Gro Harlem


Prime Minister of Norway

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 4 February 1993

Mr President, I would like to start by saying that it is a real pleasure for me to be here, and to thank you for your kind words of welcome. It is a privilege to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – a true fountain of European political culture. I know how parliamentarians of my own country look to Strasbourg as a source of inspiration and opportunity for sharing experience and learning.

Built on the ruins of our European tragedy the aim of the founding members of the Council of Europe was to strengthen the common heritage of European values. A more united Europe, based on individual freedom and the rule of law was seen as a prime line of defence against new frightful nationalistic quarrels among European nations.

For more than four decades, this organisation has served as a beacon of European civilisation. In the field of human rights in particular, we have developed a fine network of supervisory and judicial functions, to protect the weak and curtail the risk of arbitrariness.

But while the Council was designed to embrace the whole of Europe, oppression descended on millions of people no less European than we in the west. This could not continue. The systems were unable to meet the economic, political and cultural needs of the people. Inalienable rights were being crushed. Our aspirations in that contradictory world were summed up by British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin, who when asked some fifty years ago about the goals of his policy simply said: “I want to be able to go down to Victoria Station and buy a ticket to wherever I want to go in this world”.

The downfall of communism and of the totalitarian regimes, however, opened new and promising avenues. After the first flush of enthusiasm we have now woken up to a difficult and even brutal reality. We are faced with new and different problems, which sometimes overshadow the positive developments that have already been achieved.

It is significant that the new democracies in central and eastern Europe have turned to the Council of Europe, seeking co-operation and membership, as one of their first steps on the road to full participation in European co-operation.

By meeting the needs of the new and prospective member countries in a flexible and innovative manner, the Council of Europe has demonstrated its ability to adapt to the new situation. Making the resources and expertise of the Council generously available to these countries must remain a top priority of our organisation in the years to come.

In the long run everyone stands to gain from the widest possible adherence to the basic principles that represent the sine qua non of the Council of Europe: respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Almost all the main areas of activity of the Council of Europe have a direct bearing on the functioning of democratic societies. Directly linked to the question of human rights is the issue of equal rights and equal opportunities for women. The efforts made by the Council in this important area are of great value and must be pursued.

Intergovernmental co-operation on legal affairs, on education and culture, on youth activities and on local and regional government are all areas where the Council has shown that it has an important role to play.

The Council of Europe combines intergovernmental and parliamentary co-operation and is based on a set of conventions covering important issues directly related to the functioning of democracy. Thus, it provides a framework well suited for a comprehensive, in-depth approach to the challenges inherent in the ongoing process of change in Europe.

In order to make the transition from east-west confrontation to east-west co-operation as smooth as possible, joint efforts will be needed on the part of all relevant regional organisations, such as the Council of Europe, the CSCE, the North Atlantic Co-operation Council and the European Community. The relationship between these institutions should be seen in terms of complementarity rather than rivalry, and forces should be joined to help secure the vulnerable foundation of post-cold war Europe.

The crisis in the former Yugoslavia is the most serious conflict in Europe since the second world war, and a tragedy for its victims. I venture to say that all of Europe has been victimised.

We are faced with armed conflict, widespread human suffering and destruction on our own doorstep and we seem unable to do much about it.

In spite of strenuous efforts by the United Nations, the European Community and the entire international community, the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues unabated, cruelly frustrating even our attempts to bring humanitarian relief to the civilian population.

The resumption of hostilities in Croatia entails serious risk of further escalation, defying the call for a ceasefire and respect for United Nations activities as demanded by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 802.

The negotiations in Geneva, chaired by Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, represent perhaps the only chance to settle the conflict by political means. Our unresolved challenge is how to bring further pressure on the parties and persuade them to accept the peace plan.

One of the most tormenting aspects of the conflict has been the widespread, flagrant violations of human rights and international law. We have witnessed the intolerable practice of ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate artillery bombardment of besieged cities, torture and killing of prisoners in detention camps, and the outrageous practice of mass rape, particularly of Muslim women.

Never since the second world war has Europe seen such atrocities. At the United Nations General Assembly last September, I advocated the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute all those responsible for the war crimes now being committed. While support for the idea was sluggish at first, this picture seems to be changing.

We must now support the on-going efforts by the United Nations and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe regarding the conditions for setting up such a tribunal. Lord Owen’s suggestion in this Assembly for the establishment, with the assistance of the Council of Europe, of a special human rights mechanism within the framework of the new constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and possibly in other states as well, would be an important contribution. The difficulties involved in bringing those responsible to justice should not be minimised. We must, however, make it clear that there are limits to what we can and will tolerate.

