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Honourable Co-Presidents, Distinguished Members of the European Parliament and National Parliaments, Ministers and Commissioners, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, it is our great pleasure and honor to welcome the African, Caribbean, Pacific - European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly to Denmark.
I would like to thank the hosts and the city of Horsens for arranging this Assembly. I am very saddened that the late Mayor of Horsens, Jan Trøjborg, cannot be with us today as planned. His much too early passing away is a great loss for Horsens. The fact that this Assembly – the biggest meeting during our Presidency – is held in Horsens is a testimony to his great enthusiasm and visions for this city.
It is a great pleasure to be here today with so many fellow parliamentarians. As a Member of the Danish Parliament as well as a former Member of the European Parliament, I know from first-hand experience the essential role that you play in shaping policy. Not least in areas such as foreign policy, trade, and development.
Our countries span much of the globe. And this Assembly is a clear reflection of the increasing inter-linkages between the regions of Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe.
What we all feel these days is that the world is getting smaller. We are increasingly faced with global challenges which require global solutions. No nation or region can solve these challenges alone.
And this is why the ACP-EU relationship is so important. The Cotonou Agreement forms a unique partnership between the ACP countries and the EU. The Joint Parliamentary Assembly provides us with both an opportunity and an obligation to make progress on the complex issues facing us today.
There is no doubt that the economic crisis sets a dire back-drop for our efforts – not only for Denmark, not only for the EU, but for the whole world. This has been the overriding challenge for our Presidency.
When we took over five months ago, many were asking the same question: Is the EU doing enough to stem the debt crisis and restore growth?
Well, five months later it is clear that not only has the EU managed to deliver clear answers to combat the crisis. The EU is also prepared to agree to new growth measures. Growth measures that are so important not least to our youth. This has from the outset been a top priority for the Danish Presidency.
At the recent informal European Council on 23 May we agreed that a Growth Package should be finalized before the end of the Danish Presidency.
And far reaching decisions have already been taken in Europe to strengthen fiscal discipline.
This illustrates that the EU is in fact able to tackle the dual challenge. To me it is evident that the only way out of the crisis is to combine fiscal discipline with growth enhancing initiatives. Both are vital building blocks in restoring the European economy and securing our welfare systems.
But let me be clear, the crisis is not over and many challenges lie ahead for all of us. Cervantes was right when he said that “It is one thing to praise discipline, and another to submit to it”. But it is of paramount importance that all member states stay on course, not repeating mistakes of the past.
Our economies are extremely interdependent. All economies throughout the world have to some extent been affected by the crisis.
It is also clear that some economies are recovering more quickly than others. Many countries in Africa and in other regions are even experiencing positive growth rates. This leads way for hope.
I want to reassure you that this crisis only reinforces Denmark’s and Europe’s belief that we are part of a bigger, global picture with responsibilities beyond our frontiers. And we will not turn inwards.
On the contrary, these events have rather reinforced our belief in globalism. We have an essential need for strong ties and relationships with the rest of the world. Not least our African, Caribbean and Pacific friends – our relationship is strong and lasting.
The political and economic map is being redrawn. The emergence of new global actors is also an opportunity for the EU. The BRIC countries constitute a real global driver for growth. And other countries; including a number of African countries – the so called “Lions on the move” – will follow. The new global actors will be assuming responsibility for shaping future global politics.
And they are welcome. The EU stands ready to forge alliances with the new global actors. And I see great potential in these new relationships.
For instance: new alliances and relationships blossom in Durban during COP17 between the EU and African countries.
This pattern – in my view – provides new opportunities that need to be seized. Especially to meet the new challenges of the great political changes we see around the world.
To mention a few: The Arab Spring is having direct effects on other parts of Africa, the Middle-East and Europe. In Africa, we have seen recent instability in Mali and between Sudan and South Sudan. And there are protracted crises in countries such as Somalia.
All this results in fragility and instability that many places turns into violence and conflict. That is why we fully support stabilization efforts to build peaceful and stable nations. But engagement in fragile states is risky business. Issues of corruption, weak state institutions, and political instability are great challenges.
