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Mr President, Honourable Members of the National Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to receive the decoration of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro today. I receive the decoration as a token of the warm friendship and strong partnership that exist between our two nations.
It is also a great privilege for me to be able to address you, the elected members of the National Assembly, who have been entrusted with the great responsibility of legislating on behalf of the Nicaraguan people.
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The legacy of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro deserves our deep respect. He was untiring in his fight for fundamental freedoms and against totalitarianism.
Thanks to brave, visionary and resolute people like Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, countries around the world have freed themselves of the yoke of totalitarian rule and chosen the path of freedom and democracy. Nicaragua is one of these countries.
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The changes Nicaragua has undergone since 1990 are truly remarkable. The Nicaraguan people have built a society based on democratic principles. A society in which political conflicts are solved by non-violent means. A society where the army does not interfere in politics, and where people can express their opinions freely. These are important landmarks, which I am sure all Nicaraguans are very proud of and - better than anyone - understand the importance of preserving.
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Nicaragua is faced with daunting challenges of development. You – as the political leadership – are charged with the task of finding effective solutions that will create prosperity to the country. However, solutions, which were adequate in the past, do not solve all problems of the future. Changes are often needed – and it takes courage to introduce new solutions. Solutions, which challenge the existing order.
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A precondition for broadly based economic growth is that the basic democratic institutions are in place and that they are working to protect the rights of the individual.
The Danish Government is very pleased with the efforts initiated by the Nicaraguan Government to combat corruption, and to reform and strengthen democratic institutions. These initiatives are crucial for the development of democracy and will require a long-term effort and the support of – not only the Government – but of the entire society.
In the fight against corruption the courageous steps taken by your Government have made Nicaragua a leading country in the region. Latin America and the rest of the world is closely watching to learn from your experience and waiting for you to take the next steps to combat and prevent corruption at all levels of society. Don’t let them down.
Reforms are needed to make the institutions of the judicial system more professional and the electoral system more efficient. First and foremost it is necessary to free them of specific party political interests. My Government supports this policy, and believes that such reforms are critical steps towards a pluralistic democracy and towards ensuring the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms of the entire population.
Allow me therefore to encourage all members of the Nicaraguan society to contribute constructively to these important reforms.
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I think that if you asked the Nicaraguan people about their principal aspirations, the answers would be clear: They want opportunities to create better lives for themselves and their families. They want to have access to jobs, food, housing, education, and health facilities. But obviously, some groups in society are more vulnerable than others. Among them, children and women. They deserve special attention.
Nicaragua has set ambitious goals to reduce poverty and create better living conditions for all. I am very pleased to see that the Government has put this issue at the top of its agenda.
The primary aim of Denmark’s cooperation with Nicaragua is to support you in your endeavours to create a society with opportunities for all – for children, women and men alike. Denmark is a loyal partner in the fight against poverty. Together with the Nicaraguan people we work with the solemn goal that Nicaragua will reach the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
One of the Millennium Goals is to ensure that all children have access to school. Education is a key to growth, security and stability. We have to invest in education; we have to invest in people. No country can afford not to reach the Millennium Goal of Education for All.
Starting next year, the Danish and Nicaraguan Government have decided to include support to the educational reform in the Danish development programme in Nicaragua.
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Danish experts have for more than 20 years worked together with government institutions, farmer associations, municipalities and indigenous organisations to mention a few. We have developed trust and friendship based on an open and constructive dialogue. I am convinced that our cooperation will continue in that spirit to the benefit of the Nicaraguan people.
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Honourable members of the National Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Nicaragua and Denmark – our two countries are so far apart and yet we still share many values, interests and aspirations. It is my hope that the friendship between our nations will continue to prosper and that the frank and constructive dialogue, which has characterised our partnership for many years, will flourish.
I wish you all the best in your important work.