While we must be consistent in our condemnation of atrocities, we must continue to give the highest priority to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population, and in particular to refugees and displaced persons. The parties’ lack of respect for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) humanitarian relief convoys is a matter of serious concern. We are glad that steps have been taken to increase protection of the convoys.

Norway has put great emphasis on humanitarian assistance to former Yugoslavia, and we are the third largest contributor to the UNHCR programme in former Yugoslavia after the United States and the EC Commission.

Norwegian military and civilian personnel participate in the UNPROFOR, and our presence will be further increased through the Nordic United Nations battalion which will soon be dispatched to Macedonia. We must prevent the conflict from spreading and remain fully committed to the cooperative international efforts to end this tragic conflict, not only for the sake of the region itself and its people but because of the danger of a European brash fire.

Former Yugoslavia is the gravest crisis we face today, but the risk that ethnic strife and nationalism may trigger other conflicts must be taken seriously. The international community must act with extreme caution. The task of consolidating democracy and of ensuring economic reform and economic and social development in the former eastern bloc countries is probably far more demanding than we first believed. And these challenges are occurring at a time when western Europe is also confronted with serious economic problems of its own.

There is a risk that countries will turn inwards, and that each country or even each region will seek its own solutions. This is a destructive approach. I would like to stress as strongly as possible that the problems of today’s and tomorrow’s Europe can only be met through co-operative efforts. The only realistic path for a Europe heading towards the third millennium is strengthened European co-operation. This is the overall challenge which we shall have to meet: we must shape European co-operation and tailor it to the magnitude of the problems which must be solved.

If the countries of Europe prove to be unable to organise, where else in the world can we expect international co-operation to succeed? How can we succeed in supporting democracy and the rule of law in other countries if serious doubts can be raised about the situation of minorities and people of different nationalities and origins within our own societies? How can we provide leadership if we ourselves become part of the problem rather than part of the solution? How can we speak of equal rights and opportunities, conciliation and the need to act in good faith if in our own countries we are unable to curb animosity, fear and discrimination against people of different ethnic backgrounds?

Unemployment, lack of knowledge and insecurity about the future are among the root causes of racism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia and intolerance which we see in too many countries in Europe today, including my own. If people go idle we risk creating new victims to the seductive voice of populist, undemocratic, irresponsible demagogy. I am stunned to see that politicians in my own country are thinking of making immigration a main theme in the parliamentary election campaign this autumn. The risk that innocent people will be victimised by such appalling speculation is clear.

We must work on many fronts. We must create new opportunities for employment. The European Community is planning to provide incentives for growth and the European Community and EFTA countries are working on a Norwegian initiative for a joint effort to create investment, improve education and to put western Europe to work again.

Knowledge is an infinite resource and the basis for human understanding. Knowledge is the key to innovation and to active participation in modem society. We would be making an historic mistake and doing a great disservice to our people if we failed to make it a priority of the first order to improve our education systems. It is essential for improving growth and for changing the quality of growth. It is a key factor in solving environmental problems. But while we are healing our economies and strengthening our democracies, we should, as an immediate step, make a concentrated effort to upgrade our societies. We must aim at restoring a situation that should be self-evident after a century so devastating but also promising for Europe, where, in the words of Martin Luther King Junior, all people are judged “not by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”.

More and more frequent reports are coming in, describing organised as well as spontaneous acts of racism and racially motivated harassment in our societies. We have seen people in large numbers not only advocating but exercising violence against groups or individuals with different physical characteristics, cultures or religions. We have seen the face of hatred, of fear and of despair. We have seen the tragic, even fatal consequences, fifty years after the Holocaust and the darkest chapters in European history. We shall fight this with the strength of our joint resolve and the best of our common heritage and with the universal tolerance which should be the hallmark of our common European house. This is a moral imperative. What did Mahatma Gandhi say when asked about western civilisation? He said that it would be a good idea.

We cannot allow it to remain so when our own characters are being tested. For those who turn a blind eye to racism will become accessories to prejudice and violence and society at large will suffer.

The fight against racism must be fought in many different arenas. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, recognises the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. These values were echoed and amplified in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, a landmark in the development of international humanitarian law.

The Council of Europe is founded on legally binding instruments in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law and has developed comprehensive competence and expertise within this area. The closest possible co-operation between the countries of Europe in this and related areas will contribute to a solid foundation for broader political co-operation throughout our continent, by establishing a “wide European democratic and legal area” – so aptly defined by the Secretary General as being the principal role of the Council.

The normative basis we need is largely in place. What is needed now is a renewed commitment, a commitment to engage in sustained, systematic and long-term efforts – painful as this may be – to combat the ugly face of racism in all its manifestations. We need to adopt a comprehensive European plan of action against racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and I can think of no better forum to make this proposal a reality than the Council of Europe.

