Kingdom of Norway
Area* (including the island territories of Svalbard and
Jan Mayen): 385,155 sq. km. (approx 150,000 sq. mi.);
slightly larger than New Mexico.
Cities* (2004): Capital--Oslo (pop. 521,886).
Other cities--Bergen (237,430), Trondheim (154,351),
Terrain: Rugged with high plateaus, steep fjords,
mountains, and fertile valleys.
Climate: Temperate along the coast, colder inland.
*(Source: Central Bureau of Statistics Norway 2004).
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Norwegian(s).
Population (2005 est.): 4,593,041.
Annual growth rate (2005): 0.41%.
Density: Approx. 15 per sq. km.
Ethnic groups: Norwegian (Nordic, Alpine, Baltic), Sami,
a racial-cultural minority of 20,000; foreign nationals
(315,147) from Nordic and other countries.
Religion (2004): Church of Norway (Lutheran), 85.7%;
Pentecostal Christian, 1%; Roman Catholic, 1%; Other
Christian, 2.4%; Muslim, 1.8%; other, none, or unknown,
Languages: Bokmaal Norwegian (official), Nynorsk
Norwegian (official), small Sami- and Finnish-speaking
minorities, English is widely spoken.
Education: Years compulsory--10. Literacy--100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2004)--3.73/1,000.
Life expectancy (2004 est.)--men 76.78 yrs; women
Work force (2004, 2.38 million): Government, social,
personal services--37.6%; wholesale and retail
trade, hotels, restaurants--17.5%; manufacturing
and mining--12.7%; transport and communications--7.4%;
financing, insurance, real estate, business services--12%;
agriculture, forestry, fishing--3.9%;
construction--6.7%; oil extraction--1.4%.
Type: Hereditary constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: May 17, 1814.
Branches: Executive--king (chief of state), prime
minister (head of government), Council of Ministers
(cabinet). Legislative--modified unicameral
parliament (Storting). Judicial--Supreme Court,
appellate courts, city and county courts.
Political parties: Labor, Progress, Conservative,
Socialist Left, Christian Democratic, Center, Liberal.
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
Administrative subdivisions: 19 fylker (counties), and
National holiday: May 17.
Economy (Source: CIA World Factbook 2005)
GDP (2004 est.): $183 billion.
Annual growth rate (2004 est.): 0.4%.
Per capita GDP (2004 est.): Purchasing power parity
Natural resources: Oil, gas, fish, timber, hydroelectric
power, mineral ores.
Arable land: 3%.
Agriculture: Products--dairy, livestock, grain
(barley, oats, wheat), potatoes and other vegetables,
fruits and berries, furs, wool.
Industry: Types--food processing, pulp and paper,
ships, aluminum, ferroalloys, iron and steel, nickel,
zinc, nitrogen, fertilizers, transport equipment,
hydroelectric power, refinery products, petrochemicals,
Trade (2004): Exports (f.o.b.)--$76.64 billion.
Major markets: U.K., Germany, France, Netherlands,
U.S. (2004, 8.4%), Sweden. Imports
(f.o.b.)--$45.96 billion. Major suppliers:
Sweden, Germany, Denmark, U.K., U.S. (2004, 4.9%),
GDP by activity (2003): Agriculture, hunting,
forestry, fishing, and fish farming--1.9%; Oil
and gas extraction incl. services and mining and
Electricity, gas, and water supply--2.0%;
Construction--6.4%; Wholesale and retail trade,
motor vehicle repair, hotels and restaurants--10.7%;
Transport industries--9.7%; Post and
telecommunications, financial intermediation, dwellings,
business services--20.6%; Public administration
and defense--4.8%; Education, health and social
work, and other social and personal services--13.4%
Ethnically, Norwegians are predominantly Germanic,
although in the far north there are communities of Sami
who came to the area more than 10,000 years ago,
probably from central Asia. In recent years, Norway has
become home to increasing numbers of immigrants, foreign
workers, and asylum-seekers from various parts of the
world. Immigrants now total over 300,000; some have
obtained Norwegian citizenship.
Although the Evangelical Lutheran Church is the state
church, Norway has complete religious freedom. Education
is free through the university level and is compulsory
from ages 6 to 16. At least 12 months of military
service and training are required of every eligible
male. Norway's health system includes free hospital
care, physician's compensation, cash benefits during
illness and pregnancy, and other medical and dental
plans. There is a public pension system.
