Indholdet på denne side vedrører regeringen Poul Nyrup Rasmussen IV (1998-2001)

Conference on Regional Cooperation in an Enlarged Europe, April 19, 1999. Opening statement by Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

Approximately as delivered


Ladies and gentlemen,

This is a unique combination of representatives at this conference today: The Benelux-countries, the Nordic counties, the Baltic countries, all of us have learned to live with big neighbours.

I think this common experience in our histories is in itself also an argument among others for regional co-operation.

I want to welcome you to Copenhagen - a part of Denmark which is

  • a part of the Nordic region, which is again
  • a part of the Baltic Sea Region which is
  • a part of Europe and
  • a part of the world.

We believe that each level has its own democratic obligations to make a difference throughout co-operation.

Co-operation and understanding must be the basis. No doubt the largest European task these years is the enlargement of the European Union with the Central and East European countries. The present situation in Kosovo also clearly demonstrates that regional co-operation is essential, if you wish to live in peace with your neighbours.

Without any doubt the enlargement is basic but, after all the regional co-operation is indispensable part of the long term solution.

The answer to obtain security and long term solutions is simple. The issue of peace and security is at the very heart of all we are doing. It rests on the basic premises, that you cannot remain secure, if your neighbours feel insecure or even if you do yourself. However, we must be careful not to reduce the question of security to hard security - 'military capacity and capability to defend your own country'. I think it is fair to say that, according to our experience, the most important substance of security is what comes before the military action - military actions is the last card to be drawn in the long term puzzle.

* * *

The first cards to be drawn is the soft security policy: Preventive diplomacy, pressure of economic character. And before that comes long term co-operation on environmental issues, to preserve national culture, the right to development be it economic, political and/or social.

Having said that, I - at the same time - want to underline: When dictatorships, hatred, ethnic cleansing, mass deportations come up, of such a cynical and brutal nature as we see in Kosovo from Milosevic right here at the doorstep of our Europe, we must react. Decisively, consequently - as we are doing.

We see a whole people pressed out from their own land - and we must react.

A few days ago, in the EU and NATO, we managed to keep an open window to new perspectives for this region - the Balkan region. We talked about the parallel track to military actions, a new long term regional stability pact for Balkan. We must not loose that perspective - the only lasting answer to ultra-nationalism and horrors of Milosevic. I think, that this pact even more underlines our common destiny and ability to think even in the worst situations.

This underlines in my mind also, that today, the European Union is the key player when it comes to long term political, social and economic stability as well as security in Europe. However, the development of the European Union demonstrates that once security and stability prevails, room is created for stipulating co-operation in a number of different spheres and ways. Economy, politics, resource management and environmental protection and others.

* * *

Enlargement is a natural consequence of the fall of the Berlin wall. Enlargement is the wide response to the new challenges facing Europe, economic globalisation, environmental pollution and organised crime. As a further stimulus for regional co-operation, the enlargement will show its importance also in our part of the world.

The experience of the European Union shows that regional co-operation thrives among groups of member states that have mutual concerns and share common priorities and values. From Benelux in the west to new countries in the east, from the Mediterranean region in south to Baltic Sea, Barrens Region and Arctic co-operation in North: Regional co-operation in Europe does not and should not only involve members of the European Union. Indeed regional co-operation among members and non members will greatly contribute to a greater Europe, a more secure Europe.

* * *

The creation of an enlarged Europe requires changes. Just as the applicant countries must adapt to membership, the European Union must also prepare itself.

In Berlin, we recently made a new very, very important step in our decision process. We decided on the Agenda 2000 - in common and in agreement. We now have an agreement on a reform of the common agriculture policy, the financing of the European Union as well as the policy towards the least wealthy regions of the European Union. And first and foremost we have ensured that the money is there for the enlargement process. We have now a well planned financial budget for the next years to come, a budget that can and will finance the enlargement process. I think this is a fundamental step forward in the right direction concerning the enlargement.

Europe has agreed that it wants to do more than thinking of itself. We have agreed upon a good compromise, which gives the opportunity to the new countries without damaging the co-operation today.

In this part of the world, we often follow the pragmatic issues of co-operation. I think that pragmatism without loosing the long term sight is a good headline for the character of the Nordic co-operation. Nordic-Baltic co-operation is just one example of, how regional co-operation is unfolding in our part of the world. It involves the five Nordic countries and the three Baltic countries - often referred to as 5 + 3 co-operation.

We feel so strongly that all three Baltic countries Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia belong as members of the European Union - but we feel - parallel to that - we could develop our own co-operation even further. The Nordic Baltic co-operation has turned out to be a very useful co-operation instrument within the framework of more formal institutions and organisations. It shows how two regional groupings have been able to develop a new model of co-operation in recognition of the needs to take up new, common challenges.

I would also like to mention the Council of the Baltic Sea States. As you are aware, CCBS was founded by joint Danish/German initiative in 1992. It was the aim to create a regional forum for pragmatic and flexible co-operation between the Eastern and Western shores of the Baltic Sea. Today, CCBS comprises 12 members including the EU Commission. A few years ago we built on the top of that - a summit meeting, which took its first meeting in Wisby in Sweden. Now we have a well established forum for dialogue, for decisions, for co-operation with other regions.

