Mr President, Representatives of the People,
I greet the Storting as it takes up its solemn responsibilities with the wish that the fulfilment of these duties will be of benefit to our country.
All of us who are able to grow up, work, have children and grow old in Norway are privileged.
There are many aspects of our society that can still be improved. However, compared with times past, and compared with other parts of the world, Norwegians today have a great deal to be grateful for.
We live in a democratic society, in a peaceful part of the world.
We have a high standard of living and generous welfare schemes.
Our health workers can treat diseases and disorders that used to be incurable.
We support one another, and there is a high level of voluntary engagement.
We have put many past prejudices behind us. This means that more people can live their lives as their authentic selves.
The fact that all of us are living in Norway at this time may just be a coincidence.
But it is no coincidence that our society, which we all benefit from, has developed in the way it has.
The society we enjoy today has been created by our attitudes and the confidence we have in one another.
By our willingness to work and our ability to create jobs.
But also by sound decisions that have been made in this chamber.
Decisions that aimed not only to benefit Norwegians living at the time.
But also to benefit future generations.
In the Government’s view, it will be even more important to take this long-term perspective in the time ahead.
‘A sustainable welfare society’ will be the motto for the Government’s work in the years to come.
The Government wants to ensure that the society we pass on to our children is in an even better state than the one we inherited from our parents.
The Government will work to develop a society that is sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms.
We have a high degree of social equality in Norway. The Government will work to ensure that this continues to be the case. For individuals with a low income, the key to increasing their prosperity is work. Welfare-to-work efforts must therefore be strengthened.
In the coming years, Norway must meet its international climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. The targets are more ambitious than ever. By working together with the EU, we have good prospects of succeeding.
Norway will give protection to refugees. However, we must also ensure that total immigration to Norway is commensurate with society’s capacity to achieve successful integration. The Government will therefore pursue a strict and predictable immigration policy. At the same time, we must intensify our integration efforts, so that more people are able to support themselves and take part in society.
The fall in the price of oil hit the Norwegian economy hard.
However, if we look at the bigger picture, the last few decades have been a golden era for Norway. Important economic trends have been advantageous for us. Now, these trends are being broken.
The strong growth of the Government Pension Fund Global will not continue. The state’s revenues from oil and gas activities have declined, and will gradually decrease further. An older population means that we have lower tax revenues and have to spend more on health and care services.
Nevertheless, Norway has a good starting point for ensuring a sustainable welfare society. Our government finances are sound, we have a productive business sector and a highly educated workforce.
But in order to find good solutions, efforts in a number of areas are needed. More people must stay longer in the workforce, and more people must work.
Work is also the best way for people to increase their income and prosperity.
In the long term, it is growth in the mainland economy that will be decisive for welfare.
A policy to promote sustainable welfare must therefore strengthen the economy’s capacity for growth.
We must ensure that tax arrangements are favourable for the business sector. Better infrastructure is vital. New knowledge from research and development activities will also increase the potential for growth. Schools must give all pupils the knowledge and skills they need to grasp the opportunities in the labour market. Skills must be updated so that everyone can keep up with new developments.
The Government will give these areas high priority.
However, increased participation in the workforce and economic growth are unlikely to be enough in themselves.
We need to find better solutions in the public sector, too.
In the face of new challenges, we need to think creatively and boldly. We must also implement necessary reforms, even when this is difficult in the short term.
We must speed up the process of digitisation.
We must free up human resources so that more people can provide care, and so that our elderly can live out their lives in dignity.
In this way, we will ensure that Norway remains a good country to live in for future generations.
It is not possible to achieve a high level of value creation and a sustainable welfare society without trade and investments across national borders.
In a turbulent world, there is a greater danger of countries taking protectionist measures.
The Government will continue its efforts to strengthen international trade and to secure the best possible conditions for the export of Norwegian goods and services.
There is a long tradition of continuity in Norwegian foreign and security policy. There is broad consensus on the values our policies are based on.
The changing security environment means that we must make conscious choices in order to safeguard Norwegian interests. The Government will defend a world order based on international law and strong institutions.
Our membership of NATO, our relations with the US and the collective security guarantee will continue to be the main pillars of Norwegian security policy. At the same time, Europe must strengthen its capacity to address security challenges. The Government is therefore developing closer security policy cooperation with key European allies and with the other Nordic countries. The operational capacity of the Armed Forces will be strengthened, in line with the Long-term Defence Plan.
Norway is actively promoting conflict resolution and development with a view to preventing new crises.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) form the basis for Norwegian development policy. Education is essential for development, and is a key priority in the Government’s development policy.
Norway will continue its efforts in the fight against international terrorism and violent extremism.
We must strengthen our capacity to deal with crises and unexpected events. This is vital for the safety and security of Norwegian citizens.
Digitisation is crucial for value creation and economic growth, but it also makes us more vulnerable. We must therefore maintain a strong focus on ICT security efforts.
The Government will strengthen Norway’s overall defence capabilities and increase the resilience of critical societal functions.
The non-socialist parties secured a majority in this year’s general election. The Government will therefore continue its work.
The Government will build further on the consensus that has been reached on issues such as taxation, research and higher education, infrastructure, and defence.
The Government invites the Storting to cooperate on building a sustainable welfare society.
I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 162nd session of the Storting to be open.
Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 6 October 2017
Under Our Hand and the Seal of the Realm