Norway is in the top rank of nations in the number of
books printed per capita, even though Norwegian is one
of the world's smallest language groups. Norway's most
famous writer is the dramatist Henrik Ibsen. Artists
Edvard Munch and Christian Krogh were Ibsen's
contemporaries. Munch drew part of his inspiration from
Europe and in turn exercised a strong influence on later
European expressionists. Sculptor Gustav Vigeland has a
permanent exhibition in the Vigeland Sculpture Park in
Oslo. Musical development in Norway since Edvard Grieg
has followed either native folk themes or, more
recently, international trends.
The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of
national unification and expansion. The Norwegian royal
line died out in 1387, and the country entered a period
of union with Denmark. By 1586, Norway had become part
of the Danish Kingdom. In 1814, as a result of the
Napoleonic wars, Norway was separated from Denmark and
combined with Sweden. The union persisted until 1905,
when Sweden recognized Norwegian independence.
The Norwegian Government offered the throne of Norway
to Danish Prince Carl in 1905. After a plebiscite
approving the establishment of a monarchy, the
Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the
name of Haakon VII, after the kings of independent
Norway. Haakon died in 1957 and was succeeded by his
son, Olav V, who died in January 1991. Upon Olav's
death, his son Harald was crowned as King Harald V.
Norway was a nonbelligerent during World War I, but
as a result of the German invasion and occupation during
World War II, Norwegians generally became skeptical of
the concept of neutrality and turned instead to
collective security. Norway was one of the signers of
the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding
member of the United Nations. The first UN General
Secretary, Trygve Lie, was a Norwegian. Under the terms
of the will of Alfred Nobel, the Storting (Parliament)
elects the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee
who award the Nobel Peace Prize to champions of peace.
The functions of the king are mainly ceremonial, but he
has influence as the symbol of national unity. Although
the 1814 constitution grants important executive powers
to the king, these are almost always exercised by the
Council of Ministers in the name of the king (King's
Council). The Council of Ministers consists of a prime
minister--chosen by the political parties represented in
the Storting--and other ministers.
The 169 members of the Storting are elected from 19
fylker (counties) for 4-year terms according to a
complicated system of proportional representation. After
elections, the Storting divides into two chambers, the
Odelsting and the Lagting, which meet separately or
jointly depending on the legislative issue under
The special High Court of the Realm hears impeachment
cases; the regular courts include the Supreme Court (17
permanent judges and a president), courts of appeal,
city and county courts, the labor court, and
conciliation councils. Judges attached to regular courts
are appointed by the king in council after nomination by
the Ministry of Justice.
Each fylke is headed by a governor appointed by the
king in council, with one governor exercising authority
in both Oslo and the adjacent county of Akershus.
Until the 1981 election, Norway had been governed by
majority Labor Party governments since 1935, except for
three periods (1963, 1965-71, and 1972-73). The Labor
Party lost its majority in the Storting in the 1981
elections. Since that time, minority and coalition
governments have been the rule.
From 1981 to 1997, governments alternated between
Labor minority governments and Conservative-led
coalition governments. The first government coalition
led by Christian Democrat Kjell Magne Bondevik came to
power in 1997, but fell in March 2000 over the issue of
proposed gas-fired power plants, opposed by Bondevik due
to their impact on climate change. The Labor Party's
Jens Stoltenberg, a Brundtland protégé, took over in a
minority Labor government but lost power in the
September 2001 election when Labor posted its worse
performance since World War I. Bondevik once again
became Prime Minister, this time as head of a minority
government with the Conservatives and Liberals in a
coalition heavily dependent upon the right-populist
The September 2005 elections ended the Bondevik
government, and the Labor party came back with its most
substantial victory in years, securing 60 of the 169
seats in Parliament. While this election result once
more made Labor the undisputed heavyweight in Norwegian
politics, Stoltenberg, chastened by his previous stint
as the head of a minority government, reached out to the
far left Socialist Left party and agrarian Center party
to form a coalition government that commanded a majority
of seats in Parliament. The current government is the
first majority government in Norway in over 20 years,
but the governing coalition has had to bridge
substantial policy differences to build this majority.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Jens Stoltenberg
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Jonas Gahr Støre
Minister of Defense--Anne-Grethe Strøm Erichsen