Here, national parliamentarians have an important role to play as an oversight mechanism. And parliamentarians from the donor side need to be willing to accept risks.
The winds of change that are blowing through continents are not just a passing season, but we hope a new political climate. We are experiencing political institutions being empowered to play a new and real role in politics.
Parliaments, political parties, trade unions and media are turning into actors and platforms for political debate. Enhancing democracy. Enhancing pluralism.
Citizens demand governments to be accountable and responsive in ways that were inconceivable before. This creates a new dynamic in its own right, and the EU is committed to these aspirations for freedom and prosperity.
Another area with a strong European commitment is the green agenda. With the climate changing, the natural resources of the world growing scarce, and the global population growing bigger, we are facing the challenge of our lifetime.
Some islands in the Pacific are in danger of being submerged beneath rising ocean waters. And the High Level Panel on Global Sustainability estimates that by 2030 the world will need at least 50% more food, 45% more energy and 30% more water. The pressure on our global natural resources and ecosystems will be enormous.
No nation can solve these challenges alone. We are facing common challenges. For that reason we need common solutions.
We must work together in order to promote a more sustainable way of living. A way which is less carbon-intensive and more resource-efficient. We must use and invest in new green technologies. By doing this, we will also be able to create new green growth and jobs.
And sustainable growth is possible. My own country has demonstrated that economic growth does not necessarily lead to an increasing use of resources. Actually, green technology has in many ways served as a driver for economic growth.
Think of it. During the past three decades, the Danish economy has grown significantly while energy consumption has remained virtually constant.
We have recently reached a broad-based and very ambitious agreement on a new national energy strategy. Our goal is simple but hard: Denmark’s energy consumption will be 100% renewable by 2050.
I hope that you will have an opportunity to see how we are doing this. I hope that your visit to the Danish “renewable energy island” Samsø and the local university college yesterday gave you an idea of how Denmark is promoting innovation and research as a driver for green growth.
But unilateral action is not enough. Ensuring green growth and sustainable development must be a global endeavour.
The Rio+20 Conference is only a few weeks away. And though we face tough and difficult negotiations, our ambitions must be high. Rio+20 is a unique opportunity for securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development. We must not miss this opportunity. The EU has been proactive in advancing an ambitious agenda for Rio+20.
But governments cannot advance a global green transition alone. And therefore parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society all have a crucial role to play. And to explain to citizens and consumers why this green transition is so important for all of us.
One way to counter new challenges such as climate change is ensuring development in the poorest countries.
As President of the EU Council, Denmark has facilitated the adoption of new policy direction for EU ́s international development cooperation as set out in the ‘Agenda for Change’ document. We are happy to see a strengthened focus on the poorest countries. And on promotion of human rights, democracy and inclusive growth.
Denmark has a proud record of assisting countries to develop.
My government has decided to further strengthen Danish development policy and efforts.
We have taken the first steps to increase Danish development assistance, from its already high level at 0.86% of GNI, with the aim at reaching 1% of GNI over the coming years.
And within a few days, the Danish parliament is expected to adopt a new law on Danish development cooperation. Stating the fight against poverty and promotion of human rights as core aims.
Soon, we will also launch a new rights-based strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation. Especially women’s rights will be a core focus area in the strategy. And poverty eradication will remain at the centre of our efforts.
We will focus on four targeted areas: 1) promoting human rights, democracy and good governance, 2) green growth, 3) social development, and 4) support for stability and protection in fragile states.
All this underlines Denmark’s dedication to helping development countries, fighting poverty and promoting core values such as democracy and human rights.
We want to use our assistance to empower governments and people in developing countries, so that they can promote and protect peace, democracy and human rights. We will also focus on empowering key stakeholders such as civil society and parliaments.
Let me conclude. I have raised a few of the most important challenges facing the world today. And my message is clear: global challenges require global solutions based on global partnerships.
In this regard, the ACP-EU is essential. Over the next few days you have a very full agenda covering important geographic and policy issues.
I hope you will have a frank and open debate on how we can make our alliance even more effective in addressing the challenges of the 21st century.
I hereby declare the 23rd session of the ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly open.