EU enlargement discussed in Oslo

“Both Norway and the EU play an important role in promoting economic development in the Western Balkans and in strengthening their relations with the rest of Europe”, said the European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, at the European Conference in Oslo on the 2nd of February.

15/02/2006 :: The Finish commissioner Olli Rehn was one of the main speakers at the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ yearly European Conference. This year the conference was dedicated to the enlargement process, in particular to challenges and opportunities for Norway through the EEA Financial Mechanism.

Commissioner Olli Rehn expressed his gratitude to the Norwegian contribution to the development of growth and stability in the new member states. Norway contributes yearly with 230 million Euros to the joint efforts for development in Eastern Europe. Moreover, a regional free trade area for the Western Balkan countries is already in process.

The Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre said at the Conference that he EU plays a historic role in the process of stabilisation of the Western Balkans in their co-operational projects in the region. He added that Norway now starts negotiating Norwegian participation in the 2005 Treaty establishing a unified Energy Community in South-East Europe.

Commissioner Olli Rehn mentioned the strong relations between Norway and the EU regarding the High North, and the strong Norwegian involvement in the area. He pointed to the importance for co-operation between Norway, EU and Russia on the administration of these areas. In his speech, minister Gahr Støre said that on of Norway’s main political aims in an enlarged EU is to secure a sustainable management of the natural resources, both when it comes to fishing and energy.

The Polish Minister of Regional Development Grażyna Gęsicka also participated at the conference. Gahr Støre expressed that Poland is of particular importance to Norway. The country receives almost half of the founding to development in the new member states. Furthermore, Norway has decided to establish four new funds: A Norwegian-polish research fund, a Scholarship and educational fund, a seed money and finally an NGO-fund.

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