King and queen head for Poland

King Harald and Queen Sonja will be making their first state visit of the year next week, to Poland, and they’ll be accompanied by three government ministers and top diplomats from both countries. The goal is to further build on the relations between Poland and Norway, and strengthen Norway’s interests in Poland.

King Harald and Queen Sonja will make their first state visit of the year next week, to Poland. PHOTO: Sølve Sundsbø / Det kongelige hoff

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is due to join Norway’s royal couple on the trip, along with Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide and the government minister in charge of fisheries and coastal issues, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, all from the Labour Party. Poland’s long-time ambassador to Norway, Wojciech L Kolanczyk, will also take part in the state visit, one of his last major official functions before he retires, after spending the last five years of his diplomatic career at the top embassy post in Oslo.

Workers from Poland have long made up one of the largest groups of immigrants in Norway, while Poland has become an important trading and defense partner with Norway since the end of communist rule. Poland has also emerged as an increasingly popular tourist destination for Norwegians in recent years.

The royal state visit will begin with an official welcome ceremony in Warsaw on Wednesday May 9 at Poland’s presidential palace. The king and queen will then have talks with Poland’s president, lay down a wreath at the grave of Poland’s unknown soldier and meet with Poland’s prime minister and the presidents of both chambers of parliament. The day will end with a state banquet Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, King Harald will oversee the opening of the “Poland-Norway Partnership Conference,” while a defense seminar and launch of a new cultural exchange program between Poland and Norway will also be on the agenda. The day will end, according to Norway’s Royal Palace, with a concert and reception in Poland’s National Opera, organized by Norway’s embassy in Poland and the state development agency Innovation Norway.

On Friday the royals will fly south to Krakow before returning to Oslo that evening. They’re expected to launch a new Polish-Norwegian research and scholarship program at Krakow University. The royal couple will also visit the National Museum in Krakow and take a walking tour of the historic downtown area.

King Harald and Queen Sonja, who both are turning 75 this year, have cut back on the number of state visits they make. Last year they only made two state visits – which involve formal meetings with the countries’ heads of state – to Slovenia and Kroatia, although they’ve also made official visits including one to the US last fall.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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