Presentation

Political relations and major visits

The last visit to Norway by a French Head of State was that of Mr François Mitterrand in 1984.

Political relations between France and Norway were strengthened considerably during the 1990s due to the efforts of the Norwegian authorities to maintaining the country’s place in Europe.

Energy and the climate are central to our bilateral relations, as Norway is France’s leading supplier of gas and one of our main suppliers of oil (behind Russia). French countries are very well established in Norway’s hydrocarbons sector: with 103 licences, Total is the second-largest producer of hydrocarbons in Norway behind the public national company Statoil, while GDF Suez is the second-largest purchaser of gas in Norway and has 38 prospection and production licences. An annual energy and climate dialogue has been established at the initiation of the respective Foreign Ministers: the seventh consultations on energy took place in Paris on 8 March 2013, while the third climate consultations were held there on 4 March 2015. Moreover, a partnership was established in 2010 between the two countries on combating deforestation (conferences on 11 March in Paris and 27 May in Oslo), resulting in the adoption of the agreement on the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries) mechanism during the Cancún COP16 in December 2010.

Norway’s positions are close to ours regarding many international issues, such as the Middle East Peace Process, development assistance, and attention for peacekeeping operations and improving the UN’s effectiveness. Norway supports France’s efforts in the area of innovative financing (as a member of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing Mechanisms, it applies the air ticket solidarity levy and allocates a share of its carbon/fuel tax to UNITAID). Like France, it is one of the seven founding members of the Foreign Policy and Global Health (FPGH) initiative.

As regards new climate and energy goals, Norway’s position is very similar to France’s. Both countries stressed the importance of reaching an international agreement, with differentiated targets according to levels of national commitment. Bilateral cooperation on this subject intensified in the run-up to COP21 in December 2015, with the visit of Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, along with his counterpart Børge Brende, to Svalbard in July 2014 and the joint organization of the Arctic Encounter Paris 2015 conference on the Arctic and the climate in March 2015. Norway was thus an important ally for the preparation and success of COP21 in Paris. The country is very active on environmental and sustainability programmes (SE4All for energy, REDD+ for forests, and a promised contribution of €200 million to the Green Climate Fund) and has made ambitious national commitments: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030; carbon neutrality in 2050. The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund has announced that it will divest from polluting industries.

More intensive bilateral dialogue on the Great North and the geopolitics of the region will be a major part of our bilateral relationship in the coming years.

We have regular bilateral contact. During COP21, Norway was represented by its Prime Minister, Ms Erna Solberg; its Minister of Climate and Environment, Ms Tine Sundtoft; and its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Børge Brende.

Important recent visits include: On 22 September 2016, Mr Harlem Désir, French Minister of State for European Affairs, received Ms Elisabeth Aspaker, Norwegian Minister of EEA and EU Affairs, in Paris. On 15 January 2017, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, met in Paris with his counterpart, Mr Børge Brende, in the margins of the Conference for Peace in the Middle East. Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve received his Norwegian counterpart, Ms Erna Solberg, in Paris on 31 January 2017. The Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, Mr Jean-Marie Le Guen, visited Oslo on 23 and 24 February 2017 for a international humanitarian conference on the Lake Chad Basin, which was co-organized by Germany and Nigeria. On 10 March 2017, Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway visited Tours for the inauguration of the Olivier Debré Contemporary Art Centre. On 5 April 2017, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault again met with his counterpart in Brussels, on the sidelines of the Syria conference.

In the multilateral sphere, HRH the Crown Prince Haakon of Norway visited Paris on 2-3 November 2015 during the opening session of the 38ᵗʰ UNESCO General Conference, accompanied by the State Secretary for European affairs, Ms Tone Skogen.

Economic relations

Trade between France and Norway remains dominated by hydrocarbons, and France thus has a structural trade deficit with Norway (-€1.8 billion in 2015, compared to -€1.5 billion in 2015).

