Speech

The Danish Prime Minister's speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington, 24 February 2012

Check against delivery

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is great to be back here in Center for American Progress. I am honoured to speak to such a distinguished audience. I am here as the Prime Minister of Denmark. But I am also here as a friend of the Center for American Progress. Your institution has been a great inspiration for political thinking on both sides of the Atlantic. I thank you for your hard work.

I thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective on how Europe and the United States address the challenges of the 21st century.

And there are indeed challenges.

Denmark holds the EU Presidency at a time where the European Union struggles with lack of trust in its financial system and – some might say - its political leaders. Questions are raised about the European project itself.

While we are taking different routes out of the crisis, both the United States and Europe are faced with slow growth and unemployment.

Meanwhile, new economies are booming.

We are reducing our defence spending on both sides of the Atlantic as part of our fiscal consolidation. This raises hard questions about burden sharing and our capacity to confront future security challenges.

And as the dynamics of global politics shift, Europe and the United States must pursue their interests and values in a more complex, unpredictable international environment.

In this context, it is not surprising that we all ask: Is cooperation between Europe and the United States the solution to any of our problems? Does the Transatlantic partnership really matter?

Let me make it clear right away that my answer is yes.

I belong to a European generation that was young in the eighties. The most defining moment of our time was the fall of the Berlin wall. The people of Europe wanted peace, opportunity, freedom and prosperity. And once again the United States would stand by us. For half a century, the United States helped Europe become whole and free. We will always be grateful for the role that the United States has played in this endeavour.

I am a strong believer in the European project. For a country like Denmark, our future is inextricably linked to the European Union. In short, I am a European at heart.

But let me stress with the same strength and conviction my strong belief in the future of our alliance with the United States. I am also very much a transatlanticist. Denmark will always be among the closest allies of the United States. I believe that Europe and the United States will always be stronger when we act together.

Nevertheless, as the landscape around us changes, as our nations are confronted with limited resources and tough policy choices following the worst economic crisis in generations, it is not surprising that some raise questions about our cooperation. I know that some in the United States harbour scepticism about Europe. I welcome a frank and open debate on what we bring to the table and how we can make our alliance even more effective in addressing the challenges of the 21st century. And no doubt Europe needs to do its part.

But we need the right starting point for that debate. Which is that the Transatlantic partnership is unique. Both Europe and United States enjoy close cooperation with other regions in the world. And this is how it should be. But no partnership is as broad and deep as the Transatlantic. It is greater than the sum of its parts.

It covers all areas. Let me highlight a few. We have close political and economic cooperation. We exchange tourists, students, ideas and culture. We share a common history. And, perhaps most importantly, we share values.

The truly exceptional bond between our peoples, the broad alignment of interests, and the deep-felt shared perspective on what is right and wrong in the world has been the fabric of our relationship for centuries. But the strength of our cooperation has also been our ability to adapt to changing circumstances and tackle new challenges together.

Right now, we are at such a point in history where we are defining a new vision for our Transatlantic agenda. We have work to do. I call on political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic to be part of this proces and to join forces. Transatlantic cooperation is crucial to both Europe and the United States

• to strengthen our economies and create sustainable growth and jobs,
• to protect our societies and address global security challenges and
• to promote democracy and human rights and create an effective multilateral system.

This is the Transatlantic agenda of today. I would like to lay out my perspective on this renewed agenda

Firstly, the defining issue of our time – the economy.

The transatlantic area represents the most integrated economic relationship in the World – around half of the world’s GDP, and one-third of total world trade.

Our economies are extremely interdependent. We have both been hit hard by the crisis. The only way out is through more, not less, cooperation and trade.

Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic share the fundamental challenge of getting our societies back on a stable path of growth and job-creation and making our economies competitive. We need to make tough decisions and undertake fundamental reforms.

The ramifications of the debt crisis have been particularly severe for Europe. This has become the overriding challenge on the EU’s agenda during Denmark’s Presidency of the EU this spring.

Many are asking: could we have prevented the situation that Europe is in today? Is the EU doing enough to stem the debt crisis and restore growth?

I think these are fair questions.

There is no doubt that inherent weaknesses in many European economies were exacerbated by the financial crisis. The debt burden escalated as countries had neglected consolidation for too long and reforms to address macroeconomic imbalances and future demographic changes were not taken at the right time.

Growth prospects have dimmed and unemployment has risen. More than 23 million people are now without a job in the EU – that is a staggering figure. Youth unemployment is particularly high. We owe it to our youth to give them access to the same education and the job opportunities that previous generations have enjoyed. Today, several governments in Europe are struggling to meet those expectations.

In short, the debt crisis has turned into a crisis of confidence. Many doubt whether countries have the political will to consolidate and implement crucial reforms, whether the Euro group can stay intact.

