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Area (Total): 385,186 km2

-- Mainland: 323,787 km2;
-- Svalbard: 61 022 km2;
-- Jan Mayen: 377 km2
Population: 4,973,029 (Oct 2011)
Population density: 15 people per sq km
Capital City: Oslo: population 599,230 (Jan 2012)
Languages: Two forms of Norwegian, named “bokmål” and “nynorsk”. Sami is a separate language spoken by the Sami peoples in the northern counties, which has equal status with the Norwegian language.

Religion(s): 78% Church of Norway (Evangelical Lutheran)
National Day: May 17 - celebrating the constitution of Norway as an independent nation in 1814. (Independence from Sweden was on 26 October 1905)

National Anthem: 'Ja, vi elsker dette landet' ('Yes, we love this country')
Political System: Constitutional Monarchy
Government: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Centre-left "red-green" coalition with the Socialist and Centre parties narrowly retained its majority in the 2009 election, becoming the first Norwegian government to win a second consecutive term in 16 years.

Head of State: HM King Harald V (1991)
Prime Minister: Jens Stoltenberg (Labour)
Foreign Minister: Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour)
Major Political Parties (Members of the Governing Coalition in bold)
Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) (Ap)
Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) (SV)
Centre Party (Senterpartiet) (Sp)
Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) (Frp)
Conservative Party (Høyre) (H)
Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti) (KrF)
Liberals (Venstre (V)

Membership of international groupings/organisations: Arctic Council, Barents Euro-Arctic Council, Council for Baltic Sea States, Council of Europe, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Economic Area, European Free Trade Area, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Civil Aviation Organisation, International Criminal Court, International Monetary Fund, International Maritime Organisation, Interpol, Intelsat, International Whaling Commission, NATO, OSCE, OECD, OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North East Atlantic, Nordic Council of Ministers, Schengen, UN, Western European Union (associate), World Trade Organisation

Did You Know

-- Although outside the EU, it has adopted more EU legislation into domestic law than any EU country except Denmark.

It has 100% literacy.

-- It has one of the longest coastlines in the world (83,281 km), helped by nearly 50,000 islands.

-- It is home to the world’s northernmost brewery (Tromsø).

It has no external debt.

-- The first UN General Secretary was a Norwegian (Trygve Lie).

-- Manchester United and Liverpool fan clubs have more Norwegian members than any other nationality.

-- It has the highest female employment rate in Europe (74% of all adult females).

-- It has the world’s longest road tunnel (24.5km).

-- 99% of electricity generated in Norway is produced hydro-electrically.

-- Norway regularly tops the UN survey of Human Development in the following areas: life expectancy, access to tertiary education and average income.

-- The Norwegian Pension Fund was worth around £358 billion in January 2012, equivalent to around £67,000 for every man, woman and child in Norway. This makes it the second largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.

-- Norway is the world's fifteenth-largest oil producer and seventh largest gas exporter (2010).

-- In 2010, Norway exported 37 Million Tonnes of crude oil to the UK (48% of its total crude oil exports) and 29 Million Sm3 (Roughly a third of its total natural gas exports)

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP: £271 billion (2010)
GDP per head: £55,537 (2010)
GDP growth: 0.7% from 2009 (2010)
Inflation: 1.2% (November 2011)
Major Industries: Oil and gas and energy, farmed fish, shipping, manufactured goods.
Major trading partners: Exports to UK (27%), Germany (13%), Netherlands (10.1%), France (9.2%), Sweden (7.4%). Over 70.9% of total exports of goods and services go to the EU.
Sources: Statistics Norway, Norwegian Ministry of Finance, Dept Business, Innovation and Skills

Following a ten year period of rapid growth, the economy of Norway has levelled. The world-wide financial crisis did not affect Norway as badly as many other nations. The Bank of Norway lowered interest rates to 1.25% in the spring of 2009 (increased October 2009 to 1.5%) and by the end of the third quarter of 2009 Norway showed every sign of recovering well.
Norway achieved growth of 1.5% in 2010, and largely avoided the type of financial turmoil experienced by other European and world economies.

The Norwegian economy is dominated by the oil and gas sector, which accounts for 50% of value creation. In 2010 production of crude oil totalled 104.4 million Sm3 while gas production for the same period was 106.4 million Sm. Exports of crude oil and petroleum products were worth £48 billion in 2010, making Norway one of the world’s major oil and gas exporters. Oil revenues are invested for the future in the Government Pension Fund, the market value of which reached NOK 3.327 Trillion (£358 billion) in January 2012. According to current estimates Norway has oil for at least the next 30 years and gas for at least 100 years.