Our common aim is:

  • To secure a stable and democratic development of the region
  • to strengthen economic co-operation by creating a favourable environment for investments
  • to co-operate on environmental protection and nuclear safety - to strengthen co-operation within the sectors of energy, social affairs and health.

Not least in the present difficult situation for Russia in this context, the dialogue and the co-operation with Russia it is essential. We wish viable solutions to problems in our countries and - at times - between our countries. Allow me to underline the aspect of the relations to Russia even more.

The region of Sct. Petersburg is an incorporated part of our co-operation along and around the Baltic Sea. A special point in this case is Kaliningrad. As an enclave isolated from the rest of the Russian federation this region could play an important future role as a Russian EU link, you could call it. Kaliningrad might even become an economic powerhouse for the development of the Western parts of Russia. This will require increased involvement of this region in the Baltic Sea co-operation. The present Lithuanian presidency of the CCBS has already placed Kaliningrad on the agenda. I would like to support this. I expect much more practical co-operation also with Kaliningrad in the future.

I underline this because, I think, that what history has left to us in the next century is not the change of frontiers but the change in co-operation of regional character. And that is what we are going to do.

* * *

We have other success stories in this region: The Barrens Euro-Arctic co-operation and the Arctic council.

The participation states in the Barren’s council are the Nordic countries and Russia. Among the observers are European countries, Japan and the United States. The human nature of the Barren co-operation is the combination of global, national and regional co-operation. Fortunately, the structure of dual character of the Barren co-operation has proved to be effective and constructive. This end strategies have been formulated for health and environmental protection, economic and cultural development, education and democracy.

* * *

The Arctic Council comprising of nations bordering the Arctic, including EU member states and a number of representatives of the indigenous people.

The Arctic Council was born out of concern for the Arctic environment.

So you see, that what we are doing up there in the Arctic Council is of enormous importance to all of us. Sustainable development is the key word, which is of benefit to the people living in the Arctic as well as in the rest of the world.

The Northern dimension is a step in the right direction. It helps us to pay more attention to the opportunities and challenges of the very Northern part of the European scene.

The Benelux and the Nordic co-operation are both well established frameworks.

Benelux is well known in our vocabulary due to its history. I can assure you that Benelux does play an important role each day, each meeting, each summit when it comes to the co-operation of the European Union today.

When it comes to the Nordic regional co-operation it is one of the oldest in Europe. It is of a dual political nature, founded in our common history. It is facilitated by common interest, common values and extended into Nordic trade. The Nordic countries are firm believers of democracy and human rights. And firm believers that we can make a difference, when it comes to economic existence, juridical existence, human rights existence. We are proud of being the region in the world that makes the highest relative contribution to the 3rd world when it comes to economic assistance. We are also happy to see that the Benelux countries are in the same range.

This has led to the development of what is often called and referred to as the Nordic welfare model. We believe that each individual has a role to play solely based upon the simple fact, that we are human beings and that we believe that a welfare state is not in contradiction to competitive strength but a condition to competitive strength! The mobility and dynamism is based upon social security and not against social security.

In the 50’es - long before anyone had imagined an internal European market the Nordic countries created a Nordic passport union and a common labour market. We also created the legal framework for a mutual recognition of social benefits. When Finland and Sweden joined the European Union, we decided to preserve and even strengthen the Nordic co-operation, modernise it, but keep it in an institutionalised form, extend our activities to include Euro EU-matters. Our programme is intended to contribute to peace and stability through the development of democracy and market economy and regional co-operation, including the Sct. Petersburg region.

I would like once more to stress to you that if you want to have a feeling of how important, Europe is for the three Baltic countries, you just have to visit them, talk with them, feel the strength and decisiveness to take part of the regional co-operation and to take part of Europe.

Recently, we saw the outcome of a referendum in Latvia. I can assure, that you in these days, where we are talking about ultra-nationalism in Balkan, I think today also we should just let a thought go to Latvia. The referendum they had about giving the Russian minorities rights and duties, was not an easy one. It could have been a No, but it was a Yes. It confirmed to me, that what the people need in a free Baltic country is that we, from Nordic side, from Benelux side, from the whole European side say to the Baltics and to others who want to be members of the European Union: Welcome here! Next step is that you become members after the last step creating the Agenda 2000 - which will create economic room for this decision.

Let me end by saying: I am a firm believer in co-operation, understanding, tolerance and co-operation - again this is the key.

I am a firm believer that each level of democracy does play a role, has a job to pursue - be it on national, be it on regional, be it on European and be it on global level.

Each level has its meaning, its purpose, its democratic importance, each level has something to do, to solve.

Each level has a role to play in the implementering of subsidiarity: Who is solving what.

* * *

Therefore my answer to the question posed to your conference today: Do we need regional co-operation?

My answer is: Yes we do! We need not less regional co-operation but more regional co-operation - parallel to developing further results in the European Union.

Good luck with your conference today.

Thank you