Today I opened the 160th Storting. The State Opening of the Storting is one of the few big official ceremonies we have here in Norway. It’s an important display of the role and function of our national assembly, not only for those of us who work in the Parliament on a daily basis, but for the general public as well. We’re talking about our nation’s supreme democratic arena. So this formal and traditional ceremony is one of the few opportunities we have to display our affinity and respect for Norwegian democracy.
The ceremony itself is a clear reflection of certain essential elements of our social structure, and illustrates the division of responsibilities in our constitutional democracy. This is the one day in the year that the King comes to the Storting, while the members of the Government and the Supreme Court are also present in the Chamber. The ceremony itself is prescribed in the Constitution. Basically this means that the King – or his regent – opens the Storting in accordance with set procedures that have been laid down in Article 74 of the Constitution since 1814.
For me, it’s the most important day of the year in my capacity as President of the Storting. Not simply because it’s a chance to mark the Storting as an institution, but also because it is through my speech to the branches of the State that I have the opportunity to draw attention to more important issues of principle.
This year I emphasized the current international situation and events that are having a huge impact on our nation and politics at the start of the new parliamentary year.
Today Europe is facing its greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The huge numbers of people currently making their way across Europe is an acute situation that has put our common European values to their severest test for many, many years.
Many refugees will find their way to Norway, and our efforts to help will necessitate a contribution from Norwegian society at large. We’ll have to do this in all sorts of ways. Not least this crisis will make it absolutely imperative for a responsible national assembly and a vigorous government to work well and closely together.
Seventy years ago, in the wake of the Second World War, the UN was founded. At that time, more than 60 million Europeans had taken flight. The current refugee crisis has been a dramatic reminder of how vital it is that the UN succeeds. How urgent the need is to build dynamic and effective international institutions and to unite the people of the world in our efforts to solve humanity’s mutual problems, be they climate change, eradicating poverty, arms control or health.
The UN resolution in which all the nations of the world have united in the common goal of greater sustainable development is historic. The only route to genuine success is via support at all levels throughout the political spectrum. It is here that parliaments play a vital role. In Norway it will form an important part of the political debate in the years ahead.
I concluded my address by reminding my fellow MPs that we are now halfway through the present parliamentary term and that we have to make good use of the mandate we have been entrusted with. It is our job to pave the way for the broadest possible democratic participation; one where the people have a feeling of proprietorship over the political system we all form a part of. This doesn’t just entail making one’s political position clear; it also means having the capacity to unite the nation on the most important issues.