Norway’s engineering industry, specialising in ships equipment, offshore deliveries, telecommunications, hydropower and equipment, and other niche products and services are also important. Fish and ‘Aquaculture’ represent an important part of the Norwegian economy. Figures from the Norwegian Export Council for Fish show that the export value of exported Norwegian seafood was NOK 53 billion (£5.7 billion) in 2011, representing 2.3 million tonnes, a decrease of 339,000 tonnes on 2010.

Shipping and shipping freight remain vitally important to Norway’s service sector. (NOK 96 billion in 2008) Norwegian shipping companies control around 10% of the world’s shipping fleet. Measured in tonnage, the Norwegian merchant fleet is the world’s third largest.

The UK is Norway’s largest export market with a total value of £23.1 billion in 2010. This figure reflects the fact that over 70% of gas imported by the UK is piped directly from Norway.

The UK is an important import market for Norway with a total value in 2010 of £2.9 Billion.

(Source: Statistics Norway) The UK is Norway’s 5th largest supplier of goods and a major provider of services. British companies are amongst the largest foreign investors in the Oslo stock exchange (Oslo Bors), especially in shipping, banking and insurance.

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Recent History

Norway gained full independence from Sweden in 1905. Norway remained neutral in WWI, with sympathy for the Western Allies, and in 1920 joined the new League of Nations. During the Second World War, Germany invaded Norway (on 9 April 1940) and occupied the country. In June of that year HMS Devonshire brought the Norwegian King and Government to London, where the Norwegian government-in-exile was based until May 1945 and military units integrated with allied forces.

In 1942, Vidkun Quisling was installed by the Nazis as Minister President of Norway. He did not have the support of the Norwegian people. Popular resistance during the war was bolstered by the fact that King Haakon and the Government had resolutely refused to submit to German demands. Sabotage operations were legion, the most notable being the destruction of the heavy water plant at Rjukan in Telemark, foiling German attempts to produce an atomic bomb. Many leaders of the underground were executed and about 35,000 Norwegians were sent to concentration camps. Liberation came on 8 May 1945. On 7 June 1945, King Haakon returned to Oslo on HMS Norfolk, escorted by HMS Devonshire - five years to the day since he had left in exile.

By 1948, GNP had returned to pre-war levels. Norway was a founder member of NATO in 1949, of the Nordic Council in 1952 and of EFTA in 1960. In 1957, after a reign of more than half a century, King Haakon VII died. His son, Crown Prince Olav (namesake of Norway's national saint), assumed the throne. He died in January 1991 to be succeeded by his only son, King Harald V. The Crown Prince, Prince Haakon, is next in line to the throne, followed by his daughter, Princess Ingrid Alexandra, who was born in January 2004. Since the close of WWII, Norwegian politicians have worked to strike a balance between economic growth and efforts to achieve social equality.

A phase of rapid expansion of the public sector lasting from 1945-71 has been followed by a long period of internationalisation and market adaptation. In 1969, oil and gas deposits were discovered under the North Sea. Until 1971, the State played a key role in planning the economy. The introduction of Norwegian National Insurance (1967) and the expansion of major areas of the educational and the health-care sectors were all initiated as part of the large-scale "public revolution". During this period, public expenditures increased from about one third to one half of the gross domestic product, an outlay that has subsequently been maintained. Since the 1970s, there has been increased focus on a market framework, leading to some decentralisation of public services to the local level or to independent State-owned institutions such as Telenor (Norwegian telecoms supplier).

On 22 July 2011, Anders Breivik - a Norwegian national and right wing extremist, killed 68 people in two attacks in Oslo city centre and on the island of Utoya. Most of the victims were teenagers and young adults attending a camp on Utoya. The attack has been described as the worst attack in Norway since World War II and was widely condemned by the international community.

Longer Historical Perspective

Until the mid-1000s, the Scandinavian people played a major part in European history. During the Viking Age, British contact began in 793 AD with the sacking of the monastery at Lindisfarne.

During the 7th Century the Vikings raided and colonised throughout Western Europe. Viking longships from Norway landed in the Hebrides, Shetlands, Orkneys, the Scottish mainland, the Lake District, the Isle of Man, Ireland and in Normandy, where some settled and integrated with the indigenous population. Reminders of these settlements are still found in many areas today.

