A traditional Slovak welcome. Photo: Presidential Palace
Their Majesties arrived at Bratislava’s Presidential Palace in the morning of October 26, and were received by President Ivan Gašparovič and Mrs. Silvia Gašparovičová. The hosts welcomed the precious guests in the traditional Slovak way: with bread and salt.
The King and the President discussed bilateral ties between their countries, such as sustainable development and greater cooperation in business and culture. His Majesty attended a lunch hosted by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová, prior to which he met with the President of Parliament, Richard Sulík.
Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre and Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová signing the MoUs. Photo: National Focal Point, Bratislava
Norway’s Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre and Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová signed the Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) outlining the priorities for the grants for the period 2009-14. In Iceland and Liechtenstein, the agreement for the EEA Grants is expected to be approved by the parliaments in the near future.
In Slovakia, the EEA Grants (€38.35 mill.) and Norway Grants (€42.4 mill.) 2009-14 will target environmental and climate change issues, such as prevention of flooding and carbon capture and storage, and efforts aimed at reducing domestic violence, strengthening civil society, fostering social dialogue, providing scholarships, and promoting cross-border cooperation.
In the meantime, Queen Sonja visited the art center Danubiana Meulensteen, where she saw work by the Slovak artist Jozef Jankovič. She also was given a tour of the sculpture park around the art gallery.
Later in the day, the King and Queen reunited when the monarchs were given a tour of Old Bratislava by the capital’s mayor, Andrej Ďurkovský and his wife Františka. They saw the city’s old architecture, and landmark sculptures. On this occasion, the Slovak general public had another occasion to see the Norwegian Royal Couple in person.
In the evening, the King and Queen attended a gala dinner hosted by Slovak President and First Lady at the historical building of the Slovak Parliament. The dinner was held in the Great Hall, which once served as a concert hall for renowned musicians such as Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms.
Queen Sonja and First Lady Ms Gašparovičová at the Gaudeamus Center. Photo: mokrohajska.sk
On October 27, The Queen began the day with a visit to the Gaudeamus Social Service Home, which offers services for disabled children. Thanks to EEA and Norway Grants as well as other types of support, the hydrotherapy centre at the home has been expanded to encompass several swimming pools. Queen Sonja visited the children in their classroom, where they showed her various forms of handiwork. The Queen was also given a tour of the hydrotherapy centre, where she met with children and Paralympic athletes.
In the morning, King Harald opened a Norwegian-Slovak seminar of competence on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which was co-organized by Innovation Norway. He quoted the Norwegian writer, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson to start off the seminar, which brought together policy makers, organizations and businesses from both countries.
‘Good deeds save the world,’ said Bjørnson. This is a good starting point for today’s conference, which will explore how corporate social responsibility and social dialogue can benefit both businesses and society,” King Harald said in his opening speech at the seminar. The seminar in Bratislava brought together political decision-makers and representatives of organizations and trade and industry from both countries. The aim was to create a joint platform for enhanced economic cooperation based on important principles such as a safe working environment, upholding human dignity and maintaining a sustainable environment.
Queen Sonja with ÚĽUV director Milan Beljak . Photo: ÚĽUV
Later in the day, the Queen visited ÚĽUV – the Centre for Folk Art Production, which promotes and preserves traditional Slovak handicrafts. The organisation has its headquarters in a former handicrafts centre in the Old Town of Bratislava. The Queen was given a tour of the workshops and exhibition hall at the centre.
The In Vino wine and art complex is located outside of Modra in the viticulture region of Malokarpatská (the Small Carpathians). In addition to its wine production, the complex also features a restaurant and an art gallery – Zoya Museum – which has a large, permanent Andy Warhol collection. The King and Queen were given a tour of both the art gallery and the winemaking facilities.
The bust was unveiled by President Gašparovič and King Harald V
This year marks the centennial anniversary of Bjørnson’s death, which was also commemorated in Slovakia. The exhibition that was opened at the historical Bratislava Castle presents Bjørnson’s life and literary works and looks at his significance for Slovakia. The foreign ministers of Norway and Slovakia each gave speeches during the exhibition opening, after which President Gašparovič and King Harald unveiled a bust of the author. Norwegian singer and actress Herborg Kråkevik performed during the opening.
Later in the evening, both the King and Queen, President Ivan Gašparovič and Mrs. Silvia Gašparovičová were guests at a reception organized by the Norwegian Embassy and Innovation Norway at Hotel Crowne Plaza. They were entertained by the Norwegian Valkyrien Allstars’ interpretation of Norwegian traditional music. The Slovak President and his wife and other guests were then treated to a buffet dinner entitled “A Taste of Norway”.
Photo: Slovak Mining Museum
On the final day of their State Visit to Slovakia, Their Majesties visited the former mining town of Banská Štiavnica. The King and Queen were formally welcomed by Mayor Pavol Balžanka at the town hall, where the miners’ choir performed for them. From there they were escorted on foot to the Banská Štiavnica city museum, which is part of the Slovak Mining Museum.
During this short walk, hundreds of local inhabitants, yound and old, saluted the Royal Couple. Many of them came with Norwegian flags to wave at the monarchs.
The mining museum features artworks from as far back as the 13th century, and is participating in a cultural heritage project to establish a workshop for restoring books, documents, paintings and other works of art. The project is primarily financed by EEA and Norway Grants.
The King and Queen visited Starý zámok (the Old Castle) as well, which also has a collection of objects that have been restored with the support of EEA and Norway Grants. In front of the castle, Their Majesties and the Presidential Couple held a press conference for Norwegian and Slovak media. Norwegian students studying medicine in Martin also greeted the Royal Couple in front of the Old Castle.
Traditional woodcarving remains a popular pastime in Banská Štiavnica. The town’s Bethlehem exhibition features some 800 wooden figures and is one of Slovakia’s largest. King Harald and Queen Sonja were accompanied on a tour by the artisans responsible for the exhibition, which covers an area of 21 x 2.5 metres.
King Harald with a falcon on his arm
An official luncheon was held at the Svätý Anton Manor House, which also has a hunting museum on the premises. After the luncheon, the King and Queen attended a falconry demonstration with gyrfalcons.
Žiar nad Hronom is an industrial town with around 20 000 inhabitants. Two Norwegian companies are major players in the town. Hydro owns 55 per cent of the aluminium producer Slovalco, which has just over 550 employees. Hydro has been involved with the company since 1994, and today all production is carried out using Norwegian technology. The King and Queen were given a presentation of the company and a tour of the production facilities before continuing on to Sapa Profily.
The foundation stone laying ceremony. Photo: Sapa
The Orkla Group acquired Sapa Profily in 2008. The company manufactures more than 7 000 different aluminium products and has 350 employees. Thanks to investment support, the company is further expanding its operations. The foundation stone for a new production facility was laid, and the King and Queen together with the president and his wife were present during the ceremony.
This was the last stop on the three-day programme in Slovakia. Later in the afternoon, the King and Queen bade farewell to President Gašparovič and Mrs Gašparovičová in a ceremony that marked the official conclusion of the State Visit.