These doubts linger among the people of Europe and among our international friends and partners such as the United States.

I fully agree that Europe is faced with a formidable challenge. But I reject the notion that Europe is not doing anything about it. On the contrary, over the past months we have taken a number of steps that will fundamentally redefine the economic governance system of the European Union.

There is a certain tendency to belittle these steps. Let me assure you that they are indeed decisive. It is a huge undertaking in a Union that consists of 27 sovereign nations, each with national constituents pulling governments in different directions. Do not compare Europe with a nation-state – it will never become one.

We are by no means out of the woods yet. But I want to stress that, over the past months, European leaders have shown the will to confront the challenges in front of us. Europe is moving forward.

Tough decisions have been taken and more will follow. The Danish EU Presidency will work hard to ensure that the EU comes out even stronger after the crisis.

Our efforts are guided by a two-legged strategy: Fiscal consolidation and boosting growth and job creation. The EU is to grow rather than shrink out of the crisis.

Consolidating public finances is crucial to stabilizing our economies, restoring confidence and reducing financing costs for individual countries. We are determined to demonstrate the strongest possible commitment to fiscal responsibility.

The positive effects from consolidation are lasting - lower interest rates, higher business and consumer confidence, higher private investments, and more jobs. We do not want to pass on the bill to future generations.

An important first step was the fiscal compact that we adopted in January. The fiscal compact imposes a golden rule of a balanced budget as part of our core national legislation. It rules out systematically financing our welfare system by debt. Although not a part of the Euro, Denmark intends to participate in the compact.

We have also introduced the European Stability Mechanism, which is a liquidity facility for countries under economic pressure. The aim is to avoid that liquidity problems in single countries spread to other countries and put the Euro at risk.

The EU is constantly working to ensure that the firewall we are putting in place becomes as effective as possible. And many EU countries – especially Germany – have contributed large amounts of Euro to help out other EU countries. That is a strong sign of solidarity and determination to stem the crisis!

But austerity and consolidation cannot stand alone. The other leg in our strategy is a determined effort to promote growth and jobs. It is a key priority for the Danish EU Presidency. The Danish EU Presidency is first and last about creating jobs.

First and foremost, we will boost the European single market. Its creation 20 years ago has been one of the greatest achievements of European integration and has brought substantial growth and prosperity and been the basis of the European social model. Once again, the single market of 500 million citizens and consumers will be a key driver for Europe’s economic growth.

And Europe needs to create new jobs, especially for the young. All EU countries must take a hard look at the structural reforms needed to get our economies going, including necessary labour market reforms.

The fundamental goal is to ensure that the social market economies of Europe can be sustained. I believe the European social model based on core values of solidarity, safety nets and equal opportunity is worth fighting for. It is what sets Europe apart. In order to do that, we need a parallel process of consolidation and restoring growth.

But right now our priority in Europe has to be to restore fiscal discipline to make our model sustainable. I am certain that the great majority of people understand that, and are prepared to be a part of it, if it is fairly applied. People will accept austerity with justice. People are ready to make sacrifices but will not be sacrificed.

The European Union will step up to the plate. Europe will work her way out of the crisis. During the last sixty days, the most radical reforms in more than sixty years of European integration have been introduced.

We are not quite ready to declare that “Europe is back”. But I firmly believe we will get there.

***

Economic cooperation and trade between Europe and the United States has to be at the core of our efforts to put the crisis behind us. Regardless of the fact that both the United States and Europe are increasingly turning to Asia, the interdependencies of our economies and societies call for closer cooperation across the Atlantic.

We must do even more to realize the untapped potential of transatlantic economic cooperation to create jobs and growth. I believe the timing is right for a free trade agreement.

I am very pleased that the EU-US Summit last November led to the creation of a High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth that will identify options for strengthening our economic relations, including a free trade agreement. This work is absolutely crucial.

Green technology has to be a key part of our economic cooperation. On both sides of the Atlantic, governments and the private sector are engaging in developing tomorrow’s solutions that will ensure clean energy and green growth. Ambitious common targets have already been set for electric cars.

Green growth has to be part of our common effort to get out of the crisis. And Denmark is a strong partner for the United States in the transition to a green economy.

My government has put forward a very ambitious proposal for a complete green transition of our economy. By 2050, we aim to be fully independent of fossil fuels. And by 2020, greenhouse gas emissions should be 40 per cent lower (compared to 1990). And we do not rely on nuclear energy or have access to hydropower – that shows how ambitious we are.

But luckily Denmark is a windy country and the aim is that more than 50 per cent of our electricity should come from wind turbines.

A green transition and competitiveness must go hand in hand. First of all by creating new jobs. 10 per cent of Danish exports already come from the field of green tech solutions. We see great potential in the US market.

