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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Norway celebrates the 200th anniversary of its exit from a 434 year Union with Denmark – with a speech of congratulation and friendship from Denmark.

Today at 12:30, the Speaker of the Folketing (The Danish parliament) delivered a speech to the Storting (the Norwegian parliament) in anticipation of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution on Saturday. Mogens Lykketoft is only the second foreign person to the Storting: the first was Winston Churchill.

(I am indebted to my Danish contact and friend Troels Just for this translation. and for much else besides over an extended period of time. Troels takes a keen and perceptive interest in European and Scottish affairs.)

Speech to the Storting on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, Tuesday the 15th of May 2014.
(translation by Troels Just.)

Your majesties, Your royal highnesses, Mr. President (of the Storting) and Norwegian colleagues, Storting representatives, Ladies and gentlemen.

Congratulations Norway!

Congratulations for it, this week, being 200 years since 112 Norwegian men at Eidsvoll conceived and passed a constitution for the Norwegian people.

The Eidsvoll Constitution became Norway's letter of freedom.

The Constitution's founding idea of civil rights and popular elections set the course towards the modern democracy, and not just in Norway. Since then the rest of the Nordic countries set the same course, and in the most of Europe.

Preceding were 434 years of a common Danish-Norwegian realm.

Many of our common historical characters - such as, for example, Holberg and Tordenskjold - defined themselves neither as Norwegian or Danish. We were twins. We belonged together.
But Norway was governed from Copenhagen by civil servants who were educated down there, no matter whether they were Danish or Norwegian by birth.

The absolutist central government did not secure for Norway real equality with Denmark.

Therefore, the thought of an independent Norway had long quietly resided in many Norwegian hearts. The thought flared up in full bloom when the Great Powers at the Peace of Kiel in January 1814 decided, that Norway were to be separated from Denmark to be with Sweden.

It says a lot about the cohesion between Danish and Norwegian that Norway - both during the struggle for the free constitution in 1814 and by the dissolution of the union in 1905 - chose a Danish prince as king.

Today - 200 years after our divorce - Danes and Norwegians have at least just as much in common as we did back then when we were a common realm. Our mutual relationship is far more equal. Yes, Norway has become the rich relative.

It is deeply anchored in the souls of our peoples that, that which comes from the sister country is OK. We hold no mutual mistrust and we make it a premise that the people of the sister country think, believe and act as we do ourselves. This immediate understanding, a stronger case of which is unlikely to be found between other nations in the world, is based on

that we so easily understand each other's speech,

that we are deeply shaped by the common history and  culture,

that we socially, economically and politically has so much in common


that we trade a lot more between ourselves than with the rest of the world.

This community is not just something made up of Danes and Norwegians. It encompasses all of us in the Nordic countries, and it is not slowed down by Norway and Iceland being outside the EU, and Sweden and Finland being outside of NATO.

Since 1952 we have had the Nordic Council, and before the rest of Europe we developed the right to travel and work freely in our countries.

We are among the world's richest societies, and we have a shared agenda of welfare and sustainability. We are strong advocates of a commitment to international cooperation.

Together we are proportionally the world's biggest donor of humanitarian assistance and development projects.

We are at the forefront of international conflict resolution and we are furthering our cooperation also in areas of defence.

In the area of culture we have a lot of trans-national productions in the areas of motion picture, literature, music and art.

All of these examples underline the deep understanding between the peoples of the Nordic countries. With the events of 1814, the wild and warring years of our youth came to an end. The Nordic countries never again became an internal scene for war.

The last 200 years has certainly not been without challenges, but internally in the Nordic countries we have together created remarkably rich and strong societies. We will also in the future need Nordic cooperation to shape the international community. New agendas rapidly appear with strength. For example our common initiative in the Arctic area.

Norwegian democracy has over the past 200 years grown big, beautiful and strong.

In the middle of the unbelievable cruelty that hit the Norwegian people on the 22nd of July in 2011, the Norwegian democracy showed in unique and admirable ways to the world that, even the most horrible and evil impacts can be dealt with, so that the cohesion and sanity of soceity is strengthened.