The purpose of such a plan of action would be threefold: firstly, to give new political impetus to restoring tolerance at national level, by governments and by individuals and non-governmental organisations; secondly, to inspire a more comprehensive, cross-sectoral approach, addressing not only the symptoms but the possible root causes such as poverty, socio-economic conditions and unemployment; and, thirdly, to promote closer co-operation in such endeavours between members of the Council of Europe.

A main feature of a plan of action should be to mobilise the strength, support and imagination of the young people of Europe in building fences against the resurgence of racism, intolerance and xenophobia in all our countries. Together with the younger generation, let us build a coalition for tolerance and dignity. Let us forge a community of purpose with the great number of NGOs and individuals who are already working tirelessly in this field.

In Norway, the government has already initiated co-operation with the youth organisations of the political parties. We are working on a national youth campaign run by the political youth organisations themselves and supported by the government.

I invited the leaders of these youth organisations to a meeting in order to explore, by means of a dialogue, what was the common ground between us.

Representing parties ranging from the far left to the far right, the youth leaders nevertheless agreed, that even though they disagreed on many issues they should work on the following basis: first, we must fight xenophobia. Violence, harassment and discrimination based on race, colour, culture or religion cannot be tolerated. Everyone living in Norway should have the same rights and responsibilities regardless of nationality, race or religion.

There was widespread agreement to try to agree on an objective description of the content of our immigration policy.

That sounds as if it should be easy, but for the past ten years it has been difficult even to describe objectively what is the legal and practical part of our policy. That creates much confusion for people, and the debate on democracy becomes less than clear. There was also an agreement, which follows from what I have said, that a common characterisation of the policy was that it was probably too ambitious, because the youth organisations have different opinions about how Norway’s policies should be developed. Young people will consider how to discourage their mother parties from using xenophobia, even subtly, in the coming election campaign. They agreed that discrimination, although often unconscious, is far more widespread than violent racism, but nonetheless of great importance.

These young people met in my office, as politicians and as human beings. Their sincerity impressed me. If their sincerity can influence the national campaign, as I believe it will, we may have done a service to our country and to human dignity. I recommend this approach for consideration by other countries and by the Council of Europe. Europe is at stake; all our countries are affected. We are all involved and are all responsible.

A European youth campaign would mean that the young people in Europe could unite in a common struggle for our common European values. Such a campaign could have a core of common activities and manifestations at European level, as well as a core of common information material, assisting and inspiring parallel national campaigns in all the member countries adapted to the situation in each country.

A European youth campaign should form a central part of the broader plan of action. It must also include activities by governments and non-governmental organisations as well as by the Council of Europe itself. In addition to the youth campaign, a plan of action could include the following elements: firstly, renewed commitment by governments to using the full potential of their legal systems, administrative procedures, educational systems and information agencies to counter all forms of discrimination against national ethnic and religious minorities; secondly, increased research into the nature and extent of racial violence, by effectively pooling the attitudes of people of all ages, in order to fully understand the depth of the problem; thirdly, international co-operation in the field of legal instruments and law enforcement procedures. This could include the creation of a distinct expert body within the Council of Europe, which would be charged with monitoring member countries’ compliance with the legal framework, collecting and exchanging information, and stimulating action at national level. Finally, integration of multi-national tolerance into all relevant fields of inter-governmental co-operation within the framework of the Council of Europe, such as education, culture, mass media, migration, youth and social and economic affairs.

There are indications that while our national laws may be in good order, these laws are not as effective as they should be. Few cases of discrimination are being brought to justice. It is to be hoped that this reflects the number of incidents of racial discrimination presently taking place.

This is a field where we need the strength of each other’s support as well as the benefit of the experience gained in individual countries; we must learn from each other’s successes as well as from each other’s failures.

I propose that the struggle against racism and xenophobia and the establishment of a plan of action should be a main issue at the forthcoming summit of the Council of Europe in October this year. Norway has already introduced ideas and proposals in the preparatory process for the summit and the support of the Parliamentary Assembly is needed.

Let us jointly and determinedly face these dangers. Just, equitable societies do not come about by our merely wishing for them. Let us call an emergency discussion on the state of European values and avoid the dangers of unchecked extremism and ignorance. We need forceful persuasion, not persuasive force, to make Europe a refuge of enlightened diversity.


Thank you, Prime Minister. You referred to an initiative that has already been launched by the Assembly. The initiative supports some of the essential points in your report. There is a recommendation for a motion in connection with your visit which has been initiated by some of your fellow countrymen. It has already received no fewer than ninety signatures, which is a high figure.

