Norway has a strong sense of solidarity with those in need. Many Ukrainian refugees have experienced this first-hand in recent months.
So far, Norway has taken in roughly 35 000 refugees from Ukraine. And just as many may come to us this year as well.
People have opened their homes, and our municipalities have done a tremendous job in finding housing for these refugees all across our country. Ukrainian refugees have now settled in every single municipality in Norway – from tiny Utsira to the metropolis of Oslo.
Millions of Ukrainians have fled from the horrors of war. Others are confronting a bitterly cold Ukrainian winter without water and electricity.
I have spoken to President Zelensky and said that Norway considers Ukraine’s battle to be our battle as well. Ukraine is defending the right to freedom, democracy and autonomy.
That is why we will continue to support the Ukrainian people in the year to come by providing humanitarian assistance and help to enable them to defend themselves. And by integrating Ukrainian refugees into working life and society in Norway.
Last year I had the opportunity to meet many refugees from Ukraine in different parts of Norway.
One of them is Narek. After just a few weeks in Bergen, he found a job at a restaurant not far from the Bryggen wharf area.
Narek served me persetorsk, traditional pressed cod from Bergen, which he had just learned how to make.
‘We have not regretted giving Narek a job for a single moment,’ the owner of the restaurant told me. I hope that more Norwegian businesses can find job opportunities for Ukrainian refugees in our country.
My meeting with Narek reminded me of how vital it is to have work. To be able to earn a living and provide for oneself.
That is not possible for everyone, and we will take care of those who are unable to work. But many of those who lack employment both can and want to work. This is something we must help with.
At the Scandic Nidelven hotel in Trondheim, I was able to follow Adrian and Robert during their shift in the kitchen early in December.
These young men both have disabilities, and have both been employed under the Helt Med scheme for diversity and inclusion. Their knowledge and the pride they take in their work impressed me deeply.
It goes without saying that we as a society must create a framework that makes it possible for them to work.
Having a job enables people to provide for themselves and their families, promotes mental health, and makes us all feel needed and useful.
Employment is a means of setting demands and expectations in our society.
Employment is crucial for keeping the business sector and the economy afloat, but it is also vital to ensure that we can pay for education, research and knowledge: all the things that will allow us to restructure our society. To solve problems and create new opportunities.
To have the freedom to shape our own future.
But if we are going to influence how the future unfolds, we will need to find solutions to the climate and environmental crisis.
Climate change has been brought about by people.
And it is people who must solve this crisis, through knowledge, technology and political action.
We cannot succeed unless everyone contributes, takes responsibility for the choices we make in our daily lives, as well as for the broader choices we make in restructuring our use of energy and other natural resources.
During the past year, Norway has enhanced its emissions reduction targets. But while ambitious goals are important, it is even more important to have realistic plans and measures in place to achieve these. Norway has these as well.
Such as in Gulen in Ytre Sogn, where they are assembling some of the first giant floating offshore wind power turbines that will be towed out to the North Sea.
Or in Brevik in Telemark and Klemetsrud in Oslo, where they are building innovative plants for CO2-capture. Or Øygarden outside Bergen, where they are building a receiving terminal from which CO2 can be transported and permanently stored more than 2 000 metres below the seabed of the North Sea.
Or in Arendal and Mo i Rana, where they are constructing new, cutting-edge battery manufacturing plants.
Norwegian companies that have highly-skilled personnel, and in many cases also have extensive experience from the petroleum sector, are leading the way in the green transition. Together we are reducing emissions, creating new jobs and producing new forms of energy. Together, we are writing a new industrial chapter in Norwegian history.
Defining and refining our aspirations for Norway is a task we will never be finished with.
Our aspirations for Norway will never stop evolving.
You and I are helping to shape Norway every single day in the choices we make. Not separately on our own, but together as a community.
When we are at work.
When we help someone around us.
When we truly apply what is a fundamental Norwegian value: to do your duty and demand your rights, in that order.
And when we take a step back from the often brutal comment fields in social media, look each other in the eye and meet each other face-to-face as who we are, in all our diversity.
After the mass shooting in Oslo on 25 June last year, where two people were killed and more than 20 injured, we did precisely that: we came together and stood up against hatred and discrimination. The employees of the establishments where the shooting took place did not give in to fear – they supported those who were targeted and reopened their doors the following day.
During the Pride Parade in September, I met Karoline and Tina from Valdres.
They were subjected to harassment simply because they loved each other. Said yes to each other. Chose to get married and raise a family.
They dared to speak out publicly, and as we walked together in the parade, they said to me: ‘If we don’t stand up for ourselves, we let the others win.’
This year, I want all of us to do what Karoline and Tina did.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t back away. Stand tall.
While this will not always be easy, it is a way to invest in what is best and strongest about our country: our fellowship and solidarity.
Eleven-year-old Embla from Bergen gave the New Year speech for children yesterday. She came to see me in my office a few weeks ago, and gave me some advice for my speech today. I would like to quote her, because she put it so succinctly:
‘Why shove when you can hug? Why criticise when you can praise? Why hate when you can love?’
It is the sum of our actions and convictions that form us as a community.
The sum of all our differences. Young and old. From urban and rural areas. With divergent beliefs. Voting for different political parties. And with different perceptions of the difficult times we are facing.
Together we can choose fellowship and all we have in common over fear of what is different.
We can choose truth over fake news.
And understanding over prejudice.
Let us stand united on this. Put aside some of what divides us. Be generous with each other and with ourselves.
During the holidays, many individuals have provided assistance to people who find this time of year difficult. People who are homeless, people with drug or alcohol problems, or people who do not feel at home in a traditional Norwegian family celebration. I would like to send a special greeting to you, and to the many thousands who are on duty while everyone else has time off or is sleeping – police officers, snow plough drivers, people working on the oil and gas platforms, employees at hospitals and care institutions for the elderly, and everyone working rotations or night shifts.
I would like to thank our women and men in uniform, who help to defend Norway and safeguard the security of our allies.
2022 was the Year of the Volunteer. As we start a new year, I would like to send a greeting to everyone who takes part in voluntary organisations in Norway, and especially all the mothers and fathers who help to make sports and cultural programmes available to our children. What you all bring to our fellowship is worth its weight in gold.
We would like to express our gratitude to Their Majesties The King and Queen for their tireless efforts for our country. We send them and the rest of the Royal Family our best wishes for the new year.
And to each and every one of you at home: Happy New Year!