iðnaðar- og viðskiptaráðherra.
of the Flexilam Lda. factory in Mortagua in Portugal
Friday January 24. 2003.
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is both a pleasure and a privilege to be here with you today at the official opening of this Flexilam factory.
Being an Icelandic guest in Portugal on this opening day of a new factory it may seem proper to ask what Iceland and Portugal have in common and what our two peoples can offer each other.
Many of us in the north think of Portugal as a rather exotic country, with its sun and cultural treasures, which thousands of Icelandic tourists have been able to enjoy during the last decades, as they have spent their vacations on your beaches or elsewhere in the country. In the same way I feel sure that the Portugese might find many unexpected wonders if they took a trip to the north.
In the Middle ages and at the dawn of Renaissance, Portugal as the southernmost country of Europe and Iceland as Europe}s outpost in the northwest, played their part in world history as sailing nations during the times of the great explorations and discoveries. And just as Iceland contributed to world literature by saga-writing, Portugal became famous for enriching the life of Europeans by importing and introducing shiploads of spice and new goods from overseas, never seen before. Then the wealth was, among other things, used for erecting monumental buildings and creating art treasures.
This was all history! But let}s again look at our time.
Both Iceland and Portugal are rather small countries in terms of areal. Both share the Atlantic Ocean and have for a long time relied extensively on fisheries and fishing industry. In times past Portugese ships were fishing off the coast of Iceland. Canned sardines from Portugal are thought of as délicatesse by many Icelanders, and the same goes for the well-known Icelandic "bacalao" for which the Portugese market has for long been of great importance. And I can assure you, too, that Portugese cork products, tiles and marble can now be seen in many modern houses up north, just to mention a few things we get from here.
So let}s by all means strengthen the trade relations between Iceland and Portugal and cultivate the friendship already established between the two nations.
I have followed the developments associated with the Icelandic investments here in Portugal ever since 1996 when the Icelandic company Límtré started working the Portuguese market in co-operation with the entrepreneur Mr. Gestur Bárðarson. Límtré which was established in 1982 is a pioneer in Iceland in the production of laminated structural timber. The company is now recognized for it's high quality laminated structural building units, known as glulam, - and has gained the impressive market share of between 80 and 90 % of the glulam industry in Iceland.
It should also be mentioned here that two of the main machine units in the Flexilam factory were constructed by an Icelandic company, Stálsmíði Bjarna Harðarsonar at Flúðir in Iceland, the same village as where the factory is located in Iceland.
With such a track record on the home market it is easy to understand that the company needed to seek new challenges abroad in order to grow. Since that started some six years ago Limtré and Flexilam have delivered over 50 building projects of various kinds in Portugal. The opening of this new facility today is an outstanding testimony of the success, both at home in Iceland and here in Portugal, and I wish the company, it's owners and all the employees a successful and prosperous future.
With these few words I declare the new Flexilam production facilities formally open.