“Norway strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders and we maintain our restrictive measures against the Russian Federation.”
Be so kind to inform us about the start of the bilateral cooperation between our states? As we know Ukrainian-Norwegian connections started before Ukraine proclaimed its independence but the official history of these relations started in 1991.
– The trade ties and personal relations between our countries were already well developed in historical times through the close contact between Kyivska Rus and the Viking Kings. The most famous result was the marriage between the founder of Oslo King Harald Hard Ruler – who in modern terms was the Minister of Defense of Prince Yaroslav the Wise – and the Prince’s daughter, princess Yelysaveta in 1043 – she then became Queen Ellisiv of Norway. So we have common historical relations. Our ambition must be to strengthen them further in our own time.
In modern times, the relations between Norway and Ukraine have developed a lot since Ukraine regained its independence in 1991.
Norway recognized Ukraine as a sovereign state on 24 December 1991. Diplomatic relations were established on 5 February 1992, and Norway opened an Embassy in Kyiv in August 1992.
We are now 7 diplomats and 11 local staff, and the Embassy is relatively big for Norwegian standards. This reflects the wide scope of cooperation which has developed, especially since the Revolution of Dignity.
What can you define as priorities in the Ukrainian – Norwegian political cooperation?
– Norway supports Ukraine’s political goals of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and the reforms aimed at achieving these goals, and we remain a committed partner and friend of Ukraine. Our support program focuses on three main areas: energy/energy efficiency, good governance/rule of law, economy and trade. It is important that Ukraine keeps up the momentum of reforms, especially in the judicial area and the anticorruption reforms. We can assist and support, but the main job must be done by the Ukrainians themselves.
Norway strongly supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders, and we maintain our restrictive measures against the Russian Federation.
What can be offered to the Norwegian business in Ukraine? For example, the question of the energetic sovereignty is rather tough for Ukraine and your country is known as the one of the key gas-suppliers of Europe.
– Ukraine is an important market with great potential for trade and investments. Our mutual trade is now increasing rapidly, by 79 % in 2016 – 17. Around 85 % of Norwegian exports is fish and seafood, so that is by far the most important commodity in our trade. However, I see a growing interest of Norwegian business in another fields especially in renewable energy production like solar panels, windmills and small hydropower stations. Ukraine imported Norwegian gas in 2014–2015, on commercial terms. Another important area is the IT-business, where about 5000 Ukrainians are employed in Norwegian owned companies.
How would you assess the humanitarian cooperation between our states?
– Norway finances a number of humanitarian projects in Eastern Ukraine, especially to help internally displaced persons and communities suffering from the conflict in Donbas. Among our main partners are the Norwegian Refugee Council, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UNCR, Save the Children Program and HALO Trust that is engaged in the demining of territories in combat zones.
How would you assess the Norwegian investment into Ukrainian economy?
– We have Norwegian investments in Ukraine, but the potential has not yet been fully exploited. As I mentioned, several investors are seriously looking at investment projects in Ukraine, and I am confident that we will have some positive news soon. Of course, it is crucial that Ukraine continues to improve the investment climate in order to attract more foreign investments which will stimulate growth of the Ukrainian economy.
Your country collaborates with the EU but does not join it. What is the reason for this trend in the foreign policy of your country?
– The Norwegians twice rejected membership in the EU through referendums in 1972 and 1994. Both referendums, but in particular the one in 1994 expressed a strong wish to keep our sovereignty and find means to cooperate with the EU without being a full-fledged member. Our relations are regulated by the Agreement of the European Economic Area, which gives Norwegian business access to the Single Market. Over 80 % of our exports go to the EUcountries.
We are also part of the Schengen zone, so the Ukrainians with biometric passports enjoy visa freedom also to our country. Norway is definitely European and well integrated with our partners in the EU, even not as a member.
What do you think about the development of the tourism between our countries?
– With the visa freedom more Ukrainians travel to Norway, by car or by plane. In the summer, it is quite popular to go fishing, hiking in the mountains or visit the magnificent fiords in Western and Northern Norway.
More Norwegians come to Ukraine, too, to visit Kyiv, Odessa, Lviv and other interesting places. Unfortunately, we do not yet have direct flights between Norway and Ukraine. I hope we will have that as soon as possible, and it would certainly boost tourism in both directions.
Which were your first impressions of Ukraine and its people?
– Very positive ones. The Ukrainians are generally very friendly and hospitable, and I am warmly welcomed wherever I go in Ukraine.
There is always a very positive attitude towards Norway.
Do you travel a lot around Ukraine?
– Yes, I travel quite frequently, and I have visited most parts of Ukraine. It is always interesting to meet people and local authorities outside the capital, and it gives a broader perspective on the developments in the country.
What do you like most of all in our country?
– I like the varied nature of Ukraine, from the mountains in the West, the sea in the South and the plains in the Centre. There are a lot of interesting historical sites. And I like the people.
Now Ukraine is suffering through the hard times. What would you like to wish the readers of our magazine?
– First and foremost we should be able to get a peaceful solution to the conflict with Russia as soon as possible. The Ukrainians have made a clear choice: to cooperate and integrate with Europe and I hope and believe that this ambition will be successful. Both Ukraine and Norway belong to the European family.