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Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank Ambassador Fulton for the invitation to speak here today. All across the United States, all over the world, people are commemorating 9-11. As one of the strongest allies of the United States, Denmark stands with our American friends as we remember this day. I am pleased to have this opportunity to express our solidarity and support.
We all remember where we were 10 years ago today.
Danes along with the rest of the world watched in horror as the terrible attacks unfolded. We expressed our compassion and shared the grief and frustration. On that day, we were all Americans.
Today, we honor all those who lost their lives, who were wounded or who lost loved ones on 9-11. Those who responded with bravery and duty to help deal with the devastation. Those who, since then, have kept our societies safe at the front lines in Afghanistan and elsewhere over the past decade.
On 9-11, terrorism took on a new face. We saw a brutal and ruthless act of mass destruction. A new global campaign of fear, violence and extremism. Aimed at the bedrock of our free and democratic societies.
Americans. Danes. Everyone. We felt as though everything changed on 9-11. Our sense of safety. Our ability to protect our societies. Our way of life.
As we take stock today, a decade later, it is clear that the threat from terrorism remains.
The Bin Laden era is over thanks to the leadership and decisive and courageous action of the United States. And Al Qaeda and other groups are under growing pressure. But terrorism remains one of the core challenges facing our societies today. We have no room for complacency.
The tragic and incomprehensible attack on innocent, young people and government employees in Norway on July 22 was a painful reminder of how vulnerable our open and democratic societies are. The brutality and viciousness in Utøya and Oslo showed us that terrorism and violent extremism has many faces.
We must remain vigilant in our efforts.
But despite the continued threat, I believe that the 10-year anniversary of 9-11 should also be an occasion for hope and optimism.
9-11 marked the beginning of a new era of international cooperation and engagement to counter this threat. Our response to this attack – and the attacks we have witnessed since then – has shown the strength of the fundamental values on which our countries are built. The strength of the fabric that binds our societies and nations together. The strength of our common resolve to confront the challenge head-on both at home and far from our own borders.
My grounds for sounding an optimistic tone today are two-fold:
First of all, close and determined international cooperation among our nations has made a real difference in our fight against terror.
Denmark and the United States have been strong partners in this effort. Our excellent cooperation has been driven by our shared values and close bilateral relationship but also by our willingness to take action – to carry the burden – when necessary.
US-Danish intelligence and law enforcement cooperation has been very close and effective and concrete attacks have been prevented from happening. This calls for our deep respect for the work that our men and women are doing in this field. Despite terrible odds: we have to succeed every time in preventing an attack from occurring, whereas the terrorists only have to be lucky once to have the desired impact.
Our countries have been standing side by side in Afghanistan. Denmark and the United States have both paid a high price, fighting in some of the toughest areas and suffering many casualties. We have carried a considerable burden. But Denmark remains committed to the long term in Afghanistan, as we transition from combat to training and capacity building, and increased focus on long-term development assistance.
The job is far from done in Afghanistan. Challenges remain. But today we can say that our contribution has put the country on a good path. The transition to Afghan ownership is underway. I am proud of the military and civilian role that Denmark has played in Afghanistan – our largest engagement in a single country ever.
A crucial lesson from 9-11 was also that terrorism is a truly global threat that calls for multilateral action. We need an effective global approach. Safe havens and states with weak governance structures that attract terrorist groups can emerge in all parts of the world. The UN provides the general framework in the fight against terrorism. And within this, several coalitions for countering terrorism have emerged. I am very pleased that Denmark is joining the Global Counter-terrorism Forum which the United States has initiated. This will be a key mechanism to further strengthen our cooperation.
The second reason for optimism today is that our societies have shown a remarkable resilience in the face of the terror attacks over the past decade.
These acts of violence have all aimed at shaking the foundation of our democratic societies by causing fear, frustration and division. Yet, instead of tearing our nations apart, the inhuman attacks brought out the best in people. They became a rallying point for compassion, patriotism and national and international unity.
As we have seen in Norway, the attempt to undermine some of the core values on which our societies rest has sparked a strong collective will to embrace these values even more. A desire for more openness, tolerance, civility, freedom and democracy. We have seen a nation get back on its feet with an admirable strength and sense of purpose. The Norwegians – and all of us – want to show that violence cannot destroy our societies.
There is no question that our democratic systems have suffered shocks. We have been faced with new dilemmas about the balance between security and protection of basic rights. But we have adapted. We have introduced new ways to ensure our security while keeping our freedom. In both our countries, we have had a strong political debate at times about those initiatives. I believe that this democratic debate has been vital in ensuring that we maintained – and continue to maintain – the right balance.
We will be faced with new shocks in the future. But our democracies have shown that they can withstand these attempts to disrupt our way of life. Freedom of opportunity, the right to influence the decisions that shape society, free speech and dialogue – these are universal values that will always be stronger than the terrorists’ ideologies built on hate and repression.
That is why young people all over the Arab world have taken to the streets, demanding their freedom and right to live in a democratic society.
That is why we will stand together as democratic nations, as an international community, to push back the forces of darkness that caused 9-11 and all other acts of terrorism.
That is why the terrorists will never win.