Official dinner in Vilnius
Ladies and gentlemen.
Labas vakaras! (Good evening!)
The Crown Princess and I are very happy to be here. We have fond memories of the state visit you, Madam President, conducted to Norway in 2011. My parents, the King and Queen, send their best regards.
We appreciate very much the opportunity to visit your country on this memorable occasion – celebrating Lithuania’s anniversary.
It is a great pleasure for the Crown Princess and me to congratulate you on the 100th anniversary of the restoration of Lithuanian statehood. We have great admiration for all that you have achieved in regaining independence – both in 1918 and in 1990. This is truly impressive. It serves as an example for the whole international community.
Ties between Lithuania and Norway are longstanding and strong. In historic newspapers we can read about the frequent departures of Norwegian vessels to Lithuanian ports. The herring trade between Norway and Lithuania is an important part of Norwegian seafood history.
But herring is not the only commodity that has been shipped over the Baltic Sea. Hemp and linen goods from Lithuania were in high demand in Norway. In November 1854, the newspaper Christiania-Posten reported a major fire in the city of Memel, today’s Klaipeda. A significant part of the stores of hemp and linen goods were damaged by the fire, and this was clearly cause for serious concern in Norway.
However, the historical ties between our countries extend beyond trade.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a considerable number of Jews emigrated from Lithuania to Norway. While most of them were originally heading for America, many had to change their plans and settle in Scandinavia instead. In the winter months, several crossed the frozen Baltic Sea on foot. Leon Bodd, formerly Lithuanian honorary consul general to Norway, has highlighted the contribution Lithuanian Jews made in Norway and their talent for doing business. They travelled all over the country to sell traditional Lithuanian goods. During the fishing season in the north, they supplied the fishing communities with handmade clothes. They also did important work to help and support the poor.
Today about 44 000 Lithuanians are living in Norway, all over the country. There is no doubt that Lithuanians and their skills are in high demand in Norway, and greatly appreciated. Lithuanians make a substantial contribution to the Norwegian economy and to Norwegian society and to the links between our two countries.
Earlier today, the Crown Princess and I met people working for the Children’s Line, a hotline supported by the Norway Grants that helps children and young people who are struggling with various difficulties. The work of the volunteers involved in this project is truly admirable. This is just one example of how support through the EEA and Norway Grants can make a meaningful contribution to society and foster ever closer bonds between our nations.
Our two countries share many interests, also in the realm of culture.
In Norway, theatre director Oskaras Korsunovas is a well-known artist, alongside other famous Lithuanian cultural profiles such as the jazz musician and composer Lukas Zabulionis.
A quick search through the bestseller lists in your country shows that Norwegian authors like Jo Nesbø and Karl Ove Knausgård are popular. The fact that the concert by the Norwegian band A-ha, which is to be held in Trakai Castle in July this year, is already sold out, is another good sign - at least from our point of view!
The strong relationship between our two countries in politics, security and defence is important for both Norwegians and Lithuanians. Our cooperation on NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Lithuania is an important testimony to the values and interests we share in the area of regional security.
An increasing number of students, workers, businesses and tourists that travel between our countries also indicates that our bilateral ties are steadily growing. Lithuania’s fascinating culture and history is becoming better known and more widely appreciated by Norwegians, and I can understand why.
The Crown Princess and I have no doubt that Lithuania and Norway will continue to build closer and stronger bonds over the coming years. Young people who are eager to invest in the future have good opportunities for success in both our countries.
On behalf of the Crown Princess and myself, I would like to extend our warmest thanks for your hospitality, and I ask you all to share in a toast to Lithuania, and to the common interests of our peoples.