Norwegian Ambassador drawn to beauty and culture of Vietnam, especially Tet holiday

WVR - 'Tet is a time for peace and love, and I wish the Vietnamese people a joyful and relaxing Tet with the people they love, savouring traditional foods and reflecting on achievements in the past year and goals for the next', Norwegian Ambassador Hilde Solbakken shared with the World and Vietnam Report.
Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Hilde Solbakken. (Photo: KT)

Maybe it is your first Tet in Vietnam. Are you excited for this event? Is there anything you would like to explore in this special occasion?

This will be the first Tet in Vietnam for me and my family. We love Hanoi and look forward to exploring the city during a time with no traffic! I have heard a lot about the traditions of Tet – bringing trees with apricot blossoms to your home, giving red envelopes with lucky money for good health and fortune, and having your photo taken wearing an “ao dai”. I hope to be able to see all of this and to pay a visit to the temples and pagodas in Hanoi to see the decorations and offerings placed there during Tet.

Why do you choose Vietnam for your career, what impressed you most about Vietnam?

Vietnam is a very dynamic country, and Norway and Vietnam have many shared interests, especially related to ocean and climate, and transitioning our economies to a greener future. I feel very privileged to be an Ambassador in a country with so many opportunities for cooperation. When I applied to work in Vietnam, I was also drawn to the beauty and culture of the country, and a wish to better understand its dramatic history.

Tet is around the corner. Is there anything you would like to say to the Vietnamese people? Tet is a time for peace and love, and I wish the Vietnamese people a joyful and relaxing Tet with the people they love, savouring traditional foods and reflecting on achievements in the past year and goals for the next. I know the setence “Chúc mừng Năm mới” in Vietnamese. But I am also practicing a longer sentence “I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous year of the cat!”.

Could you share some impressions on developments of Vietnam – Norway bilateral relations recent times? What are your expectations of the relations in the coming time?

The rapid economic development of Vietnam is striking, and this has changed the relationship been our countries significantly since we established diplomatic relations in 1971. In the last few years investments from Norwegian companies have increased rapidly, while bilateral development assistance has been largely phased out. Given our long coastlines and dependence on the sea for wealth creation, the ocean has always been central to our relationship and will undoubtedly continue to be so. Here we see a shift in emphasis from merely “blue” economy to “blue and green”.

The great interest from Norwegian companies in offshore wind development in Vietnam illustrates this point. Our cooperation in multilateral arenas has strengthened in the last few years, not least through our overlapping periods as elected members to the Security Council where we had very similar priorities.

What are the things that you wish to accomplish during your term in Vietnam?

I will work to further our strategic cooperation to achieve a green transition, especially relating to ocean-based activities and renewable energy. The private sector will play an important role in this shift, and I hope to see many more Norwegian companies making green investments in Vietnam. Norway is part of the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with Vietnam and delivering on the targets/commitments in this partnership will be a priority for me. I also hope we can finalize the free trade agreement between the EFTA countries and Vietnam – preferably well before the completion of my four-year term!

What are your expectations about Vietnam's contributions to the international community in the coming time? Norway and Vietnam both have very open economies and depend on a rule-based international order. I hope we can work together in multilateral arenas to stand up for the principles in the UN Charter and to maintain shared and predictable rules for international trade as a means of achieving growth and prosperity. With the ambition to reach net zero emissions by 2050 Vietnam has the potential to be a leader among countries that are making the tough transition from coal to renewable energy. We will also be following Vietnam’s membership in the Human Rights Council with great interest.

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