Knut Vollebaek, Ambassador of Norway to the US
Shrouded in the
event of King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng’s death on Thursday,
May 24, Norway’s Ambassador to the United States, Knut Vollebaek,
attended the dinner that evening and gave a presentation Friday
at The World Trade Center on how small nations, such as Norway,
hold global influence.
Vollebaek attended a Nordic heritage dinner at the UW Center for
Horticulture where Maleng went into cardiac arrest and died.
Maleng was 68.
Vollebaek appeared for his scheduled luncheon on the waterfront
in Seattle and gave his presentation, “When size is power, is
there a role for small countries?” He began his speech with
informal chit-chat that provided an insight to how important the
Pacific Northwest is to a Scandinavian country such as
clearly visible in the state of Washington,” Vollebaek said,
“This is part of my constituency.”
he primarily travels to regions in the United States that hold
large populations of Norwegian descendants. He listed a few
upper Midwest states besides Washington State.
Government recently devised and implemented a two-year plan to
address their role in globalization. Vollebaek outlined this
two-year plan by discussing
role in energy, development and international diplomacy. He said
Norway hopes to play a constructive role in global development
and believes this effort will create “more progress into the
fight against world poverty.”
addressed Norwegian military obligations in Afghanistan and the
need for new means of diplomacy. He said Norway is “heavily
involved in Afghanistan with 700 soldiers,” and that military
operations need to involve humanitarian support.
“Military needs are
necessary but not always sufficient,” Vollebaek said.
To illustrate the
success diplomacy can bring, Vollebaek highlighted Norway’s role
in the 1993 Oslo Accords which brought Israeli and Palestinian
leaders together to sign a truce. Current Palestinian Authority
President, Mahmoud Abbas, and former Israeli Prime Minister,
Shimon Peres, signed the agreement in
D.C.; however, most of the substantial face-to-face
negotiations occurred in the Norwegian capital.
as representing a “new kind of bargaining power” within
international diplomacy, but also gave the audience a caveat
that if the
Middle East further deteriorates into violence without action “too late means too
many injuries and too many deaths.”
has “normalized” contact with Palestinian officials and is
“ready to listen to all groups.” He said Palestine must become
self-reliant and must create a “functioning economy and not
simply rely on foreign aid.”
Vollebaek, Norway allots one percent of its GDP to foreign aid
obligations. The amount most certainly comes from oil revenue
vast fields. He said Norway desires to be a predictable and
reliable supplier of oil, “using this power can be a
The country’s oil
exports flow into
Europe’s mainland, with most going into
Germany, and the U.K. However, Vollebaek said majority control
of the world’s energy sources rests in the hands of unstable
governments. This does not bode well for the U.S. as “no one
consumes as much as the U.S.”
European Union membership in 1994, Norway has not voted on
insecure about EU membership,” Vollebaek said regarding the last
Vollebaek, “we are a rich country and people don’t feel the need
to be apart of the EU.” This is a perfect characterization of
the majority sentiment in Norway, with extensive government
programs and cradle-to-grave benefits, the country may not hold
another vote until the government is positive the referendum
would pass. But as Norway’s population grows more diverse,
minority segments of the population who view Europe as a whole
may apply pressure to initiate another vote.
around the globe have problems with the influx of new immigrants
as their needs match or surpass those of their citizens.
Vollebaek mentioned how collapsing states feed into
growing refugee population, as it has become “a new and
Ambassador Vollebaek, immigration is a bit of problem due to the
size of the country, but
is trying to integrate new citizens in an effective way. He
discussed the issue of guest workers not feeling the need to
return home after their tasks are completed, and how it is an
issue that both the guest workers and the Norwegian Government
must address together.
Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce alongside the Seattle
Chamber of Commerce, the Trade Development Alliance of Seattle,
WA and the Washington Council of International Trade arranged
for Vollebaek’s visit to Seattle.
In the subsequent
few days, look for further discussions with Norwegian officials,
particularly concerning Norway’s oil supply and the United
States’ increasing demands for the energy source.
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You can reach Kai Sandvig at email@example.com