Norway was united under a single Kingdom by King Harald Fairhair around 900 AD. Christianity spread to Norway during the next century and was decreed as the official religion by King Olav II who, upon his death in 1030 AD, was canonised as Saint Olav, Norway's national saint. The Viking era in the UK ended in 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in which King Harald Hardråde ('the Hard Ruler') was killed. The weakening of Saxon forces in this battle led to their defeat shortly afterwards, during the Norman invasion.

During the middle Ages, Norway also included the Orkneys, Shetland, Faeroes, Iceland and Greenland. In 1266 the Hebrides and Isle of Man were sold to the Scottish crown by King Magnus "the Lawmender". The monarchies of Norway and Denmark were united in 1380 after which the Danes pledged the Shetland and Orkney Islands to Scotland in 1469 as part of the dowry of Princess Margaret of Denmark on her marriage to King James III of Scotland.

Following the Napoleonic Wars, the King of Denmark was forced to cede Norway to the King of Sweden under the Treaty of Kiel in 1814 (although Iceland, the Faeroes and Greenland remained Danish). However, Norway was able to establish internal self-rule, based on its own constitution, which was adopted on 17 May 1814. 17 May is every year as Norway’s National Day.

Years of tension under Swedish rule came to a head in 1905 when Sweden vetoed Norwegian plans to establish a separate consular service. Norway’s Parliament voted to end the Union. In the subsequent referendum, Norwegians voted for independence by 368,208 votes to 184. The Treaty of Karlstad dissolved the union with Sweden and on 26 October 1905, after which Sweden officially recognised Norway as an independent and separate state. Britain was one of the very first countries to recognise newly independent Norway (on 30 October) and sent our first diplomatic representative on 3 November 1905. After dissolution, and a further referendum, Prince Carl of Denmark agreed to become King of Norway, assuming the name King Haakon VII. His British wife, Maud (the daughter of King Edward VII) became Queen.

BBC News Country Timeline: Norway (

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Norway has held two referenda on EU membership. In 1972, 53.5% voted against and in 1994 52.2% said no. Given differences of opinion, the three coalition partners are unlikely to raise the question of EU membership before the next general election. Norway does, however, participate in the EU's Single Market through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. As an EEA Member, Norway implements EU Directives on trade and economic matters, and contributes financially to the EU’s structural and cohesion funds, but remains outside the Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies. Norway also takes part in police, judicial, visa and frontier co-operation through the Schengen Convention and is active in the Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Norway has been an energetic supporter of UN reform, and was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2001-2002. Home of the Nobel Foundation, conflict prevention and resolution is high on the foreign policy agenda. Norway’s international profile was significantly boosted in 1993 as a result of its pivotal role, brokering the Middle East Peace Agreement (the Oslo Accords). Norway’s discreet peace-facilitator role continues around the world. Alongside conflict prevention and resolution efforts, key policy priorities include Climate change, sustainable development, human rights, and promoting 'international good citizenship'. Norway’s overseas aid budget is expected to reach 1.0% of GNP in 2012 (£3 Billion).

Stoltenberg’s re-elected government has continued the main lines of Norwegian foreign policy, including active membership of NATO and adherence to the EEA agreement. It will not join the EU - although the Labour Party is in favour of membership, public opinion and coalition partners are opposed. In addition the government’s priorities include strengthening the UN, contributing to peace support, disarmament, and increased development aid. Relations with its near neighbours in the "High North" (i.e. the Barents / Arctic Region) are a main strategic priority and in particular the need to tackle illegal fishing and co-operate with Russia and others over future oil and gas extraction. As a State Party to the 1920 Spitzbergen Treaty, and with strong interests in energy security and tackling climate change, the UK has an interest in co-operating with Norway to develop the region in a sustainable and equitable manner.

Over the last 50 years there has been a strong tradition of Norwegian peacekeeping and it is estimated that nearly 1% of Norwegian police are involved in international operations. At present Norway has around 400 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Norway's relations with the UK

Bilateral relations are close and strong, reflecting long-standing trading links, geographical proximity, ties between respective Royal families, connections forged during the Second World War, continuing shared security concerns, and many cultural affinities (e.g. theatre, shopping and, not least, football). In addition, since 1947, the people of Oslo have arranged annually for a Christmas tree to be sent to the people of London, as a token of gratitude for British support of Norway during World War II. The tree is displayed every year in Trafalgar square, and is the centrepiece of Christmas celebrations in the capital.

Bilateral military contacts remain close with low flying practice and hundreds of UK service personnel involved in annual regular winter training/exercising in Norway; British troops make up about half of all allied training in Norway.

