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Plans to improve cultural and economic links with Norway 11 August 2003

CHIEF Minister Richard Corkill MHK is setting up a cross-departmental working group within the Manx Government to progress cultural and economic opportunities between the Island and Norway.

The creation of the group follows the recent successful visit to Norway of an Isle of Man delegation headed by the Chief Minister, who met the country's Prime Minister Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik during the trip to Stavanger.

Mr Corkill, who will chair the new working group, was accompanied in Norway by Minister for Trade and Industry Alex Downie MHK, Speaker of the House of Keys Tony Brown, Manx National Heritage Chairman Martin Moore, and Manx National Heritage Director Stephen Harrison.

The Chief Minister, whose own surname has Norse Viking origins, was on his first visit to Norway. He said: 'I was impressed by the warm feeling that people in Norway showed towards the Isle of Man, based on the historic connections between our two countries. There is clear potential to build upon the cultural relationship developed by Manx National Heritage and the economic links - in shipping and engineering - progressed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Opportunities exist to broaden the relationship into such fields as education, tourism, transport, film and media and the promotion of Manx produce. But we need to follow this up to ensure that all avenues are fully explored across Government, which is why I am establishing the working group. This is really only just the beginning.

As well as the meeting with the Norwegian Prime Minister, the Manx delegation met the country's Local Government Minister. There were also visits to the National Petroleum Directorate, Statoil, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Stavanger University and Stavanger City Hall. Stavanger is bidding to be the non-EU City of Culture in 2008 and discussions included the possibility of the Isle of Man acting as a link between it and Liverpool, which is set to be the EU City of Culture in that year.

The Chief Minister and Mr Downie also gave a one-hour presentation on the Isle of Man to a gathering of county mayors from all over Norway.

Commenting on the visit for Manx National Heritage, Mr Harrison said MNH's cultural agreement with the County of Rogaland (which includes Stavanger) could be a model for the rest of Europe, establishing respect for culture as a key part of the social and economic relationships between countries.

For the DTI, Mr Downie said the Isle of Man had credibility and trust in Norway. The historic links had helped tremendously, and the Island also had a good reputation in shipping and engineering.

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