Opening of Russian-Norwegian Business Seminar
Ladies and gentlemen,
Как приятно вернуться в Санкт-Петербурге снова.
(Good morning! It's great to be back in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg.)
I will leave the Russian language at that, before I embarrass myself too much, and continue in English: I really enjoyed being at the Olympics. It is truly impressive what your athletes were able to perform in Sochi.
Now Ill turn to todays issue:
Business relations between Russia and Norway have long and historical roots dating back to the Viking Age. The barter trade, with fish from Northern Norway and grain from North-West Russia, known as Pomor trade, was important for people in the region from the mid-18th century until early 20th century. The trade even led to the development of a common language called russenorsk, meaning Russko-Norwegian.
Against this historical backdrop, it is a great pleasure for me to open this Russian-Norwegian business seminar in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg. Last time I was here was in 2003 on an official visit together with my wife. It is great to be back.
Today, Russia and Norway are building on the historical trade in fish products. We cooperate closely and successfully on sustainable management of the fish resources in the Barents Sea. As a result, the Barents Sea is home to the worlds largest cod stock. Russia is currently Norways most important seafood market, and more than four million meals of Norwegian seafood are enjoyed in Russia every single day.
Our business cooperation is wide-ranging. The issues to be discussed here at the seminars today illustrate this: Investing in the St. Petersburg-Leningrad region, maritime cooperation, technological developments in the oil and gas sector, and tourism.
An increasing number of Norwegian companies see the potential and are, as a result, investing in Russia. Around 100 Norwegian companies are now well established in Russia. Several Russian companies, such as Lukoil and Rosneft, have established themselves in Norway as well. We hope to see many more in the years to come.
The Arctic is an area of common interest for Russian and Norwegian companies. The Arctic is home to rich resources such as energy, minerals and food. Major opportunities bring major responsibilities. Together we must make sure that the development of these areas is safe, sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The oil and gas sector is vital to both the Russian and the Norwegian economy. In one of todays workshops the participants will discuss the gap between the current technology and the technology needed for extracting oil and gas resources in the Barents, Pechora and Kara Seas in an environmentally safe and sound way.
Tourism is another important sector for cross-border contact. Norway is becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination for Russians. Last year, close to 200 000 Russians visited Norway. Norwegians are also discovering Russia as a great place to visit and St. Petersburg is the most popular destination for Norwegian tourists traveling to Russia. The citys exceptionally rich history, culture, architecture, art and hospitality are just some of the reasons why 40 000 Norwegian tourists come here every year.
Here a great city will be wrought
To spite our neighborhood conceited.
From here by Nature were destined
To cut a door to Europe wide,
To step with a strong foot by waters.
Here, by the new for them sea-paths,
Ships of all flags will come to us
And on all seas our great feast opens.
This quote from the poem "The Bronze Horseman" from 1833 by the great Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin gives a vivid picture of the future of St. Petersburg, which we can recognize today.
This poem together with Peter the Greats vision for the future, and his belief in technology and development, is a good example of what can be achieved by optimistic people with big dreams. On that note, I wish you every success with the seminars today!