Minister, Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen
“One Europe– One Market”, a topic of importance and significance and the focus of today’s conference. As the person invited to open this conference (and thank you for that) I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the organisers for hosting this event.
The Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union takes place at a crucial time in the history of Europe. The worst economic crisis in many decades is affecting Europe and millions of Europeans. It has become more evident than ever to all of us that our economies are closely linked with each other.
During the past decades, barriers have been broken down and cross border activities such as trade, communication and tourism have increased to the benefit of businesses and consumers. But the world is changing quickly. 20 years ago, the world looked very different; the Internet was still just a concept for most of us; the way we communicate today could never have been imagined; and the climate challenge had nowhere near the same attention as it does today.
The impact of globalisation on Europe and the rest of the world during the past 20 years is indeed astonishing. Due to the internet and the power of digital communication we are seeing a new era of globalisation which has had and is having an enormous effect on culture, society, economics and politics and not least our social lives.
We travel, we email, we blog, we trade, we invest and we talk across national borders throughout the world, with little thought of where the information or the product comes from or where the person we are communicating with, is located. Globalisation has brought businesses and people from across the globe closer together. In many ways, it has made the world smaller.
Globalisation is not new to Denmark, nor to the rest of Europe. For centuries, Denmark has been characterised by our international outlook.
A thousand years ago, the Danish Vikings went out into the world and brought wealth and cultural riches back home with them. Yes, their methods were questionable and I do not imagine the concept of fair trade was something they abided by.
Since then, we have traded with partners all over the world. We have crossed continents and oceans; we have created ties with countries which at the time, must have felt like a million miles away.
Denmark has always been a seafaring nation and today, it is home to one of the world’s biggest shipping companies. Denmark is also home to a number of important businesses working in the areas of design, innovative services, energy and climate solutions, green technologies and pharmaceuticals just to mention a few. All companies that benefit from a well-functioning Single Market.
Today, geographical distance is no limitation for being in close contact with colleagues, family and friends, wherever they live. Today, local information becomes global with only a few clicks. Modern communication connects people across the world in an instant. Through this last year alone we have witnessed the power of online communication as historic events in the Middle East and North Africa have unfolded. Online communication helped to galvanise millions of young Arabs into action in what became known as the “The Arab Spring”.
While we all enjoy the benefits of modern and global communication, it also presents challenges: We may be ready for the globalisation, but do we fully understand the changes it requires from of us?
While modern communication connects the world, it also exposes the difference in our cultures, traditions and habits that identify us as nations. It is essential that we remain open and tolerant to other societies and at the same time, ensure our own identities remain strong.
The future presents many challenges and much growth potential. So, let us build on our experiences and knowledge, using this forum as a platform for discussion and debate.
In closing, I would like to wish you all valuable and constructive discussions throughout the conference today.