Business seminar in Tallinn
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to join you at the opening of this conference, with its focus on opportunities for strengthening trade and economic cooperation between our two countries.
Trade in the Nordic-Baltic region has a long history. During the Viking age, contact was quite frequent, although not always of the friendly sort. In the days of the Hanseatic League – an early version of the Single Market – fish, timber, grain and amber were among the main products traded between the Baltic countries and Norway.
Today, we are once again seeing trade and economic relations thriving. And now, fortunately, relations between our countries are entirely friendly.
Around 200 companies with Norwegian investors are engaged in Estonia. Our traditional trade in natural resources has developed into investments and business cooperation, in areas such as prefabricated cabins and houses and food and machinery. We are also seeing investments and cooperation in the services sector, for example in real estate, banking, shipping, logistics and the retail trade.
A new and important area in our business relations is digital technologies.
Estonia and Norway are both small, open economies. We are both part of the Single Market. And both our countries are at the top of international rankings of digitalisation. This means that we are in a good position to address the challenges and exploit the opportunities represented by digital transformation.
The current technological revolution is changing the way we live, the way we work, the way we conduct business and even the way we organise our societies. With a computer or a tablet, you can run a business from virtually anywhere, do your taxes, and follow up your children’s schooling and sports activities. Thanks to you, Estonia, and your invention of Skype, we can keep in touch with our family and friends and do business across borders at no cost.
We can hardly imagine what the opportunities will be like in five or ten years’ time. What is already clear, however, is that digital governance is competitive governance.
It is impressive to see how Estonia has evolved into a digital society. You have had a clear vision – and the tools and means to implement it. And you have shown great dedication in doing so. What’s more, your vision and your ambitions for digitalisation don’t stop at your borders. The official visit of President Kaljulaid to Norway last autumn, where she was keynote speaker at a major technology conference, is a clear case in point.
At the European level, you made digitalisation a priority for your EU Presidency, and managed to achieve the Tallinn Declaration on e-Governance, which Norway also signed, to mention just one of your achievements in this sphere.
A year ago, Nordic and Baltic ministers signed the Digital North declaration in Oslo. This declaration sets out the ambition to make the Nordic-Baltic region a ‘digital frontrunner’. Our common commitments are:
To strengthen the ability of our governments to bring about digital transformation,
To strengthen the competitiveness of our businesses through digitalisation,
And to enhance the digital single market in the Nordic-Baltic region.
Estonia is a key partner in these endeavours, as it is one of the world’s most advanced countries when it comes to digital services within the public sector. Norway, for its part, has a longstanding tradition of technological innovation. Therefore, I note with great optimism that IT-related businesses in Norway and Estonia have found each other, both at the Tallinn ICT Week and at the Oslo Innovation Week. And, today, you have yet another chance to meet a potential business partner.
The Green Industry Innovation programme under the EEA and Norway Grants has been instrumental in bringing our businesses together. Today, a new programme for Green ICT will be presented. We are confident that the new programme will prove to be a catalyst for innovative, green solutions that will enable our companies to be technological leaders, and our countries to stay at the forefront of the digital transformation.
I am told that Estonians and Norwegians find it easy to establish contact, even though our languages are very different. Both Estonians and Norwegians tend to concentrate on the task at hand and to look for practical solutions whenever they are faced with a challenge.
Both our countries have a no-nonsense, down-to-earth business culture. This gives us an excellent platform for building new partnerships to the benefit of businesses and people in both countries.
I wish you a productive and inspiring seminar and every success in your search for new business opportunities.
Thank you for your attention.