I am not arguing that the transition to independence from fossil fuels will be easy, neither in Europe nor in the US. But it is a path we must venture down, and the price tag will only get bigger the longer we wait. Through close cooperation in the development of smart, market-based green solutions. We do not have to choose between our environment and our economy.

Let me turn to the unique security community that exists between Europe and the United States. NATO has ensured the security of our citizens for over 60 years. We have expanded the alliance to include Central and Eastern Europe. We have reached out to Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union.

In less than three months, President Obama will host the NATO Summit in Chicago. How do I view the state of the Alliance?

The state of the Alliance is strong!

It is obvious that defence budgets are under pressure in all our countries. But rather than seeing this as a source of division and fruitless debates about who should do more, we should use it as an opportunity to rethink our defence cooperation.

Leaner militaries will be a fact of life for all of us. But let’s make it a common Transatlantic goal to ensure that this does not have a negative effect on our security. In fact, I think this could even strengthen cooperation within the Alliance. Especially among the European Allies.

The Libya crisis is a recent example of European reliance on the United States for modern and costly advanced capabilities. We need to take a hard look at how we make the best use of our resources. This calls for pooling and sharing capabilities among the Europeans. This calls for smart defence.

Because Europe must remain a capable partner.

Do we then share the same perception of risk to our common security?

I strongly believe so. In Afghanistan, 40.000 Europeans are serving alongside US troops. Together with the Afghan government we have agreed on a plan for transition where Afghan forces should have assumed full control by the end of 2014.

But NATO and the European Union will stay engaged after 2014. We must ensure that Afghanistan will never again be a safe haven for terror. A key element is the capacity of the Afghan security forces, which we will discuss at the summit in Chicago. Denmark has taken an initiative to ensure international funding of the Afghan security forces after 2014 by creating a “Coalition of Committed Contributors” – the so-called 3C-initiative.

Afghanistan and Libya are examples of how NATO has adapted from cold war confrontation in Europe to new types of conflicts outside Europe. Countering terrorism in Afghanistan. Protecting the civilian population in Libya.

We also have a common approach to fighting piracy and cyber attacks.

And next month United States and European leaders – including myself – will meet with other leaders of the world in Korea to discuss another issue of common interest: countering nuclear terrorism.

I strongly believe that Europe and the United States have the capability and the will to preserve our unique security community. As we face the security challenges of today and tomorrow, we are each other’s closest allies, bound together by history and a shared perception of the threats to our societies. When swift and determined international action is needed, as we saw in Libya, Denmark and other Transatlantic allies will always be the first partners that the United States can turn to.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europe and United States not only share interests. We share values. Together, we must continue to be a strong voice for openness, democracy and human rights.

Our freedom and prosperity appeal strongly to citizens around the globe. Men and women in North Africa and the Middle East and the rest of the world strive for change.

The transitions that we are now seeing may be chaotic and unstable. But this should never prevent us from supporting positive aspirations for democracy and the right to decide one’s own future. Nor should we ever waiver in our pressure on leaders who ignore the legitimate demands of their people and choose the path of repression and violence. Syria is a horrendous example.

In the new world order, the values that we consider to be universal will be increasingly challenged. I am confident that Europe and the United States will always be on the right side of history in our support for liberty, democracy and human rights.

We are also natural allies in the ongoing efforts to create an effective multilateral system to counter global challenges. After World War II, the United States and Europe were instrumental in building a strong and legitimate international system.

Today, many of these institutions are challenged by the shift in global dynamics and global power. We have seen a dramatic change with the creation of the G20 and the development of ad hoc decision-making on critical and urgent international issues.

We welcome this. Yet both the United States and Europe have a clear interest in reforming our international institutions like the UN. Together, we can be the driving force in shaping tomorrow’s global system that brings on board powers such as China and India as responsible stakeholders.

But just as important, we need to ensure the legitimacy and global support for the decisions that are taken. This requires a system based on universality, transparency, fairness and the rule of law.

Europe itself has been working hard to become a more potent global player. The vision of “Europe speaking with one voice” will not happen overnight. We have to be realistic in this regard. But we have taken an enormous step through the establishment of the European foreign service under the leadership of Catherine Ashton. We are moving in the right direction and in many areas the EU will remain the United States’ most important global partner.

Allow me to conclude: My message today has been that the Transatlantic partnership is unique. We have an important common agenda, which – in my view – must focus on economic cooperation and green growth, creating security and promoting our values, and building strong institutions in a new global landscape to meet tomorrow’s challenges. This is our mission. And I am confident that we will be successful.

Europe and the US are not just partners because we have to, or because it is in our mutual interest or because of our history. We are partners because we want to – we are friends. We are not only partners of necessity, but partners of choice.

Thank you for your attention.