Arctic neighbors

Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S. Wegger Chr. Strømmen at the Sons of Norway reception in Anchorage, Alaska, on June 26. Photo: NAW

Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S. Wegger Chr. Strømmen at the Sons of Norway reception in Anchorage, Alaska, on June 26. Photo: NAW

Norwegian and Swedish ambassadors make week-long visit to Alaska

By David Moe

Norwegian American Weekly

During the week of June 20, the people of Alaska had important visitors from Scandinavia: Norway’s Ambassador to the U.S. Wegger Chr. Strømmen and Sweden’s Ambassador to the U.S. Jonas Hafström. The ambassadors, along with their wives, visited Alaska on a week-long tour organized by the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol, coordinated with the offices of Senator Mark Begich, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Governor Sean Parnell.

State Department officials say Alaska was voted by the Diplomatic Corps as their number one destination. After landing in Anchorage, they went on to visit the North Slope, Barrow, Seward, Resurrection Bay and back to Anchorage.

On June 21, Governor Sean Parnell met with Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, in Anchorage. They discussed renewable resources with Grímsson telling Parnell about a major hydroelectric project in Iceland that could be a model for the Susitna project being pursued in Alaska. According to Sharon Leighow, the Governor’s press secretary, they also discussed Alaska’s role in the Arctic. She wrote in her e-mail, “Because we are the only Arctic state, we have a close, personal interest in commerce and trade with our Arctic neighbors.”

Honorary Norwegian Consul Erling Johansen accompanied the group, and was appointed as Honorary Swedish Consul during the visit.

Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (left) with Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Chr. Strømmen. Photo: NAW

Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (left) with Norwegian Ambassador Wegger Chr. Strømmen. Photo: NAW

While formal visits were scheduled, it is the informal visits with local residents that have made the greatest impact. Citizen diplomacy is still the most effective and we are hopeful that several things will develop from this visit, including business partnerships, educational exchange programs, new research projects and cooperation for future development in the Arctic.

On June 26, the Sons of Norway Bernt Balchen Lodge #2-046 held a reception at Viking Hall for lodge members and other interested people to meet the officials. Two local TV station crews and the Norwegian American Weekly attended the event to learn more about the visit.

“I see why so many Norwegians like Alaska. It has so many of the same characteristics,” said Ambassador Strømmen in his remarks. “Keep up your good work here at the Sons of Norway, and take on everyone on board who is interested in Norway!”

Alaska’s lieutenant governor, Mead Treadwell, attended the reception as well. As former chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Lt. Governor Treadwell has visited Norway several times about offshore oil development and other Arctic issues.

In return, three state representatives and seven state senators from Alaska are confirmed for a state-paid trip to Norway Aug. 27 – Sept. 4. The trip was planned by the Institute of the North, an Anchorage-based public policy group, and they called it an opportunity to learn about how Norway handles Arctic issues, energy and its sovereign wealth fund.

“Not only will Alaska leaders have an opportunity to learn about what Norway’s doing right, the group will be able to share its experience with others and bring back to the state the results of that conversation,” according to the institute.

This article was originally published in the July 1, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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