In 2016, French exports to Norway, which mainly concern transport equipment and industrial products, remained relatively stable as against 2015 (+0.1%). In 2016, France was Norway’s ninth-largest supplier and fourth-largest customer, a situation unchanged from the previous year. French imports from Norway rose by almost 9% in 2016 compared to 2015. However, Norway is only France’s 28ᵗʰ-largest supplier, as against 19ᵗʰ two years previously. This reduction is due to the fall in oil prices, although the weaker Norwegian krone does help support other exporters.

In 2016, some 197 French businesses were present in Norway. French companies are highly involved in the oil economy (including Total and Engie) and in oil services (Technip and Nexans).

Total E&P Norge AS is the leading French company in Norway and the country’s second-largest oil company, behind the national company Statoil. French companies are also present in wholesale machines and equipment (Schneider and Elektroscandia) and in the sector of wood and construction materials (Optemera). 93 Norwegian companies were present in France in 2016, including Yara (industrial fertilizers), Marine Harvest (sale and processing of seafood), and Sapa (aluminium) which is the largest Norwegian employer in France. In total, Norwegian companies employ more than 4,000 people in France.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cooperation is carried out in an institutional framework made up of three agreements: two conventional ones, signed in 1953 and 1983, and a third signed in 1986 in the framework of the Troll gas agreements. Our four cooperation entities are leading foreign establishments in Norway: the Institut français (French Institute) of Oslo and its satellite centre in Stavanger, the René Cassin French lycée (school) in Oslo, and the French lycée in Stavanger.

As Norway is traditionally turned towards the United Kingdom and the United States, our educational and linguistic cooperation seeks to support the teaching of French in Norway and to foster knowledge of French language and culture, as part of a cooperation approach involving Norwegian educational professionals. French is the third most-taught second foreign language (excluding English), behind Spanish and just behind German, and 50,000 pupils study it.

The language barrier limits school and academic exchanges. However, there are Norwegian sections in three French high schools, which are an exceptional instrument supporting our cooperation. An agreement was signed during the Prime Minister’s visit in June 2010, relating to the teaching of Norwegian pupils and the functioning of the Norwegian sections established in the Bayeux, Caen and Lyon local educational authorities, whereby several dozen Norwegian pupils are present in French schools every year. Moreover, France is the eighth-largest destination for Norwegian students (523 in 2013-2014)

The programme for the training of Norwegian engineers at the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Toulouse (NORGINSA), which has been in place since 1990, has been renewed through to 2020. NORGINSA satisfies all parties and is a good interface with the needs of the industrial world.

In the art field, the Institut français (French Institute) of Norway cooperates with many local operators, including the festivals which have a central role in Norwegian culture, such as the Bergen International Festival and Oslo’s International Ibsen Festival. Cinema also plays a key role in the action of the Institut français, which also works in regular cooperation with its counterparts in other Nordic countries. They organize common events in their respective programmes, as well as joint operations, particularly in the cultural field (artists’ tours, Scandinavian platform for contemporary music) and the academic sphere (Campus France Nordic Day, preparation of the Horizon 2020 programme).

For some years, the Norwegian authorities have been seeking to strengthen their scientific and technological partnerships with France. We are thus the only European country to have signed, in July 2008, a cooperation agreement with Norway in the field of scientific and technical research and innovation. The 2013 “Oil & Space Forum” brought together major companies and research institutions in the sectors of oil in Norway and aerospace in France.

The foundations of our cooperation include two pillars made up of the integrated action programme “Aurora” and the French-Norwegian Foundation for Scientific and Technical Research and Industrial Development, which was created in 1983 to support short-term joint research. In Svalbard, France and Germany share two scientific bases for research into glaciers, geology and the climate. At European level, we are collaborating in the EU Framework Research and Development Programme (FRDP). France is Norway’s fifth-largest European partner in terms of proposed projects, but third in terms of selected projects.

For more information, visit: http://www.france.no/

Updated: 18 May 2017

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