HM The Queen paid a State Visit to Norway from 30 May to 1 June 2001 (in return for the 1994 State Visit to the UK by HM King Harald V). King Harald and Queen Sonja, accompanied by Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit paid a visit to the UK on 25-27 October 2005 to mark the Centenary of Norway's independence from Sweden. In 2011 King Harald and Queen Sonja attended the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. There are also frequent Ministerial exchanges between the two governments.

As neighbours linked by a common sea, the UK and Norway have a shared interest in ensuring sustainable management of marine resources. Norway is by far the UK's largest single supplier of oil and gas outside the UK Continental Shelf. British and Norwegian energy and supply companies are active within and across each other's sectors. Both countries are also seeking solutions to curb global warming and have worked closely, through the North Sea Basin Task Force, to advance the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to mitigate the impact of CO2 emissions. In May 2009, the then British Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change, Lord Hunt, and Norwegian Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Terje Riis-Johansen, agreed the One North Sea framework for bilateral cooperation on climate change and energy security. One North Sea identifies three priorities - CCS, petroleum, and renewable energy.

We share a similarly high level of ambition for international action to tackle global warming. Areas of particularly close international cooperation include: promoting new technology such as CCS; leading the debate on climate finance for adaptation and mitigation; and, stimulating broad support for rainforest protection. In October 2009, the UK and Norway co-hosted the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, a global initiative to promote investments in research and demonstration of CCS technology. On rainforest protection, the UK and Norway were first movers in supporting the UN REDD initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and together have invested £100b in the Congo Basin.

Arctic climate change research is another area of close cooperation. Since 1991, the UK Natural Environment Research Council has operated an Arctic Research Station on Svalbard in the settlement of Ny Aalesund. Scientists use the station to investigate cutting-edge issues related to Arctic climate change, such as glaciology and the impact of black carbon on melting ice. Increasingly, the UK is co-ordinating with Norway to communicate the latest scientific knowledge about the global impacts of Arctic warming.

Although bilateral relations are strong, there have been a small number of areas where there have been differences in policy. The UK is a strong opponent of all forms of commercial whaling. Although both the UK and Norway are members of the International Whaling Commission, Norway has lodged an objection to the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling and continues to set its own quotas each year (1052 minke whales in 2006). Britain opposes in the IWC but accepts that the objection Norway lodged allows them to continue whaling legally.

Diplomatic Representation

UK Ambassador to Norway: H.E. Ms Jane Owen
Norwegian Ambassador to the UK: H.E. Mr. Kim Traavik

Significant Visits in 2009 / 2010

-- Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre met the then Foreign Secretary David Milliband in London in February 2010.

-- HRH The Price of Wales and the Minister of State at the Department for Energy and Climate Change attend the Oslo Climate and Forest conference in May 2010

-- Charles Hendry, Minister at the Department for Energy and Climate Change attended the ONS conference in August 2010

-- The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond visited Stavanger and Oslo in August 2010

-- The Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox met the Norwegian Defence Secretary in Oslo and attended the Northern Group meeting in November 2010

-- Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, visited London in November 2010 for meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague

-- Lord Howell, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office attended the Oslo Gas conference in January 2011

-- Maria Miller, Minister at the department for Work and Pensions visited Oslo in April 2011

-- The Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox visited Bodo and Svalbard in May 2011

-- The Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg visited the UK in June 2011 for a Bilateral with the Prime Minister, David Cameron and to attend the GAVI Conference

-- Erik Solheim, Norwegian Minister for the Environment visited the UK for meetings the International Development Secretary and with DFID Ministers in July 2011

-- The Junior Scottish fisheries Minister Stuart Stevenson visited Trondheim for Aqua Nor in August 2011

-- The Minister for Europe, David Lidington Visited Oslo in September 2011

-- The Norwegian Storting Standing Committee, visited London in October 2011 to Discuss Climate and Energy Policy

-- State Secretary Erik Lahnstein visited London for Bilateral with Henry Bellingham and the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor in October 2011

-- The Norwegian Minister of Reform and Church Affairs Rigmor Aasrud visited the UK for bilateral talks with Home Office Minister Damian Green in October 2011

-- The Norwegian Minister for Pretroleum and Energy, Ola Borten Moe visited the UK for a Renewable Energy conference in Manchester for Bilateral meetings with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne.

