Norway, a nation with close ties to EU, has developed expertise on how to mediate in conflicts around the world, the country's Ambassador in Brussels told EURACTIV in an interview.
Ambassador Atle Leikvoll also discussed a wide range of topics on the agenda for Norway in its relations with the EU.
These include the impact of the eurozone crisis on Norway's economy, the trial opening today (16 April) against accused mass-killer Anders Behring Breivik, as well as global troubleshooting efforts discreetly conducted by his country's diplomacy.
Leikvol said that since 1991, when Norway helped organise the Madrid Middle East Conference that led to direct talks between Arabs and Israelis, the country had earned a reputation for being a facilitator with no national interests.
It’s "very important" that such diplomacy is conducted in a discreet way, Leikvoll said, adding that he would "break this tradition" if he were to say that the country was engaged "here or there".
Norway's present role in Middle East troubleshooting is to chair the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian people, set up in 1993. AHLC aims to support political efforts to achieve a two-state solution including by supporting Palestinian institution building.
An AHLC meeting took place in Brussels on 21 March.
The ambassador also said that his country has been involved for many years in trying to resolve the decades-old conflict in Sri Lanka, which was marked in 2002 by a Norwegian-brokered cease fire.
Asked if Norway was trying to mediate in Cyprus, an island divided since 1974 between Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities, he said that his country's role was limited to the civil sector.
The Peace Research Institute in Oslo has supported the PRIO Cyprus Centre, committed to research and facilitating dialogue between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, Leikvoll said.
Norway also supports the House of Cooperation, a bicommunal activity centre in the UN-controlled buffer zone in Nicosia.
Billions in reserve
Asked about the huge amounts of money Norway sets aside from its oil and gas sales, Leikvoll said the fund is worthy €430 billion and is "still growing".
He explained that the country spent about 4% of the surplus while the rest is saved for future generations.
Norway has "solid state finances", Leikvoll said, while unemployment is 3.3 – 3.4% and growth stood at 2.4 – 2.5%.
Regarding the trial of Anders Behring Breivik – charged with killing 77 people last July at an island youth camp and in an Oslo bombing – he said the next 10 weeks would be "extremely painful."
"I think that the shock has subsided but the pain has not," the ambassador said.