“To understand Norway, it is not enough to visit Oslo – you also have to go west, north or south, out to the coast. Our ocean areas are six or seven times the size of mainland Norway. That is why we have invited you to Bergen and Austevoll,” Ms Huitfeldt said as she welcomed her Nordic and Baltic committee peers to Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri.
Regular semi-annual meetings
On 11 and 12 March, Ms Huitfeldt hosted the Nordic-Baltic meeting of parliamentary foreign affairs committee chairs. The foreign affairs committee chairs of our closest neighbouring countries have semi-annual meetings hosted on a rotating national basis. This time Norway chose to showcase the country’s maritime character and its global contribution to sustainable ocean management. It did so by bringing the attendants to Austevoll, where the Institute of Marine Research operates a research station.
On arrival in Bergen, the participants were briefed by Professor Sissel Rogne, Director of the Institute of Marine Research, who spoke on global food security challenges and the potential role of the ocean in addressing them. A professor at the institute, Peter Haugan, described what Norway is doing to promote sustainable ocean management at the global level, after which the floor was opened for discussion on the topic. At Bekkjarvik, Deputy Mayor Anja Heggholmen provided local context by explaining how the coastal municipality of Austevoll supports itself.
The agenda of the Nordic-Baltic gathering included a briefing, by Arne Strand of the Christian Michelsen Institute, on the situation in Afghanistan, a country recently visited by the Storting’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. The chairs foreign affairs committee chairs gave updates on their respective parliaments and discussed a wide variety of foreign affairs issues, including Brexit, the relationship between governments and parliaments when military forces are deployed, relations with Russia, and the situation in the Middle East.
Importance of regular, informal contact
“It is important to have this type of regular and informal contact with political colleagues in our closest partner countries, since national elections often cause turnover in who chairs the various foreign affairs committees,” Ms Huitfeldt says. “In every meeting Norway hosts I have also tried to ensure that my colleagues learn a bit more about Norway. Last time, I took them to Svalbard.”
The Storting’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence