Hoppa yfir valmynd
Prime Minister's Office

French-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce

3. febrúar 2002

French-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to begin by thanking the French-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce for hosting this fine gathering. It is a great pleasure to be here with you this evening and hopefully this event, together with other activities of the French-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce, will boost and strengthen the good relations between our countries.

Relations between Iceland and France have a long history. Icelandic scholars and artists have for centuries looked to France in search of knowledge and inspiration. Ever since the clever priest of Icelandic folklore, Sæmundur the Wise, studied in France a thousand years ago we have continuously benefited from the rich fruits of French culture and arts. French scholars, on the other hand, have tended to seek out Icelandic nature, as many accounts show. "You stood on Hekla's lofty peak," poet Jónas Hallgrímsson wrote in praise of scientist Paul Gaimard, and during their travels in centuries past French scholars recorded invaluable descriptions of life in Iceland.

It is planned to hold a series of Icelandic Cultural Days in Paris in spring 2003. Icelandic art and culture already has outstanding representatives on the French cultural scene. Björk and Erró shine brightest of all there, two examples of the many Icelandic artists who form part of artistic life in France. Special Cultural Days will give Iceland an opportunity to show people in Paris and the whole of France the best that Icelandic culture has to offer. These Cultural Days are a joint project by the governments of our two countries. It was at once an encouragement and a great pleasure for me to see how much interest the President of France took in this project when I talked to him in Paris last spring. The President firmly underlined that at the same time as promoting Icelandic culture and arts, we should take the opportunity to present the history of our nation and to profile modern Icelandic society.

I do not have the slightest doubt that these Icelandic Cultural Days will prove enjoyable for both nations and also quite constructive. A sound understanding of different cultures makes an excellent foundation for trade and commerce between nations. Iceland conducts a large amount of trade with France, a large proportion of our seafood exports go there and we import a wide range of goods from France. At the same time Icelandic investments in France have been increasing steadily and by 2000 amounted to more than three and a half billion krónur. Until now the balance has not been in our hosts' favour, but I am confident that the activities of the French-Icelandic Chamber of Commerce and the Iceland promotion now being arranged for Paris next year, together with the vision of French and Icelandic businessmen, will in the course of time increase interest among French entrepreneurs in the opportunities that are at hand here in Iceland.

I would like to repeat my thanks for this excellent gathering this evening. Ladies and gentlemen, let us rise from our seats and drink a toast to the close and wholehearted friendship between our two nations, Iceland and France.

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