Among the first signatories was the President of the Assembly. I am sure that the document will be referred by the Bureau to the competent committees tomorrow so that they can carry the work forward and develop it into action.

The motion is so important that I shall allow myself to read it.

(The President then read the text of the motion – Doc. 6766).

“1. The Assembly is shocked and deeply concerned about the resurgence of racism, xenophobia and intolerance in Europe. These developments run counter to the very foundation and spirit of the Council of Europe.

2. The Assembly strongly condemns the acts of violence committed against foreigners and migrant workers, and calls for immediate action at the European as well as the national level to counteract racism.

3. The Assembly believes that mobilisation of the young generation, their commitment to peaceful co-existence, democracy and the rule of law, will be crucial for halting the negative trends and building a coalition for tolerance and dignity in Europe.

4. Racism must be addressed through a comprehensive, cross-sectoral approach. This calls for intergovernmental co-operation and concerted action. Recalling the Committee of Ministers’ declaration regarding tolerance – A threat to democracy 1981 – and making reference to the motion for a resolution presented by Mr Giiner and others concerning racism (Doc. 6687), the Assembly wants the Council of Europe to be a front-runner in the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance.

5. The Assembly supports the proposal made by Mrs Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, to make the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance and a plan of action for this purpose a main theme for the Summit of the Council of Europe in Vienna (8-9 October 1993). It likewise supports the idea of making a European youth campaign an important and integral part of such a plan of action.

6. With the aim of contributing to the preparations of a European plan of action against racism, the Assembly will direct its committees to look into the subject and prepare for a debate of their observations and suggestions at the Assembly’s next part-session. It will further suggest that the proposal for such a plan of action become the main theme for the fourth round table meeting between parliamentarians and representatives of youth organisations in Strasbourg (2-3 July 1993).

7. Consequently, the Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers:

i. to make the fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance and plan of action for this purpose a main theme for the Summit of the Council of Europe in Vienna (8-9 October 1993);

ii. to include a European youth campaign as an important and integral part of such a plan of action;

iii. to inform the Assembly about the preparations for a European plan of action against racism at its next part-session.”

Dear colleagues, I read that text because, despite the fact that there are already ninety signatories to it, I am sure that all delegates will wish to take the opportunity to support it.

The Prime Minister of Norway will now reply to questions. No fewer than twenty-two colleagues have tabled questions, but because of the constraints on time they cannot ask supplementary questions.

I shall group questions on the same subject and ask Mrs Brundtland to reply to them. The first question is from Mr Godman of the United Kingdom.

Mr GODMAN (United Kingdom)

Madam Prime Minister, you said that the United Nations and the Council of Europe are examining the feasibility of creating an international court to try war criminals. Is it not essential that those organisations co-ordinate their work on this important issue? Do you believe that this Council should establish such a court here in Europe to judge violations of human rights in European countries?

Mr MARUFLU (Turkey)

I had intended to ask about racism, xenophobia and intolerance, on which the Prime Minister commented. Therefore, if she has some additional remedies I should like to hear them, but otherwise I am satisfied with what she said.

Mr FRANCK (Sweden)

What legal measures does the Prime Minister have in mind to fight racism? What should be done about the organised crime of racism and racism in the workplace? How can we formulate a more humanitarian and generous policy on refugees? What can be done to speed up the world trend of abolishing the death penalty?

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

I dealt with the issue of an international tribunal at the United Nations Assembly last autumn. I believe that the establishment of such a tribunal is a challenge for the United Nations. I know that it has been discussed in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, but it is important to establish something that carries credibility and has a clear moral obligation. We must not give the impression that the world community will merely watch without imposing sanctions on those who break the rule of law.

Mr Franck asked about legal measures. Additional protocols should be considered. Proposals have been made and counter-arguments advanced, but we should not simply leave the issue there. We should work on it and improve the existing protocols and framework.

The abolition of the death penalty is part of the general work on human rights, democracy and the establishment of civilised society. We should pursue the issue, as the Council of Europe has, in every comer of the globe, and where we have not achieved what most countries have managed to achieve.

Mr GÜNER (Turkey)

European countries are keen on human rights issues in certain countries but do not show the same sensitivity towards some other countries, of which the attitudes to the tragedy in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to immigrants are good examples. Do you agree that double standards apply in the field of human rights?

Mr SU (Turkey) (interpretation)

asked about the Norwegian view of independence for Macedonia.

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

The standards on human rights are not double standards, but what happens underlines the basis of your question. The political will to keep to those standards is not always consistent, but those standards, as they have been laid down and discussed, are unified and should be so. I believe that that is what you wanted to hear.

