synergies. "Refugee projects continue to be supported in the new (funding) cycle: asylum services (funded in the previous cycle) as well as integration projects. Projects for the next day that are found to be difficult, even as the flows continue. In the current funding period, money will also be available to private companies, with the aim of implementing innovative projects in the "green" industry, in blue development and in information and communication technologies (ICT), ideally in partnership with Norwegian companies.
In order to form a better idea of the entrepreneurship field in our country, one of the first meetings he had was with representatives of Norwegian companies in Greece. Most are involved in the shipping industry where co-operation has existed over the years, but to his surprise he also met a ... dentist. The dentist has set up a workshop and receives orders from Norway for prosthetic teeth manufactured here by specialized craftsmen at much better prices.

The day we met he had just returned from a conference where he spoke about floating wind farms - one of the projects the Norwegian government has long been trying to promote in Greece. "Your country with so much air and sea is really ideal for such projects. I joked earlier and told them it's like a Kinder chocolate egg - there will be multiple benefits for Greece. First of all, there will be energy independence and connection between the islands. With vast experience in shipbuilding you can participate in their construction and of course there is the potential, if the project is successful, to become one of the top energy players in the region, ”he explains.
In his meetings with government officials, he assures them that construction costs have already fallen and will fall further with mathematical certainty, but stresses that there is a window of opportunity, which if they do not hurry, it will be lost. "Unfortunately, the regulatory framework is lacking and without it, no such investments can be made," he notes.

When it comes to energy, the debate inevitably goes to Cyprus and the Cyprus EEZ. The former ambassador had previously disclosed to K that he had consulted with the Cyprus Energy Ministry on the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the area. But he did not want then to say more about this sensitive geopolitical issue. The new ambassador's response is equally cautious: "We stress the obligation of all to respect the law of the sea. But after a 40-year dispute with Russia over maritime borders, we have pledged never to take a position on similar issues elsewhere. "

A few days after the interview, we met again when he welcomed us home to celebrate the 25 years of the EEA and Norway Grants funding program. "Out of the 15 countries involved, only Greece and Portugal have been on the program since its inception," he told guests - politicians, ministry officials and, of course, the recipients of the Grants. Since 1994, 180 million have been allocated to Greece: the revival of the Attalos arcade, hostels for the needy, abused or unaccompanied children, the aquarium in Heraklion, technology and medical research programs or the organization of the asylum service are some of the 349 projects that have been done in our country, with money mainly from Norway. "Let us all work together for a greener, more competitive and inclusive Greece and Europe," the new ambassador concluded.

Interview by Marianna Kakounaki 21.10.2019. Translated from Greek to English by Polyxeni Anastasiou.