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Ladies and Gentlemen, to all of you participants gathered here today at this World Congress may I say welcome! Welcome to Denmark and welcome to Copenhagen.
It is a privilege and pleasure for me to be standing before you today. Not least because it seems only a short time ago since I was one of you. As a member of Junior Chamber I spent many hours in good and inspiring company. I am pleased to be standing in front of a new generation of young leaders, all with their individual hopes and aspirations.
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However, although - for me - it seems like yesterday, I am forced to admit that time and tide wait for no man. Like everyone else, I have to look in the mirror sometimes.
And I am not the only one who has changed - at least on the outside. Denmark has undergone quite a transformation. For centuries Denmark and the Danes were, quite literally, living on the edge. The edge of Scandinavia, the edge of Northern Europe, often as the buffer perched on the edge of the Baltic. Caught up at times in the conflicts between the great European powers, old and new.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening up of Eastern Europe has changed all this. The enlargement of the EU and consequent shifting of the economic and political centres of gravity towards the North and East has consolidated our position at the heart of Europe.
And make no mistake, the enlargement of the European Union is a historic achievement. A natural alliance, once carved up and claimed by rival powers, has become whole again. We are now witnesses to a democratic Europe -whole and free - based on common values of democracy, freedom and market economy.
For many years this enlargement was a key priority for Denmark. So it was a source of immense satisfaction for me when the enlargement negotiations were concluded here in Copenhagen almost a year ago under the Danish presidency.
The enlargement itself is a good illustration of the state of play in the world today. Denmark is changing, the world is changing, at a pace we could never have imagined. We are forced to admit that business as usual has been suspended for the duration.
But these external changes make it more important than ever that we don’t take our eye off the ball. We must determine our priorities and our values and retain our focus, whatever the distractions.
I know from experience that this is true for governments. But it is equally true for business enterprises and the man in the street. Our ideals are what we are.
And you – the participants at the Junior Chamber’s world congress – have made an important decision. You have chosen to come to Copenhagen and to be part of the global network, the global village. To commit yourselves to common values and shared ideals.
You have chosen to play an active part in the world about you. To believe in entrepreneurship. To take responsibility. May you enjoy every success.
But remember, merely achieving your ambitions is no longer enough. Yes, we know that no business can survive without profit, but tomorrow’s leaders must demonstrate responsibility beyond the bottom line. Long term survival requires corporations to live up to their ethical, social and environmental obligations. These are factors that customers, investors and employees will increasingly take into consideration when making their choices.
So, I urge you to take on these new tasks, both nationally and globally, without ever loosing sight of the ideals you bring with you here today. The world may change about you but, to each and every one of you I say, “remain true to yourself”.
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Ladies and gentleman. Leaders of tomorrow.
I hope this World Congress will be a valuable experience, though not all work and no play. Take time, if you can, explore the city of Copenhagen and its surrounding areas. Enjoy your stay.