Mr Su asked about Macedonia and the international community will have to take a stand on the issue concerning its application in the United Nations. Although there are problems and differences of view about this question in European Community countries, a decision must be made soon, because the United Nations must decide on the issue. Obviously current problems must be resolved, because there is no reason why that region should not be given its sovereignty. Up to now Norway has been part of the general process and we have not stipulated the precise moment when a decision should be made nor the conditions attached to it. On this issue we try to follow the discussions within the European Community and we have tried to influence the process, but it must end with a solution relatively shortly.


I call Mr Müehlemann of Switzerland who will ask the first of the questions on the economy.

Mr MÜEHLEMANN (Switzerland) (translation)

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. You, Madam Prime Minister, evidently had the idea of a European Economic Area in 1988. At that time, it was thought of as an independent economic contribution to European integration, with some intrinsic value of its own.

Is this definition still valid today? Has your country simply taken the first step towards a European Economic Area and left it at that, or is this now an essential stage on the road to Maastricht?

Mr BENDER (Poland)

Prime Minister, your country was one of the first to give diplomatic recognition to the Baltic states and one would have expected Norway to follow that up with political and economic aid. As far as we know, however, Norway has done next to nothing to support the development of those countries. Can you please give me a possible reason for this lack of consistency?

Mr Björn BJARNASON (Iceland)

It was in this chamber in January 1989 that Jacques Delors, the President of the European Commission, advanced the idea of formal and institutionalised co-operation between the European Community and the European Free Trade Association. Under your able leadership, Mrs Brundtland, the idea was accepted by EFTA in March 1989. An agreement on the European economic area between the European Community and EFTA is still to be finalised. Can you please inform us how matters stand and what will come of that great undertaking?


Last year the Secretary General of the OECD said to the Assembly that most economic indicators pointed to an upturn in the world economy, but that purely political factors held it back. Prime Minister, your government has taken, as you just stated, an important initiative to revive employment and growth internationally. In your view, what are the main political obstacles that must be overcome in the so far hesitant countries, in order to make your plan for full employment successful?

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

The first and third questions relate to the European economic area and the members who put those questions have explained well the purpose of creating a new and more comprehensive means of co-operation between the European Community and EFT A, which will be achieved by institutionalising the European economic area.

It is true to say that some people in my country have looked upon that development as one step towards even stronger co-operation with other European countries. They see it as one step towards wider European co-operation. It has always been clear in my mind and in our government’s policy that that development could represent an independent solution. None of us can know what the Norwegian people will decide in the referendum that will probably be held at the end of 1994. I am not sure that any other Nordic or European country can say before the event what the result of a referendum will be.

Even if all the Nordic countries and Austria, and perhaps Iceland, become members of the European Community, the ideas, work and political impetus behind the process of creating the European economic space have been essential in a critical time in European history. I look upon it as something that has great political importance because it will bring together in wider European co-operation and destiny countries that have the same democratic values, the same basis and philosophy and share responsibility for the European future.

I must tell Mr Bender that we feel that we should have been able to do more for the economic regeneration of the Baltic region. We will increase that help, but when one studies Norway’s total responsibilities it is clear that we have given most to the refugees in Yugoslavia, we have given most towards the peace operations conducted by the United Nations and we are giving most to the Third World countries. If one draws attention to the fact that some other country has done more than Norway, but one forgets to draw attention to Norway’s total responsibilities – what I call the common obligations of the rich nations – one is not giving Norway a right and proper evaluation.

There have been heated discussions in our parliament about taking any part of what we have defined as North-South money – money for the poorest countries – and re-channelling it to eastern Europe. The majority of the Norwegian parliament does not want that and that means that we have had to create new, additional money to add to our already high level of international assistance. We will do that, but there is another region close to us in eastern Europe, the north-western parts of Russia, for which we have set aside quite large amounts of money to finance the clean-up of its industrial operations and its atomic programme, which have led to such terrible pollution there. I am sure that everyone is agreed that that is essential work.

In the last question, Mr Hallström of Sweden asked what we could do to win the argument in countries, or in circles in countries, where they still have not seen the danger of underestimating the importance of continued long-term unemployment in a democratic society. Even my statement here today is part of the answer as to how we can convince others to take greater political responsibility. For instance, the Maastricht union, which is essential to many of the countries represented here, is more than a question of traditional economic co-operation. It has social and economic values, but not enough. The importance and basic value of employment is part of successful economic co-operation.

We must take the experience of the past decade seriously, and work together with the new United States administration to make changes in the world economy on behalf of social, employment and environmental aims.


The next question is from Lord Finsberg of the United Kingdom, who will ask the first of a series of questions on the burning issue of whaling.

