Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to this conference on Challenges, Opportunities and Cooperation in the North Atlantic Region.
I especially want to welcome the foreign guests from the 9 countries or regions in the North Atlantic Area - Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Greenland, Scotland, Shetland, Faroe Islands, Norway, – as well as from the European Commission and Denmark.
In recent years the world has changed rapidly due to factors in technology, economy, politics and other areas. These changes can also be seen in increased globalisation which has affected, the economy and culture on global, national and regional level at the same time – with both opportunities and threats - for business as well as people.
The key challenge is however to cope with these changes – there is no other option - and to take advantage of opportunities and strengths as well as creating new ones. For many reasons - it is also more important than ever to deepen cross-border co-operation, between regions as well as countries – to be able to enhance our economy, culture and the standard of living.
The strengths of our countries are many, such as; the culture, the sagas, skilled people, great natural resources, clean environment, etc. But at the same time our common challenges are many – like the cold climate, the sparse population, the long distances and therefore difficult transport conditions. It is therefore important to exchange experiences in order to find ways to exploit our common opportunities and strengths.
Co-operation and partnership between the North Atlantic countries and regions is the overall aim of this conference - and I am confident that the work at this meeting will bring us closer together, exchange experiences and help us with our common tasks towards more cooperation and growth. It is also important to highlight that we have joined in several successful projects supported by NORA. These programs have increased innovation, sales, value and growth of companies.
The co-operation within the NORA program will increase our strengths and create opportunities, making us better prepared to cope with the challenges we are facing – in rapidly changing world and globalisation - and turn them into economic and cultural value. The NORA program is also an important step for many companies and individuals towards participation in programs like NPP - or developing co-operation and business.
It has been the policy of our Government to strengthen the co-operation in the North Atlantic Region. This can be seen in how projects have been prioritised in our chairmanship in 2004 in the forum of Nordic Council of Ministers as well in other places. Implementation is however also depending on the private sector – as well as on public private partnership in the region. Therefore, I do hope you are able to take steps towards practical development in that direction. We have to create our future ourselves.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I hope the work here today and tomorrow will be valuable for enhancing future co-operation between the North Atlantic countries and regions – and hopefully you will find solutions to do so – through the NORA program – or in another way.
I would like to use this opportunity to thank NORA for holding this conference here in Iceland - the subject is of great importance to us. I also want again to welcome our foreign guests to Iceland and wish them a pleasant stay.
May you all have a fruitful meeting and I wish you all the best.