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Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the Ambassadors' Conference of Norway, 24. August 2012 in Oslo

24.08.2012 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very honoured to be here in Oslo tonight and to address you on the occasion of the closing of your Ambassadors’ conference. I hope that you had fruitful and lively discussions. I am grateful for the privilege to share some thoughts with you.

Today the judgment was pronounced against the man whose horrendous actions killed 77 people last year on July 22. On this day which brings back very sad memories our thoughts are with the victims and their families and friends.

The terrible events of Utøya have been a tremendous shock for all of us. Norway has reacted in a remarkable manner by delivering a message of tolerance.

The clear signal that an open society will not abandon its values, will not give in to hate, prejudices, racism or any other form of xenophobia has impressed not only many Germans. A society cannot defend its values by abolishing them. This response given by the Norwegian government and the Norwegian people deserves our greatest respect.

Norway and Germany are close partners. We have common values. We cooperate intensively and in a spirit of mutual trust and understanding. There are no problems in our bilateral relations.

Both our countries have benefitted from the European Union. We as a member, Norway by its membership in the European Economic Area, in Schengen and through close alignment with the EU’s Acquis. Many call Norway the “most active outsider”.

We are grateful for Norway´s financial support, especially to the EU cohesion fund. One indicator for Norway´s strong links to the European Union are the export figures: Over 80 % of Norwegian exports go to European Union member states, of which Germany is Norway´s second important trading partner.

For Germany Norway is especially important as our second largest supplier of natural gas.

Germany has set itself an ambitious goal with regard to its energy supply: We decided to cover our future energy from renewable sources and the complete turning away from nuclear energy. That is the so-called “Energiewende”. In about ten years from now the last nuclear power plant will be shut down.

For Norway and Germany this will lead to a range of new opportunities to intensify our bilateral energy cooperation.

Today, Norway produces almost all its electricity from hydro power. Norwegian pump storage power plants could play an important role in storing surplus electricity created by wind power in Germany. This electricity could be again redistributed when needed on the market. A clear “win-win” case for both sides!

I am therefore glad that some weeks ago we have already entered into the initial phase of this new cooperation with the decision to build the first undersea cable between Norway and Germany. This will enable us to jointly use a clean and almost inexhaustible source of energy in the future. This cooperation is an excellent example for the energy partnership between our two countries.

A central point of our bilateral talks today has been the current situation in Europe.

The current debt crisis in Europe is far from over. We will need persistence to get the EU back on track and to move towards establishing a union of lasting stability and growth.

This goes far beyond economic integration. We also have to address more fundamental questions concerning political integration in Europe. How can we solve the crisis of confidence in Europe caused by the debt crisis? Which role do we Europeans want to assume in tomorrow´s world?

It is clear that today in times of globalisation no country in Europe alone has the political or economic weight to meet the great challenges we face. The share of Europeans in world population is constantly shrinking. From 20 % in the 1950s it has gone down to 10 % today and in 2050 Europeans will only make up for 7 %.

We want Europe to be a strong global player. That’s why European countries have to do their homework. We have to tackle the root causes of the current situation, not just deal with its symptoms. Consequently, Germany has focused on a double track strategy from the very beginning by linking solidarity on the one hand with a policy of fiscal stability and growth on the other. For us, fiscal stability and growth are two sides of the same coin.

Growth cannot be bought on credit. The key to increased growth is competitiveness. And competitiveness can only be achieved through structural reforms.

We’re aware of the difficulties which many people in Europe are currently facing and we have great respect and admiration for their efforts.

In Europe we often discuss about growth, but only rarely about free trade. We want to foster close ties between Europe and the new power houses of the global economy.

Europe isn’t the problem but, rather, part of the solution to the problem. It’s not enough to only take action in the spheres of financial and economic policy in response to the crisis, no matter how important these areas are.

We need to find structural responses. The EU must become more effective and efficient.

We’ve established a Future of Europe Group in which we discuss institutional improvements which can also be implemented below the level of treaty amendments.

What’s required of us Europeans is that we show every confidence in ourselves: in economic, political and cultural terms. There’s a European way of life of which we can be proud.

That involves maintaining a balance between freedom and security, as well as ensuring that the individual, and not just the collective, counts for something.

It also means that we appreciate not only material but also post material values, namely individual freedom, social security, freedom from fear, cultural diversity and an environment worth living in.

Our common efforts are both pragmatic and far-sighted. I would like to encourage you to continue your important work. Together we are fighting for Europe with our hearts and with our minds.

Thank you.

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