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The opening statement of the Foreign Minister to the German-Nordic-Baltic Forum

The opening statement of the Foreign Minister to the German-Nordic-Baltic Forum November 19 2015

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  Ladies and Gentlemen, organisers, thank you for inviting me to open this conference together with Minister Roth. In this time of horror and grief it is good to stand here side by side with a close friend and partner. We mourn with France. And we stand by France in our resolute fight against the inhumane terrorist organisation ISIL. Yesterday, we yet again saw how the brutal killing of civilians and civilian hostages, including a Norwegian, is part of how this barbaric organisation works. We will discuss how to step up this fight with our partners inside and outside the European Union. 

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Now to the topic of the day. 25 years ago I followed intensely as the Wall fell and the Baltic countries courageously fought to shake off decades of dictatorship and communism. After regaining freedom, the Nordic countries stood ready to help on the road to democracy, market economy and progress. We formed a strong bond and partnership among likeminded countries. 

 

This bond is stronger than ever – and it is also more needed than ever. Today – our societies and the European Union is under pressure. Internal and external pressure. Need to deal with Russia, the migration and refugee crisis, the still fragile economy – and holding the EU together.

 

To handle these challenges we need more Nordic-Baltic cooperation . And we need even closer cooperation with likeminded countries like Germany. We do not agree on everything.  But we agree on most and with our values and societal model we can influence the EU and the world when we work closely together.

 

A clear priority for us is security in our Eastern neighbourhood . Russia’s behaviour has made many nervous and insecure. We stand by the Baltic countries – through NATO security, through economic cooperation and through increased cooperation to counter Russian propaganda. I am pleased that the Baltic Centre for Media Excellence opened in Riga last week – it is a necessary initiative.

 

The Eastern neighbours of the EU are a priority for us. Together we must reach out to them, support them and help them make the vital reforms. And we must clearly state that our Eastern neighbours have the right freely to choose their own future – notwithstanding the Russian pressure on the countries. That also means closer cooperation with and relations to the EU. 

 

We also need to stand together to counter the internal pressures . I will not go into detail on the migration and refugee crisis today but focus on the economic situation and challenges.

 

The Nordic-Baltic Countries – and Germany – have reformed. We have – in different ways of course - competitive, attractive economies and the Nordic welfare model is something that attracts interest around the world. So does our green solutions. And the way we handle our common borders – current problems aside – and national minorities. But we still need to ensure more growth, jobs and possibilities for all our citizens. 

 

Together we can promote free trade with a stronger focus on more and better jobs – and to benefit consumers. Together we can push for the necessary economic reforms inside the EU and for a better Single Market. Together we can act as a bridge between Eurozone members and countries outside the Eurozone. And we can work to ensure that the UK stays inside the EU.

 

I am happy that Minister Roth is here today. In the last difficult years Germany has taken responsibility and shown leadership. And in this you have our strong support. We are likeminded on most issues and we need to work closer together to ensure that Europe delivers and that we continue to be a winning region in the global competition.

 

Europe is struggling to find common answers to the internal and external pressure. I wish you all successful and constructive debates on how to deal with them with Nordic-Baltic-German solutions. Thank you.