Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution 2014 - 200 years since the Norwegian Constitution was signed at Eidsvoll, 17th May 1814

Ja, vi elsker dette landet - 

Norway's national anthem - a cappella

Not only did it lead to independence for Norway, the 'Grunnlov' was also a radical step forward in the development of democracy and human rights.
The Norwegian Constitution ('Grunnlov') of May 1814 is the oldest European constitution that is still in use, and the second oldest in the world – behind the American, by which it was inspired. On May 17th this year, we celebrate its bicentenary.
By 1814 Norway could see to the liberation movements and constitutions of other countries, both to learn from them and to avoid their pitfalls. The result was a progressive, liberal document that has survived for 200 years.
The bicentenary is an opportunity to shed light on:

  • Norway’s historical and international role in the development of democracy and law.

  • Issues concerning human rights, freedom of speech, gender and equality. The Norwegian Constitution was groundbreaking in these respects, and in spite of several revisions, the original document is still largely in use today.

  • Smaller nations’ right to independence with respect to the influence of major countries whose decisions and actions have ramifications far beyond their own borders. The constitution was a symbol of independence from Norway’s neighboring countries.
  • The event that spurred the writing of the Norwegian Constitution was the Treaty of Kiel, dated January 14th 1814. Norway was at the time subjugated by Denmark, but was to be given to Sweden because of the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars. Hearing of the treaty, the Norwegian Constituent Assembly gathered at Eidsvoll and wrote the constitution, signing it on May 17th – our independence day.
    Sweden intervened and took control of Norway by force, but the constitution was embraced as a national symbol of freedom. The Swedish king was denied the right of veto over Norwegian affairs, and never got the authority he wanted; it culminated in Norwegian independence in 1905.

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