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Old 01-02-2004, 10:59 PM
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Crown Prince Haakon's New Year's Speech as Regent 2003

"Crown Prince Regent Haakon delivered his first New Year's speech to
the nation on the eve of 2004, filling in for convalescent King
Harald. The crown prince, who quoted Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet,
impressed both public and experts with what seemed to be a heartfelt
and earthy reflection on topical, family concerns, but he could not
please everyone.

Although the crown prince appeared to get off to a nervous start in
his debut address, he quickly settled in and made a strong
impression of sincerity on his audience.

Expert commentators from the prime minister to media pundits gave
the acting regent high marks for a more youthful viewpoint and for
focusing on issues relevant to the average Norwegian, like stress,
family time and the importance of basic values.

"Many of us experience daily life becoming ever more hectic. This
may be a good reason to stop a bit - and think about if what one
spends time on is in fact how one really wants to spend it," Crown
Prince Haakon said.

The crown prince said that Norwegians needed to be reminded
occasionally of what a privileged life they lead, and that despite
this, there would always be people nearby who needed care and

Crown Prince Haakon also urged people to learn to value the multi-
cultural society emerging in Norway.

"We must dare to take up the challenge of new opinions and
attitudes, and we must risk novel ideas. The fear of the unknown
often shuts out exciting thoughts and visions. As long as we are
securely anchored, we can dare to go new ways," the prince regent

The speech came under criticism for one noteworthy deviation from
tradition, the lack of the annual greeting and thanks to Norway's
peacekeeping and humanitarian forces abroad.

Historian Brit Marie Hovland and political scientist Carl Erik
Grimstad agreed that omitting to address Norway's forces in Iraq and
Afghanistan was a bold departure.

"I think it was strange that he did not greet all the Norwegians who
have contributed and contribute to the aid effort. It opens the way
for quite unnecessary criticism," Grimstad said.

Prince Haakon, who is also officially acting chief commander for
Norway's defense during the king's and an officer himself, was
invited to Basra to visit Norwegian troops in Iraq, newspaper VG

"I don't want to comment on the New Year's speech especially, but we
received a telegram from the Crown Prince Regent wishing us a Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year. It was copied and sent around the
troop," Colonel Hugo Oestreng said."

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