„I remember these meetings. Particularly the meeting between our state secretary Helga Hannes and her counterpart here in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague. And I remember it because at the beginning we were discussing the issues that were quite common at the time. Disarmament, arms control, confidence building measures, all these issues that were on the agenda at that time. It was quite normal to discuss these things in a friendly and kind of constructive way. But then, of course, we, meaning the state secretary, had to raise some issues of a more concrete nature. Like respect to human rights and respect to freedom of expression. And at that time, I believe, Václav Havel had been arrested. There have been some demonstrations and people had been arrested here in a rather brutal way, in your country. So our state secretary raised this issue and expressed hope that the authorities will let these demonstrations to go on and respect freedom of expression and that the police will not intervene. And if they intervene, than in a peaceful way. And usually at the time the response to such statement on our part would be – well, we hear what you say, we do not agree whit what you put forward, but we hear what you say. And then we would close the debate. No, this is not what happened. The Czechoslovak first deputy minister opened his file and he showed us the front page of a Norwegian newspaper. And he said – well, the Czechoslovak police, they have a lot to learn from Norwegian police in terms of brutality. And the ting is, at that time, there was a group in Norway called Blitz, who occupied empty houses. Like it was at that time, in the 1980´s. So these were radicals, house occupants. And the police had to evict them and these people were quite physical and direct. So there were some very tough scenes, unusual for Norway. Actually, some of these young people and also policemen were hurt. Not very badly, but blood after all. It was splashed on the newspapers, of course. And then the Czech deputy ministers says – we have a lot to learn from Norwegian police.“
„So the authorities wanted to make life not easy for Jiří Hájek nad his son. And then the question came up of Jan Hájek coming to Norway. Because of this Norwegian connection way back in the time of the war. So the issue came up of inviting Jan Hájek to Norway to attend the school of architecture. We worked on this a long, long time and I used to write letters on behalf of our Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and we were sending them to their counterparts in Prague or handed them over when we had meetings on various levels. And finally, after many months or actually a few years attempting to convince the authorities to let Jan Hájek go, also other people, like Willy Brandt, were involved in it and finally, they gave in. And I still remember the day when Jan Hájek and his mother came to Oslo, I forget exactly when it was, but they came to me and the ministry of foreign affairs to say thank you. We had a meeting at the foreign ministry and it was very good.“
„In 1968 I was still at the embassy in Moscow. I was there for one and half year. And I actually remember that in August 1968 we were very much following what was happening in your country. The Prague Spring and Alexander Dubček and all this we were following with great interest. I was then at the embassy in Moscow as a very junior officer. And on the 20th of August, I have travelled to Warsaw on some mission I can´t remember any more. I was going back from Warsaw on the 21st of August 1968. I have come to the border between Poland and the Soviet Union, in Brest-Litovsk. Because of the difference in the railway gauge, you had to wait there for three, four hours until they have changed all this and so on. And there I noticed that at the station, there were a lot of soldiers, Soviet soldiers. There was nothing special about soldiers at that time, but they were all in field uniforms. I said to myself – why is that? I understood only when I arrived in Moscow, because I did not dare to ask - why are you in field uniform? That would be a funny question. In Moscow I understood they were probably going to be sent to Prague as part of the invasion of the Warsaw pact countries minus Romania to Czechoslovakia.“
Foreign policy must include the promotion of human rights and assistance to specific people in need
Norwegian diplomat Øyvind Nordsletten, former ambassador to Kiev and Moscow, was born in 1944 in Bryne on the south-west coast of Norway. On 21 August 1968, he saw Soviet soldiers in field armour gathered on what is now the Polish-Belarusian border, presumably preparing to enter Czechoslovakia with the occupying forces. At the end of the communist era, he participated in official negotiations with the Czechoslovak Deputy Foreign Minister, but also with dissidents, which was then and still is a common part of Norwegian foreign policy. He is also credited with enabling the Czechoslovak communist authorities to allow Jan Hajek to leave the country after several years of international pressure. Thanks to this, the son of the former foreign minister from 1968 and one of the first spokesmen for Charter 77, Jiří Hájek, was granted protection in Norway and was able to study his dream architecture in Oslo. Øyvind Nordsletten is a great advocate of the human rights aspect of foreign policy.