Dear all Norwegian sisters and brothers:

It is with great joy and honour to be here today. Thanks yet again for the invitation to deliver the Folketing's and the Danish people's congratulations from the podium of the Storting to the Norwegian democracy and the Norwegian people.

From an honest heart, a giant congratulations!


  1. Very interesting, thanks a lot for posting this! I don't think the "proportionally" is right, though -- I think he meant Denmark and Norway together are the largest donor in absolute numbers.

    1. Thanks, Thomas - I'll check with Troels.



    2. What he says is this: "I størrelse er vi tilsammen den største donor i verden i humanitær bistand på udviklingsprojekter." This means: "In size we are together the largest donor in the world in humanitarian assistance to development projects."

    3. Thanks for that clarification, Thomas.



    4. @ Thomas Widmann

      First of all, thank you for taking an interest in my translation, I appreciate that. By your initiative, I decided to take a close look at the sentences you mentioned, and try to carefully examine and translate it again with my thinking cap on.

      When I did the translation I used the text of the speech published at the Folketing's website:

      The speech as presented by Mogens Lykketoft does vary a slight bit, however I found it easier to translate the text, rather than to transcribe and then translate.

      After having looked at it closely, and really reading it with my thinking cap on, I think it is actually Mogens Lykketoft who might have been a bit imprecise in his wording, so my translation actually also functions as a clarification of what he said.

      In the text that I translated, the sentence is: "Sammenlagt er vi efter størrelse verdens største donor til humanitær bistand og udviklingsprojekter."

      For the purpose of consistency, I would translate that as follows:

      "Taken together we are, in terms of size, the world's largest donor of humanitarian assistance and development projects."

      If you read this and really think about it carefully, it can only make sense if he meant it in some sort of proportional term, either in terms of population or the size of our economies, because in absolute numbers (As you mentioned) there are countries who spend way more money on development aid.

      To give you some numbers, in 2012 the United States development aid budget was 30 billion US dollars. The Scandinavian budgets (Lykketoft spoke in the context of the Nordic Council when he said "we", so I think he meant all of the Nordic countries) were as follows:

      Denmark: 2,72 billion
      Sweden: 5,24 billion
      Norway: 4,75 billion
      Finland: 1,32 billion

      (Source: )

      I do not have the number for Iceland, but given the size of their population it would logically be less in absolute numbers than the rest of us.

      Putting together the aid budgets of the Nordic countries which I listed above gives you 14,03 billion dollars. While this is an extraordinarily large number for countries our size, it is still less than 50% of the United States aid budget in absolute numbers.

      However, as a percentage of GDP (Which is, by its nature, a proportional term, and I think this is what Mogens Lykketoft meant when he said "by size", he meant the percentage of GDP), the top country is Luxembourg at 1 percent, then the Nordic countries follow:

      Sweden: 0,99 percent
      Norway: 0,93 percent
      Denmark: 0,84 percent
      Finland: 0,53 percent

      (See the source for the exact ranking, as the Netherlands and the UK come before Finland)

      So putting together the Nordic countries gives you 3,29 percent, and bingo there we have the number Lykketoft refers to when he talks about the Nordic countries, together, being the largest donor of humanitarian assistance, ie. the percentage of GDP spent on aid, an inherently proportional concept.

      So to sum up, if you put the Nordic countries together, we are indeed the largest international aid donor in the world, BUT not in absolute terms, but rather in terms of percentage of GDP.

      I would say that while my exact wording might warrant improvement to specifically state it being in terms of GDP, I think my translation was not incorrect, but actually a clarification in itself. Lykketoft does not use the term "GDP" ("BNP" in Danish, scary thought, 'ey?) in his speech, he simply said "efter størrelse" ("by size") and "i størrelse" ("in size"), which makes sense if one reads it as "efter vores økonomiers størrelse" ("by the size of our economies"), so I also think my use of the word "proportionally" is being the most true to the words of his original without being a direct translation, but a fluent translation.

    5. Thanks for clarification, Troels.