Ambassador to the United States--Knut Vollebaek
Ambassador to NATO--Kai Eide
Ambassador to the United Nations--Johan Ludvik Løvald
Norway maintains an
embassy in the United States at 2720 - 34th Street
NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-333-6000) and
consulates in Houston, Minneapolis, New York, and San
Norway is one of the world's richest countries in per
capita terms. It has an important stake in promoting a
liberal environment for foreign trade. Its large
shipping fleet is one of the most modern among maritime
nations. Metals, pulp and paper products, chemicals,
shipbuilding, and fishing are the most significant
Norway's emergence as a major oil and gas producer in
the mid-1970s transformed the economy. Large sums of
investment capital poured into the offshore oil sector,
leading to greater increases in Norwegian production
costs and wages than in the rest of western Europe up to
the time of the global recovery of the mid-1980s. The
influx of oil revenue also permitted Norway to expand an
already extensive social welfare system. Norway has
established a state Petroleum Fund that exceeded
$132.6 billion as of December 2004. The fund primarily
will be used to help finance government programs once
oil and gas resources become depleted. Norway is
currently enjoying large foreign trade surpluses thanks
to high oil prices. Unemployment remains currently low
(3%-4% range), and the prospects for economic growth are
encouraging thanks to the government's stimulative
fiscal policy and economic recovery in the United States
Norway voted against joining the European Union (EU)
in a 1994 referendum. With the exception of the
agricultural and fisheries sectors, however, Norway
enjoys free trade with the EU under the framework of the
European Economic Area. This agreement aims to apply the
four freedoms of the EU's internal market (goods,
persons, services, and capital) to Norway. As a result,
Norway normally adopts and implements most EU
directives. Norwegian monetary policy is aimed at
maintaining a stable exchange rate for the krone against
European currencies, of which the euro is a key
operating parameter. Norway is not a member of the EU's
Economic and Monetary Union and does not have a fixed
exchange rate. Its principal trading partners are in the
EU; the United States ranks sixth.
Offshore hydrocarbon deposits were discovered in the
1960s, and development began in the 1970s. The growth of
the petroleum sector has contributed significantly to
Norwegian economic vitality. Current petroleum
production capacity is more than 3 million barrels per
day. Production has increased rapidly during the past
several years as new fields are opened. Total production
in 2003 was about 263 million cubic meters of oil
equivalents, over 63% of which was crude oil. This
represents a slight decline in crude oil production over
the past year, accompanied by sharp increases in gas and
liquefied natural gas (LNG) production. Hydropower
provides nearly all of Norway's electricity, and all of
the gas and most of the oil produced is exported.
Production increased significantly in the 1990s as new
fields come on stream.
Norway is the world's third-largest oil exporter and
provides much of western Europe's crude oil and gas
requirements. In 2003, Norwegian oil and gas exports
accounted for 56% of total merchandise exports. In
addition, offshore exploration and production have
stimulated onshore economic activities. Foreign
companies, including many American ones, participate
actively in the petroleum sector.
Norway supports international cooperation and the
peaceful settlement of disputes, recognizing the need
for maintaining a strong national defense through
collective security. Accordingly, the cornerstones of
Norwegian policy are active membership in the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and support for the
United Nations and its specialized agencies. Norway also
pursues a policy of economic, social, and cultural
cooperation with other Nordic countries--Denmark,
Sweden, Finland, and Iceland--through the Nordic
In addition to strengthening traditional ties with
developed countries, Norway seeks to build friendly
relations with developing countries and has undertaken
humanitarian and development aid efforts with selected
African and Asian nations. Norway also is dedicated to
encouraging democracy, assisting refugees, and
protecting human rights throughout the world.
The United States and Norway enjoy a long tradition of
friendly association. The relationship is strengthened
by the millions of Norwegian-Americans in the United
States and by about 10,000 U.S. citizens who reside in
Norway. The two countries enjoy an active cultural
exchange, both officially and privately.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Christopher W. Webster
Counselor for Political-Economic Affairs--Mike Hammer
Counselor for Public Affairs--James Ellickson-Brown
Management Officer--James K. Stiegler
Chief, Consular Section--Maria Silver
Senior Commercial Officer--vacant
Defense Attache--Col. Richard Harris
Labor Attache--Ned Nyman
Regional Security Officer--Colin Sullivan
The U.S. Embassy is
located at Drammensveien 18, 0244 Oslo (tel. 47-22- 44-
85-50; FAX: 47-22-43-07-77).