Business seminar in Vilnius
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to start by congratulating Lithuania on the 100th anniversary of its statehood. Your country has made a remarkable journey over these years.
The Crown Prince and I very much appreciate the warm welcome and the generous hospitality we have received during our stay. We are neighbours in the Nordic-Baltic region, and Norway greatly values the close relationship between our countries.
Trade and contact between the Baltic countries and Scandinavia dates back to the Viking age, and is largely related to the sea. In the 19th century our bilateral trade flourished with Norwegian vessels from the city of Stavanger bringing herring to the Baltic coast.
In 1849 alone, 98 small vessels brought more than 50 000 barrels of herring to the port of Klaipeda. Customs inspection at that time was carried out at Neringa Fort, which was recently restored through a joint effort by our two countries.
Since then our bilateral trade has diversified and expanded.
The Crown Prince and I are therefore very glad that we could join you for the opening of this business forum. It provides an excellent opportunity to share knowledge, and discuss technologies that promote growth and foster cooperation between Norwegian and Lithuanian companies.
A favourable business environment has put Lithuania firmly on the map for doing business. As a result, more than 300 Norwegian-owned companies operate in Lithuania today. You find them in areas such as manufacture, retail, finance, property and forestry.
Trade between our two countries actually increased by 15 % last year, reaching a total value of about 1,3 billion euros.
Lithuania and Norway both have a high score on international rankings for digitalisation. Closer ICT cooperation is being developed both bilaterally and in the Nordic-Baltic context. Many of the companies present here today are at the forefront of this field. The fact that Vilnius is rapidly becoming a hub for European fintech companies reflects Lithuania’s favourable business environment. Lithuania is also an important hub for shared service centres and for outsourcing in general.
There are many examples of our strong bilateral bonds.
As the President mentioned, the delivery of the liquefied natural gas terminal in Klaipeda in 2014 marked a defining moment in Lithuania’s pursuit of energy security. The terminal has also provided a basis for the development of LNG expertise in Lithuania and the industrial research cooperation between the universities of Trondheim and Klaipeda.
We are also proud that Lithuania decided last year to buy the NASAMS medium-range air defence system from Kongsberg Defence. This will pave the way for extensive cooperation between Norway and Lithuania in the defence sector.
Yesterday, we witnessed the signing of the MoU for the next funding period of the EEA and Norway Grants. This grants scheme provides funding for initiatives aimed at increasing value creation and sustainable growth. Supporting innovation-driven business development is a key element.
Just as important, however, are the opportunities through the EEA/Norway Grants for promoting social dialogue and the decent work agenda, both of which are crucial for sustainable economic development. A green, competitive and inclusive Europe is our common overarching goal.
I am honoured to be opening this business forum together with you.
You are playing a key role in your country’s development. Paving the way for new technology, creating a favourable business climate, and increasing foreign investments. In addition, you are promoting gender equality – empowering women, and encouraging them to engage and participate more actively in politics and business.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to see so many distinguished representatives of multinational companies, as well as future business leaders, gathered here today. I hope this forum will stimulate new ideas and foster new dialogues on how the business can both enrich and benefit from the warm relationship between our countries.
I wish you a successful conference, and hope to see another 100 years of co-operation.