-- Ms Tone Toften the Norwegian State Secretary for Government Administration and Church affairs visited London for the Cyber Conference in November 2011

-- The First Sea Lord, Admiral Mark Stanhope visited Norway in November 2011

-- Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store visisted London in November 2011 for meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague

In addition to the visits listed above, British and Norwegian Ministers, State Secretaries and officials from a wide range of Government Departments meet frequently to exchange views on diverse issues both in Oslo and London and when attending international events.

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The Kingdom of Norway consists of the mainland on the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Svalbard archipelago (in accordance with the 1920 Spitzbergen Treaty), and Jan Mayen Island in the Arctic.

About half the country lies inside the Arctic Circle. The Norwegian coastline, including fjords and bays, is 21,465 km (or 2,650 km excluding them), with an estimated 150,000 islands and islets. To the east, Norway shares borders with Sweden (1,619 km), Finland (721 km) and Russia (196 km).

Norway has three dependencies in the Antarctic: Queen Maud's Land (on the mainland), Peter I Island and Bouvet Island.


4,973,029 (October 2006). Population density (at 15 per sq km) is one of the lowest in Europe. There are only four towns with a population over 100,000 - Oslo, the capital, with just under 600 thousand inhabitants, Bergen (233 291), Trondheim (151 408) and Stavanger (109 710). Only 10% of the population live in the northern half of the country where the only large town is Tromsø (60 524). There is an indigenous population group in Norway called the Sami. They are originally an Arctic people and can also be found in Sweden, Finland and Russia. In Norway there are no detailed statistics held on the size of the population but it is estimated to be between 40,000 and 45,000 Sami, largely concentrated in Finnmark, where there are some 25,000. The Sami Parliament is located in the town of Karasjok in Norway. It meets several times a year.

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Recent Political Developments

The Labour Party dominated Norwegian politics from the 1930s to the early 1980s. The 1980s and 90s were characterised by the alternation of power between Labour Governments (led by Gro Harlem Brundtland, Thorbjørn Jagland or Jens Stoltenberg) and Conservative or centre-right coalitions (Kåre Willoch, Kjell Magne Bondevik). Oil revenues started to flow into Government coffers, but governments on both left and right were destabilised by arguments over public spending, and over the EU.

Following the general election on 14 September 2009 the majority centre-left "red-green" coalition made up of the Labour Party, Centre Party and Socialist Left led by Labour Party leader Jens Stoltenberg, was re-elected for a second term. The policies of the new Government have an emphasis on expenditure on social welfare, the environment and local government at home, and on disarmament, development aid and peace brokering abroad. There is broad, cross-party support for an ambitious climate change programme leading to Norway being carbon neutral by 2050 (or by 2030 in the case of a robust international climate agreement).

The Labour Party remained the most popular single Party in the election. The Centre Right opposition Progress and Conservative Parties polled strongly in the election but have been unable to present a united front.

The Norwegian Cabinet:
Prime Minister: Jens Stoltenberg, Labour Party
Minister at the Office of the Prime Minister: Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, Labour Party
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Jonas Gahr Støre, Labour Party
Minister of Finance: Sigbjorn Johnsen, Labour Party
Minister of Defence: Espen Barth Eide, Labour Party
Minister of Trade and Industry: Trond Giske, Labour Party
Minister of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs: Rigmor Aasrud, Labour Party
Minister of Local Government and Regional Development: Liv Signe Navarsete, Center Party
Minister of Health and Care Services: Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen, Labour Party
Minister of Culture: Anniken Huitfeldt, Labour Party
Minister of Labour: Hanne Bjurstrom, Labour Party
Minister of Transport and Communications: Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, Labour Party
Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs: Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, Labour Party
Minister of the Environment: Erik Solheim, Socialist Left Party
Minister of Agriculture and Food: Lars Peder Brekk, Center Party
Minister of Justice and the Police: Grete Faremo, Labour Party
Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion: Audunn Lysbakken, Socialist Left Party
Minister of Education: Kristin Halvorsen, Socialist Left
Minister of Research and Higher Education: Ms Tora Aasland, Socialist Left Party
Minister of Petroleum and Energy: Ola Borten Moe, Center Party
There are 169 seats in the Norwegian parliament (the 'Storting')

Seat distribution is as follows:

Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet - Ap) 64

-- Conservative Party (Høyre - H) 30

Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet - FrP) 41

-- Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti - KrF) 10

-- Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti - SV) 11

-- Centre Party (Senterpartiet - Sp) 11

Liberals (Venstre - V) 2

A term of the Storting is four years (Fixed term). The next election will be in September 2013.

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Last Updated: January 2010

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