Norway, is a country in Northern Europe occupying the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, as well as Jan Mayen and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard under the Spitsbergen Treaty. The majority of the country shares a border to the east with Sweden; its northernmost region is bordered by Finland to the south and Russia to the east. The United Kingdom and Faroe Islands lie to its west across the North Sea, Iceland and Greenland lie to its west across the Norwegian Sea, and Denmark lies south of its southern tip across the Skagerrak Strait.
Bouvet Island and Peter I Island are dependent territories (Norwegian: biland) of Norway, but not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land, a claim that has been recognised by Australia, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Norway's extensive coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea, is home to its famous fjords.
After the Second World War, the country experienced rapid economic growth, particularly as a result of large oil deposits discovered in the early 1970s. Today it ranks amongst the wealthiest countries in the world, with the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation. In August 2009 the nation's sovereign wealth fund announced that it owned approximately 1% of all the stocks in the world, presumably referring to publicly traded stocks. Norway is the world’s seventh largest oil exporter and the petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of its GDP. Following the ongoing financial crisis of 2007-2009, bankers have deemed the Norwegian krone to be one of the most solid currencies in the world.
Norway also has rich resources of gas fields, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. The country was the second largest exporter of seafood (in value, after the People’s Republic of China) in 2006. Other main industries include shipping, food processing, shipbuilding, metals, chemicals, mining, fishing and pulp and paper products. Norway maintains a Scandinavian welfare model with universal healthcare, subsidised higher education and a comprehensive social security system. Norway was ranked highest of all countries in human development from 2001 to 2006. It was also rated the most peaceful country in the world in a 2007 survey by Global Peace Index.
Although having rejected EU membership in two referendums, it maintains close ties with the Union and its member countries, as well as with the United States. It is considered a prominent participant in diplomacy and international development, having been heavily involved with the failed Oslo Accords and negotiated a truce between the Sri Lanka government and the Tamil Tigers. Norway remains one of the biggest financial contributors to the UN, and participates with UN forces in international missions, notably in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sudan.
A unitary state with administrative sub-divisions on two levels known as counties (fylker) and municipalities (kommuner), Norway is a constitutional, hereditary monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with King Harald V as its Head of State. The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act.
Norway is a founding member of the UN, NATO, the Council of Europe and the Nordic Council, and is a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD.
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