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Tale ved Kennedy School of Government, Harvard

Tale ved Kennedy School of Government, Harvard den 20. oktober 2011.

Good afternoon everyone,

First of all, many thanks to Professor Kaiser for the invitation to deliver a lecture here at the prestigious John F. Kennedy School of Government. Although it is of course conventional to begin a speech by saying how honoured you are, please bear with me here. Because standing here today at this particular institution of higher learning and at this particular school of government - the school that carries the name of one of the greatest leaders of the twentieth century –  is  an honour. I am not simply obeying convention when I say this. And thanks for convening this meeting at such short notice.

Last month, when Denmark got a new centre-left government following a general election on the 15th of September, I became Denmark’s Minister for European Affairs. Like many of you, I hold a degree in political science, and I even attended high-school right here in Massachusetts at Newburyport back in ‘87. I loved it!  I have since then pursued a political career as a member of the Danish Parliament and as vice-president of the Social Democratic party. For the past five years, I have been mayor of Denmark’s second largest city – Aarhus.

Today, however, my remarks will not focus on local politics or even national politics, but rather on European politics, because on January first, Denmark will assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months.

This means that the Danish Government will be setting the EU-agenda across a long list of policy areas, convene a horrendous amount of EU-meetings at all sorts of levels and more importantly – the Danish Government will be expected to provide it’s important part in the leadership that will enable the 27 Member States of the EU to adopt some key decisions for Europe’s future. Despite the Lisbon Treaty creating a permanent President for the European Council – that is Herman Van Rompuy – and a permanent President for the Council of EU-Foreign Ministers – Catherine Ashton, the rotating EU-presidencies remain a big challenge for Member States. The Presidency means that Denmark will preside over the EU’s Council of Ministers and not over the European Commission for example or the European Parliament, but for a small country like mine, the EU Presidency is still a huge task that will require a lot of effort by the Danish Government. Personally, as the minister responsible for running the Danish EU Presidency, I don’t expect to get much sleep between New Year’s Day and July first next year, when we pass the baton on to Cyprus. It’s said, that an American President gets 10 years older during the 4 year term of office. I hope no similar statistics are relevant for Ministers for Europe during EU-presidencies. But I fear the worst.

It’s the kind of situation in which you might wish for super-powers. I’m painfully aware we haven’t but I can’t help thinking of the superhero, Spiderman, and a quote from the movie which seems relevant “with great powers come great responsibilities”.  Like the US, Europe does have great powers. And we therefore do have great responsibilities to live up to.


That sets the scene I believe, and  – as you all know from the daily news cycle, these are not normal times for Europe. These are, in fact, anything but normal times for Europe. Three weeks ago, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, put it like this in his “State of the Union”-address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He said: “We are facing the biggest challenge in the history of our Union.” and I agree with him. The current debt crisis is not just important. It might not be the only thing that matters – but its close. The unique political entity now called European Union that was born out of the ashes of the Second World War, that has promoted democracy and free markets across national borders in Europe and that has helped underpin 50 years of economic growth and prosperity in Europe, is facing its most severe test at this very moment in time.

But we should also remember that we are not facing a natural disaster. To quote John F. Kennedys American University speech: “Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

This is, by the way, also an excellent example of the level of our interrelations. If things go well in the US, it positively impacts the situation in Europe. Just as a viable solution to the current European debt crisis is important for growth in the US economy.

The combination of the European debt crisis, the competitive pressures from globalisation, and adverse demographic trends in several EU-countries that leave fewer people of working-age to pay for an increasing number of retirees on state pensions, is creating a perfect storm. It is, however, a storm that the EU must be able to weather. I stress “must”, because quite frankly, what is the alternative? I don’t see any. At least not any appealing ones. And that is why we must now rise to the occasion, and we must do so collectively as Europe and not as an uncoordinated hotchpotch of 27 small and medium sized European countries. Reforms at the national level are vital and urgent, but they are not going to be sufficient. We need reforms at the European level as well, because of the large degree of interdependence today between the Member States.