Lord FINSBERG (United Kingdom)

Mrs Brundtland, you greatly puzzle some of us. You have assiduously built up, over the years, a great reputation for your interest in the environment. How do you square that with Norway’s decision to reopen the murder of whales? Has it anything to do with votes in northern Norway?

Mr BÜHLER (Federal Republic of Germany) (translation)

Mr President, Madam Prime Minister, in 1982 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) imposed a general ban on commercial whaling, and this took effect in 1986. In the meantime, Iceland has left the Whaling Commission. Your country and Russia have both indicated that they do not feel bound by this decision. A committee of this Assembly has worked very hard on this question. There has also been a hearing, at which opinions differed very sharply.

May I ask you what your government’s current position on this very sensitive question is?

Mr BANKS (United Kingdom)

My question is on the same subject. We do not understand why your country could resume commercial whaling in defiance of both the International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling and hostile public opinion in the United States and the European Community. The great whales are the property of all of us. They do not belong to Norway alone, and we would say that you have no right to kill them. I say, with great respect, that if your country goes ahead with commercial whaling, many of us in the United States and Europe will campaign vigorously to impose boycotts on Norwegian products and tourism and to prevent the success of your country’s application to join the European Community. As a fellow socialist, I beg you to reconsider your decision.

Sir Keith SPEED (United Kingdom)

My constituents admire your country and they admire Japan, but both your country and Japan continue the slaughter of whales in defiance of international opinion, and that ecologically and environmentally extremely important problem is threatening to bring about the sort of reaction described by Mr Banks. Can you reassure the Assembly, myself and my constituents that Norway is thinking again about whales?

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

It is a challenging situation when one hears people addressing an issue in the simplistic terms used this morning. We have had references to the murder of whales and the slaughter of whales. When did the international community decide to stop hunting and using animals for human consumption and to stop killing foxes, cattle, sheep and other animals? I ask you that direct question because it is impossible to continue with international co-operation on the management of the resources of the ocean, or of any other resources that cross both borders and waters, if conservation alone dominates the issue.

Norway entered, under my leadership, a five-year moratorium on the killing of minke whales from 1986 until now. I decided that precautionary principles should lead me, as scientists in other countries questioned the evidence of Norwegian scientists, although it was solid enough. What happened? I believed at that time that our scientists might have been wrong. An international community of scientists worked on the issue for more than five years and came out clearly stating that the stock of minke whales is not threatened. The problem is set out in an article in The Times of 30 June that those of you who are interested in whales should be reading. It questioned what happens when the international community starts acting in less than good faith.

What is happening in IWC? It is not building on scientific evidence, which should be the basis of the organisation. It has been proven time and again that the stock of minke whale is not threatened. Our decision has nothing whatsoever to do with fishermen or anyone in the northern parts of Norway. The IWC has to work seriously on the basis of its own mandate. We are not breaking the rules of IWC and I hate to hear such accusations. The problem is that IWC is breaking its own rules.

The best scientific evaluation is that the 80 000 minke whales in the north Atlantic are eating as much fish as the total quotas for all fish species given to Norway’s fishermen. As the Assembly knows, Norway is the biggest fishing nation in Europe. That means that we cannot have sustainable development if we forget the relationship in the ocean, or in any other place in our ecosystems, between the different species that are dependent upon each other. If we let the whale population grow uncontrolled, where it is abundant, it will undermine the cod and the herring and the bases of the use of the ocean for products for human consumption and for normal economic development. That is not in accordance with the decisions made at the Rio Conference on environment and development. What was reached there was agreement for serious, long-term use of natural resources in a sustainable manner, with conservation where a species is threatened. However, I know that you in the Council of Europe have done work in that area. I have not read it, but I hear that a paper is being considered.

I beg you, Tony Banks and others, to be serious about this issue. For the purposes of international cooperation a basis of good faith is necessary; we must not fool around with new arguments. If you want to say that under no circumstances should whales be hunted, regardless of their numbers and of the amount of fish that they eat, we shall see whether that idea would command a majority in the international community. Decisions must be taken on that basis. If you like whales and say that they should never be killed, that is outside IWC’s mandate. Norway and other countries have never entered into an international management programme of discussions on animal welfare, especially as the killings of foxes and many other animals are much more disgusting, yet do not attract the same strong interest as the killings of whales. We must further improve the methods of killing, but they are already better than comparable methods used in so many other areas. I feel that we really must be serious when we discuss sustainable development.


I call Mr Pangalos of Greece, who will ask the first of the questions on Norwegian politics.

