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The Warsaw Voice » Other » May 9, 2007
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Close Allies in NATO
May 9, 2007   
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Knut Hauge, ambassador of Norway to Poland, talks with Marcin Mierzejewski.

May 17 is a national holiday in Norway. What do Norwegians celebrate on this day?
On this day we celebrate the anniversary of our constitution, adopted in 1814. The constitution is still in force in Norway, and its anniversary symbolizes the freedom and independence of our country. It is a day of celebration-for children above all. In Norwegian towns and villages, there are many colorful parades of children on this day.

We have a small Norwegian community in Poland-the largest group in this community nowadays is students-and, of course, we also celebrate our national day here.

How do you view Polish-Norwegian political relations?
Poland became an EU member in May 2004, and it is important for Norway to intensify political contacts with such an important EU country. Norway is not a member of the EU, but we are both members of the European Economic Area (EEA). Norway also adheres to the Schengen treaty. Although Norway is not in the EU, our countries are fairly well integrated. What is also very important is that we are becoming more and more integrated economically. For instance last year our trade exchange rose by about 40 percent.

There are also other forms of cooperation. Since Norway is not an EU member it does not contribute to the European budget. But we contribute to European community funding in other ways, through the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms in support of the new EU member countries. In Poland's case, these funds amount to about 560 million euros for the 2004-2009 period. This form of cooperation is very important not only for Polish society but also for bilateral relations.

Norway and Poland are also close allies in NATO.

How are economic relations developing between Poland and Norway?
The most important Norwegian export to Poland is seafood. Norwegian salmon constitutes 90 percent of all salmon sold in Poland. But there are also many other fields of economic cooperation between our two countries. What we import from Poland is mainly machinery and ships. At the moment, an exciting area of development is that of hi-tech cooperation.

How much interest in Norway and Norwegian culture is there in Poland? Are Norwegians interested in Poland?
First of all, you must remember that historically our contacts have not been very close. What we are experiencing now, though, is an explosion of mutual interest in our two countries. More and more Poles are coming to work in Norway, and this is enhancing understanding between the two societies. An important factor in strengthening contacts is the possibility of traveling that has been opened up by low-budget airlines. You can easily get to Norway from several Polish cities now.

The experience of Norwegians living in Poland, where they feel very welcome, is also important. As I see it, most of them consider Poland a very good country in which to live and work. Some of them are married to Poles.

Norwegians are traveling to Poland and Poles are traveling to Norway as tourists, in increasing but still fairly small numbers.

What does the increasing number of Polish workers mean to Norway?
Because both Poland and Norway belong to the EEA, which makes it easier for our citizens to migrate, it is difficult to say how many Polish citizens work in Norway at any one time. Different estimates say more than 50,000 people. We know for sure that many Poles come to our embassy every day, asking for information about the possibilities and obligations regarding work in Norway. I think it is very important for them to be aware of their rights and obligations, because when they are employed in Norway they should be treated the same way as Norwegian workers. The embassy website contains a lot of useful information. I would also like to underline that, from the Norwegian perspective, a flow of Polish workers is not a problem, but a positive factor for our economy. We welcome them.

What future prospects are there for relations between Poland and Norway?
Our relations are growing very rapidly in a number of fields. We are developing very good relations with Polish state and municipal authorities. Norwegian institutions are involved in cooperation with Polish partners in fields such as culture, education, environmental protection, health, and the development of civil society. Trade exchange and investments are growing fast.

I used to say that relations between our countries-as two sides of the former Iron Curtain-are just normalizing. Now I am convinced that, as our contacts are developing so fast, in a few years we will be talking about Poland and Norway as close neighbors.
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