Of course, being one of the smaller Member States in the EU and being outside the euro-zone, the Danish Government does not harbour any illusions that we can rescue Europe single-handed, when we assume the EU Presidency January 1. What we will do, is to make an all-out effort at the negotiating table in Brussels in order to push through decisions that can stimulate growth and job creation in Europe. It is the firm belief of the Danish government, and not unlike that of the Obama Administration, that a fundamental driver behind growth and job creation in the future will be a green transformation of the Western economies. In a nutshell, we need growth to be green in order to become sustainable in the longer term. The transformative process of achieving green growth, however, will create thousands of jobs along the way and thus provide new opportunities in the short term for the 22 million unemployed people living in EU countries. Budget discipline, growth, jobs and a green transformation is at the heart of Denmark’s EU Presidency. Let me provide you with a few specifics of what we intend do during our Presidency in order to turn this political vision into a practical reality.


In 2012, one of Europe’s biggest success stories – the Single Market – will celebrate its 20 year birthday. In the first 10 years of its existence, it created about 2 point 5 million jobs and 1 point 2 trillion dollars’ worth of added prosperity in the 15 European countries that made up the EU back then. But in the following 10 years, the results have not been equally impressive. One of the reasons is that the Single Market is in need of a make-over. The European Commission will put forward  proposing a package of 12 initiatives aimed at creating a better business environment in Europe that will promote innovation, reduce red tape and bring the Single Market firmly into the digital age. Among other things, a digital Single Market means improved conditions for e-commerce between European countries, more broad-band roll-out throughout Europe and lower telephone fees. On the basis of this, it is my clear ambition that the EU should seek to adopt legislation during the Danish Presidency that will make this happen as soon as possible. The European Commission has so far presented three of these proposals, and we look forward to the rest with a view to promoting this task.


Another key part of a modernized Single Market will be an efficient and user-friendly EU Patent System. It will allow businesses across Europe to avoid having to submit applications with 27 different national patent authorities in order to acquire an EU wide patent protection. If things go as planned in Brussels, European companies will be able to escape this hideous paperwork as they will only have to submit one single application to a European Patent Office.

Modernization of the EU’s Single Market is squarely aimed at helping Europe back to healthy economic growth rates, but like the US, Europe must also find the delicate balance between stimulating growth while reducing government debt at the same time. Greece is dominating the headlines these days, but as you know, several EU Member States are struggling with too much debt. Today, credit default swaps, bond spreads and prolongation of maturities has almost become part of everyday chit-chat on the streets of Europe. But the debt crisis will also provide a dire backdrop for the all-important EU-budget negotiations that kicks off in earnest during the Danish Presidency next year. The current seven-year EU-budget totals roughly 1 point 3 trillion dollars, and it is of fundamental importance for Europe’s ability to confront the current economic challenges that a big chunk of the next seven-year EU-budget is channelled to the right policy areas that can boost growth, jobs and innovation. I will personally be chairing most of the ministerial discussions on the EU-budget, and my ambition is that much more EU-funding should go into areas like research and development, education, energy efficiency and green technologies. In short, an EU-budget for the future.  Achieving tangible progress towards this objective will take up a major part of the Danish EU Presidency and hopefully, we will be able to make sufficient head-way in the first six months of 2012 in order for Cyprus to close the deal in the second half of the year. Europe desperately needs a budget for the future!  

The good news is that the EU thanks to the Single Market with its common standards and 500 million European consumers remains a key partner for the US and has something very real and substantial to offer. For American businesses, but also for Chinese or Indian businesses who are increasingly interested in adhering to European standards within various economic sectors, because its sheer size. Despite the Single Market being significantly bigger market than the US market it does, however, still lack some of the dynamic integration and entrepreneurial spirit, which characterizes the American market. We can see this manifesting itself in a number of ways like the number of successful American internet companies, better job mobility and more business-friendly bankruptcy legislation in the US compared to what prevails in most of Europe. We need a different approach in Europe to a lot of these issues, where the Single Market lacks the US domestic market.

These priorities – a modernization of the Single Market, promoting green growth and an EU-budget for the future – will be important stepping-stones, if Europe is to navigate its way out of the current crisis. But they are also crucial for Europe’s ability to remain a reliable and resourceful partner in the transatlantic partnership with the US and in the new global order in general. As I’ve already said, we depend heavily on each other, and I am fully aware that the  transatlantic partnership is narrowly tied to our ability to develop the partnership to provide added value and concrete support in addressing international challenges.