Mr PANGALOS (Greece)

I am glad to see you here, Prime Minister. I notice that Norway, Sweden and Finland all plan to become members of the European Community. That is the official tendency. Denmark is still a member of the European Community, although it has some problems. But there is also the Nordic Council. During the recent visit of the Committee on Relations with European Non-member Countries to Estonia and Lithuania, we saw that the Estonians and Lithuanians see a future for the Nordic Council, and have great hopes for cooperation with it. How do you think the Nordic Council will evolve if everyone joins the European Community? Will the fate of the Nordic Council be to disappear gradually, or will it remain in place? How will your government’s activities be shared between the European Community and the Nordic Council?

Mrs FRIAS (Spain) (interpretation)

asked what evaluation Norway had made of its environmental policy in the light of the Rio Conference, and what actions its government was taking in respect of the birth rate in Norway.

Mr BRATINKA (Hungary) (interpretation)

asked whether the fact that Norway devoted 70% of its gross national product to public expenditure was out of line with current economic theory that the state should pay a limited role in the economy.

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

Our experience of cooperation in the Nordic Council has been constructive and positive. It has been important to the Nordic countries. It is important for us to take care of the close political and social co-operation, and the cultural closeness, between small countries which need a broader arena. We can take care of those by developing them further into regional thinking within a broader Europe. Even if all the Nordic countries became members of the European Community, there are already such traditions, and an interest in strengthening regional co-operation within the European Community, and certainly within the CSCE and the wider European area. We are now adapting our work to the fact that all the Nordic nations will be part of the European economic area, and we are making our co-operation fit into the broader framework that we have all – including Iceland – entered. Such co-operation has been the source of many good impulses for many decades, and it is important culturally and for the sake of the languages of small nations. We shall increase our efforts in the areas closest to people’s minds and interests.

I have been asked about the Rio Conference, but I am not sure what Mrs Frias asked me about birth. Did she mean promoting births or preventing them? There is quite a difference between those two. Can anyone help me?


It would be good if Mrs Frias clarified her question.

Mrs FRIAS (Spain) (interpretation)

asked about the implications of a rising birth rate for women in Norway.

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

I am glad to hear that clarification. I think that Norwegian women, perhaps more than women in all but a few other countries, have had the chance for a number of years to have a direct influence and to plan the size of their families. When the birth rate is increasing maybe that is because the women and their families wish to have more children. In my view that is perfectly consistent with the idea that family size is something for people to decide for themselves. We have quite a low birth rate. As in other European countries it had been falling, but there has been something of a turnaround. I think that means that more women feel that they can combine their interest in being active in their working lives with taking care of children and family life. That has happened because of our social and family policies. That is the background. I look upon the fact that people feel free from constraints and can make choices as a positive development.

The Rio Conference had many important results, but the most important is the follow-up process that has been designed, and the way that countries now enter into obligations on the continuation of the work – drawing up protocols and so on, to add to the framework of the conventions that have been signed. That applies to the biodiversity convention, the climate convention and to the general financial assistance and technological co-operation needed to increase economically and environmentally sound development in the Third World. Many things are lacking and I hope that we shall see an improvement when Europe and the United States, under the new leadership, start to discuss the world economy and our obligations after the cold war in terms of a global order that is more enlightened than that which we have been able to achieve so far.

Norway has never entered into anything resembling a totalitarian, planned economy. It has always operated a mixed economy. There has been democratic decision-making on the basis of what serves Norwegian society best.

The public sector is responsible for about 50% of the gross national product, and not 70%. There is a split of about fifty-fifty. It is among the highest in the OECD countries, but several countries have a higher percentage than Norway. We must ensure that we do not allow the percentage to increase. We try to stimulate the private sector to create jobs. We do not believe that public expenditure should be used to solve every problem but it is used in all areas where equality, the national purpose and the common interest are the overriding principles. That applies to health and education, for example. I do not know where the 70% comes from, but I can say that the position is not as bad as Mr Bratinka suggested. Indeed, we are proud of the present balance. It provides a basis for the future and the majority of the members of the Norwegian Parliament will support that policy. It makes Norway one of the countries that meet the Maastricht criteria.

Mr KALOS (Greece)

We are all aware, Mrs Brundtland, of your interest in environmental issues. A common problem in Mediterranean countries is desertification due to the destruction of forests. Do you believe that the Council of Europe could play a leading role in reafforestation by encouraging relevant national projects of member states or by promoting pan-European programmes?

Mrs GRAENITZ (Austria) (translation)

Madam Prime Minister, your name is inseparable not only from the environment report which you produced for the United Nations, but also from the concept of sustainable development. You have just said that the important thing, in the follow-up to Rio, will be how the protocols to the agreements are phrased and implemented. My question goes one step further: what can we do to ensure that these protocols and international agreements are properly monitored, and that countries which fail to observe them are called to account? And do you think that the Council of Europe could also set up a body to continue working towards this goal of making agreements genuinely binding?

