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Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for this opportunity to address such an esteemed audience on the occasion of the 10 year anniversary of the Baltic Development Forum.
This 10 year anniversary is a remarkable achievement for all involved. Today the importance of the Baltic Development Forum as a forum for debate, innovation and networking is unquestionable.
But no organisation survives and prospers like the Baltic Development Forum has done without a few persons who dedicate themselves fully and who believe in the project during both good and bad times.
One person stands out – and that is Uffe Ellemann-Jensen. I would like to use this opportunity to thank Uffe for what he has accomplished with the Baltic Development Forum and also for what I am sure he will achieve in the future.
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Speaking about the future, I would like to offer you some thoughts on the Baltic region, the challenges we are facing and what needs to be done.
But I would like to begin by saying a few words on the financial crisis.
A financial crisis is certainly not the best way to mark a 10 year anniversary but it reflects the challenges which the future has in store for us. And a crisis also offers the prospect of change. As the saying goes – a crisis is a terrible thing to waste
The crisis has dominated the global political agenda in the recent months. It has tested us and questioned our financial system – and it is not over yet.
There is no doubt that we need to reform the financial system to improve transparency, supervision and accountability on the financial markets and I fully support the ongoing efforts in the EU and the G20 forum to address the crisis and to prevent it from happening again. I also fully support the ongoing efforts to counter the economic slowdown that has followed.
At the same time, of course, it is important that we maintain our commitment to a global economic and financial system based on free markets and multilateral rules.
That system has served us well for many years and it has lifted millions of people in developing countries out of poverty. The present need for better regulation should not be used as an excuse to introduce protectionist measures.
What we need is not necessarily more rules, but better rules. Rules which prepare us for the future.
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During the past 10 years since the establishment of the Baltic Development Forum freedom and democracy have taken irreversibly root and the potential for major conflict in our region has dramatically decreased.
We have overcome a fearsome array of challenges both politically and economically. We have grown in all senses. We have become more robust.
The Baltic Sea is no longer a dividing factor. The Baltic Sea is a uniting link. Cooperation, dialogue and friendship are the key words for our coexistence.
Therefore, We are in more than one sense “on top of the world”.
But we cannot allow ourselves to rest on the laurels. We are faced with the challenge of securing and further promoting our region in a globalised world during the next 10 years. 10 years which will probably be just as demanding.
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I see great opportunities in the Baltic Sea Region. I would like us to develop a vision of the Baltic Sea Region as an even stronger beacon of growth and prosperity “on the top” of Europe.
This vision is achievable, but we must strengthen the Region in areas that can bind us together. That way we can face the challenges of tomorrow. I would like to point to three such areas.
Firstly, we must develop our transport infrastructure.
Secondly, we must develop our energy infrastructure.
And thirdly, we should develop our Region as a frontrunner in the area of research and development, in particular when it comes to green and renewable energy technologies.
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We must invest in infrastructure. And we must take a strategic view so that we plan and prioritise between the various projects in a way that benefits the Baltic Sea region as a whole. We need interaction between the different modes of transportation and we need the infrastructure to facilitate the commercial flow.
Let me be specific. In the field of transport infrastructure we should significantly step up efforts to realise the so-called Trans European Transport Network priority projects in our region. Specifically we should – as a matter of urgency – realise the following projects:
Firstly, the “rail Baltica” axis between Warzaw, Kaunas, Riga, Tallin and Helsinki. This railway will help improve the Baltic countries’ links through Poland with the heart of Europe. This railway is – I believe – an important supplement to “via Baltica”, which provides an improved road link with the rest of Europe.
Secondly, the so-called “Nordic Triangle” railway and road axis. It will significantly upgrade transport from the Oresund fixed link all the way up to the Finnish-Russian border.
Thirdly, the Fehmern belt fixed link. It is a key element in the completion of the main north-south route connecting central Europe and the Nordic countries. It will stimulate growth in the whole Baltic Sea region.
Fourthly, the construction of a motorway between Gdansk, Brno/Bratislava and Vienna will offer a new route from the Baltic Sea to central Europe.
Realising these projects will provide significant impetus to the economic development and will stimulate further integration of our region.
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Developing Transport infrastructure is of key importance for the whole of our region. But I believe Energy infrastructure to be of equal if not greater importance.
It is also a matter of security policy. We must increase our efforts to counter dependency on few and sometimes unstable external energy suppliers.
Today we already have well developed energy cooperation between the Nordic countries. But we still have “energy islands” that need to be linked. The Baltic countries constitute one such island. Islands mean isolation; commercially and structurally. That is not acceptable in a region which aims to be at the forefront of a globalised world.
Therefore Denmark strongly supports energy solidarity and diversification. And we fully support developing the so-called “Baltic Interconnection Plan” which addresses the special need for strengthening energy connections in our region. We must seek to integrate all countries in the region into our common energy net. Specifically, I would point to the following projects:
Firstly, the Baltic Gas Interconnector establishing a gas pipeline between Denmark, Sweden and Germany.
Secondly, establishing a Baltic Pipe gas pipeline between Denmark and Poland.
Thirdly, the gas connection between Finland and Estonia.
And fourthly, we need to develop electricity links in the region. In particular, I would urge that we develop links to the Baltic States.
We also need to consider sources of financing to promote transport and energy infrastructure. I would in particular point to the possibilities offered by the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the EU budget in general.
And not least, I also welcome this week’s communication by the European Commission, which includes a proposal to ensure additional financing of transport and in particular energy infrastructure through the EU budget.
I strongly believe that we as countries of the Baltic Sea region should do our utmost to ensure support from the EU budget to realise the vision of an integrated Baltic Sea region in the field of transport and energy infrastructure.
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Energy is not only a matter of transporting or utilising it. Research and development in the field of energy has great potential, and it is closely interlinked with the positive developments we need to see within the climate and environment agenda.
Countries of the Baltic Region are in many ways frontrunners in energy efficiency and renewable energies. I believe that the Baltic Sea Region has the potential to become a centre of research and development in the field of green energy.
In order to achieve this we must work together and make full use of our experience and expertise in the Region.
Specifically I would like to see increased cooperation between Universities, research institutions and companies of the region to further develop renewable energy technologies. The council of Baltic Sea States and the Baltic development forum should look at ways to promote this cooperation.
Furthermore we should make full use of the possibilities for cooperation under the European Research programmes.
In the Baltic Region we have already established a so-called Medicon Valley. I believe that it is now time to establish a “Green Valley”.
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If we want to remain a leading regional area, we need to address these challenges collaboratively. We need to think and act. Not next month or next year – but today, now.
I can promise you that the Danish Government will do its part of the job. I trust that all of you – enterprises, organisations and politicians all over the region - will also do your part.