Be that in Libya, around the Horn of Africa, in the Balkans or in Afghanistan. I know that it will not suffice for Europe just to rely on its historical ties and shared values with the US, if we want to enhance the transatlantic partnership in the twenty-first century. The EU needs to be able to deliver in the field, when the situation requires it and when the international community calls for it, in order to be taken seriously.


We know it, and Denmark – as a close ally of the United States – is very mindful of this fact. In Copenhagen as in other European capitals undoubtedly, the blunt messages pronounced recently by former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and subsequently by his successor, Leon Panetta, at the NATO Headquarter in Brussels have been studied carefully. The same applies to the military intervention in Libya, where we have some lessons to learn. Although a resounding success in terms of the outcome, the intervention disclosed some significant inadequacies in Europe’s military capabilities, which leaves us with a lot of homework to do before the NATO-summit in Chicago in May next year. Defense policy is not part of my portfolio as Minister for European Affairs.  I will note however, the Danish engagements and the commitment to deliver also when it hurts. We have done so in Afghanistan, where we are among those who have paid a heavy toll for our engagement. And we have done so in the recent activities in Libya, where Danish fighter planes have secured a substantial contribution well beyond what might be called for given Denmark’s size.

As students of European relations you will know, that Denmark for many years has had a special arrangement when it comes to EU cooperation in the area of defense. With the continued development of European capabilities it is becoming increasingly evident, that this is preventing Denmark from playing our full role, when it comes to participating in EU’s contributions to promote peace and security in global hotspots. And just to highlight this point, which goes to show the dedication of the new Danish government to the European cooperation, it is our intention to abolish the opt-out in this area in a popular referendum. 


Of course, the transatlantic partnership is about more than international security. A very important element in the European Foreign Policy remains the enlargement process and the partnerships in this relation. By using this actively, the EU has successfully engaged and promoted reform processes in neighboring countries with a European perspective. In this respect I think it is important to note, that we are currently negotiating with a group of countries by far exceeding the size of the largest states in the US – and representing far more cultural diversity. Turkey alone is twice the size of California and Croatia is roughly the size of Virginia.


Speaking for a moment on Denmark’s national position with regard to the transatlantic partnership and Europe’s role in the new world order, it has been a long-standing Danish priority to help the EU become a more effective and coherent partner, when solutions to global challenges like climate change, international terrorism and humanitarian interventions are crafted. We intend unabashedly to further this aim at the European level during our Presidency, because it is simply the right thing to do. For Europe to have more political clout in a new world order with ever more non-European giants coming to the fore, the European countries must become better at speaking more with one voice or at the very least sing from the same songbook. If we indulge in a noisy cacophony of 27 national voices, when key questions on the international agenda are to be decided, nobody will take us seriously. I believe the former US Secretary of State, Kissinger, put it very well, when he asked for the single phone number to use, when he needed to confer with Europe. We may not have developed that one single phone number, but we do seek to speak with one voice.  None of   the EU countries are able to match the influence of the US or China at the global stage, if we act alone. That is also the reason, why the Danish Presidency will co-operate very closely with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the High Representative, Catherine Ashton.


The Danish Government believes that today’s world needs a strong Europe able to shape global trends, but for Europe to act resourcefully on the international stage we must, of course, get our own house in order first, that is confronting the urgent challenge of the European debt crisis.


Professor Kaiser, students, ladies and gentlemen,


Let me conclude my by referring to what I said at the beginning about pulling Europe out of the current crisis. Reforms at the national level in the individual EU-countries are necessary, but they will not be sufficient. Reforms at the European level are required as well. When Denmark assumes the EU Presidency on the first of January, we will do our utmost to pave the way for some key European reforms that can help supplement what the Member States are doing or should be doing at the national level in order to stimulate growth, create jobs, promote innovation and increase their ability to compete on world markets. This is a national duty for us, and we are fully aware of the need for concrete results given the urgency of the current situation. But I am also aware that in order for Europe to pull it off, we need a stronger unity of purpose and more flexibility on some entrenched national positions among the 27 Member States of the European Union.

So to paraphrase John F. Kennedys inaugural address, it is perhaps appropriate to urge my fellow Europeans not to ask what Europe can do for them, but what they can do for Europe.


We will need the effort in order to come stronger out of the crisis – for the sake of Europe and for the USA.

Thank you.      

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