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

We could increase reafforestation projects within the Council of Europe member states. In the international arena there are agreements such as that which was the result of the Rio Conference, of the follow-up processes, of the bio-diversity convention and of the forestry convention. These must be considered along with climate, economic assistance, the ability of nations in the poorer parts of the world to address the issues and a mechanism to cover the increased costs of those countries. Different types of country have different interests and these must be coupled. We must approach the care of forests, climatic considerations and energy issues in a way that will be helpful both to the North and the South. In so doing, we must ensure that costs are kept as low as possible. If that is not done, the pace of improvement will be too low. Any interest in forestry within the European framework is constructive.

Sustainable development requires co-operation on a global scale that is based on economics, the environment and financial assistance to improve and reform the democratic development of the developing countries. In that way we shall not have the dirty stages of development in those countries that we have had in ours. That approach will serve to eradicate poverty. It will be necessary to have global co-operation, which will benefit both the North and the South. I hope that the combination of a revitalised Europe and a new administration in the United States will add to the political will to do what is necessary to create a pattern of sustainable development.


There are four more questions. As we have already exceeded the time that was allotted, I ask you, colleagues, to put your questions as shortly as possible.

Baroness Hooper will ask the next question. It appears that she is absent. We will take Mr Iwinski’s question.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

With your long experience of dealing with global issues, are you in favour of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank reform which could help to solve Third World problems? Touching on the issue raised by Mrs Frias, is there a relationship between the effectiveness of your government and the high percentage of women in the Norwegian Cabinet.

Mrs ERR (Luxembourg) (translation)

I could speak in English, but I cannot resist the temptation to address the Prime Minister in the feminine.

Prime Minister, I would like you to know – my question has already been asked by a colleague – that many women in politics, like myself, are proud of the way you carry out your politics and that we are following your example.


Many men are also very proud of the way in which this lady is conducting politics. I assume that that is the view of the majority of those here because women do not have a monopoly in this field. I am very happy to agree with you, my dear friend. I now call Mr Pahtas of Greece.

Mr PAHTAS (Greece) (interpretation)

said that the Assembly had been overwhelmed by the human warmth of Mrs Brundtland. Trafficking in and employment of migrant labour was a type of slavery and such exploitation was gaining ground. He asked whether Mrs Brundtland agreed that the signing of a multilateral convention to condemn clandestine migration was necessary.

Ms Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway

I forgot to answer one question in the previous round which was about the control of agreements. Reporting mechanisms to the institutions that are the caretakers of the agreements are in practice the way in which one is able to exert influence. There is no international agreement on directly controlling the results. Certainly, that will happen gradually.

Some years ago, a number of government leaders, including Mr Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands, the French Prime Minister and myself, called a meeting at which we argued for increased authority at international level to pursue control mechanisms and sanctions in the area. That will come. Today, reporting is an essential element.

With regard to IMF and the World Bank, we support the processes that are being discussed to improve the way in which money is used, such as the discussion about the democratisation of the so-called JET, which is a mechanism in the environmental field. Those institutions are the ones that have the greatest impact on the developing world. For that reason, the way in which they work is essential for all of us.

Women in the cabinet make a difference, yes. I answered a question about the increase in birth rates in Norway. The changes in social and family policies on children and, gradually, the changes in the education of young children have been influenced by the increasing number of women at all levels of Norwegian politics, including those in the cabinet. In other areas, the experience of women and their sentiments added certain nuances and qualities to the general political debate.

The Social Charter came to my mind when the previous speaker mentioned migrant workers. Obviously, in the European Community framework, the challenges affecting social purpose and responsibility have been part of the discussion surrounding the Social Charter. I believe that we cannot have economic co-operation or co-operation between nations on peace and security without bringing social and environmental issues into the equation. The idea of working in a framework wider than the European Community and having conventions on these issues is logical because we are dealing with people moving across borders. Whether they are treated in a fair and reasonable way or not is sheer chance. That is why it becomes a common responsibility among nations. Without going into the question of the processes needed, the idea that Mr Pahtas mentioned is a good one.


Thank you very much, Mrs Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway. We have reached the end of the questions. I thank you warmly for your performance, and for replying so clearly and fully to the questions. I also thank you for having succeeded in creating a magic atmosphere based on respect, on trust and on hope. We have come to the end of this meeting with a feeling of committed optimism, which is something we do not find every day, so we are grateful to you. You will be welcome any time in our Assembly, and we hope to see you as soon as possible.