Speech by Margot Wallström

October 28th, 2009


The spoken word applies!

Thank you for the invitation and for the opportunity to address you.
"You who know that a wall is just a bridge on its side," as Emil Jensen sings.

These days we remember that it is 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell. The Berlin Wall was not only a borderline between urban two districts, between two countries. It was an ideological, political and cultural wall that was came to symbolize the division of an entire continent, between the dictatorial East and the democratic West.

But the Berlin Wall was a bridge on its side. And collapse of the Wall led to a bridge across the border, across the division and hatred in the rest of the former Eastern Europe. Now, we no longer divide Europe into an east and west. We sit around the same table to discuss common issues, problems and opportunities.

It is really a fantastic development that has taken place in Europe over the past 20 years.  The enlargement of the European Union was a victory for democracy and has led to greater prosperity, greater competitiveness, higher growth and more jobs.

Thanks to a larger internal market, the EU countries have benefited from increased trade, foreign investment and a more open labor market. And now during the current economic crisis, EU membership provides countries with invaluable protection.

Unfortunately we run the risk of losing sight of this. We cannot afford to do so.

Many years in politics have taught me, maybe us that we must look back in order to understand the present and to create change for the future.

The second valuable insight is that everything in the world is linked. The decisions we make today affect tomorrow. And the steps we take at home impact on remote locations.

It is through such understanding that visions emerge that can stimulate change. It may sound trite. But the challenge is precisely the exercise of visionary leadership. To will and to act for change.

I think all of us here have the same internal ideological compass. It may not always be pointing in exactly the same direction. But one thing is sure and that is that we know what direction we do not want development to go. Increased inequality, higher unemployment, poverty, discrimination, social exclusion, xenophobia and environmental degradation. These are just some of the forms of injustice we must fight, not only for our own sakes but for our fellow human beings and posterity's sake.

These are issues we must tackle also a European level. So where do we want development to go? Where should the compass point to?

For me it is a question about sustainable development. That we must take the future and the rest of the world into account when we act and make decisions. And that economic growth must go hand in hand with environmental protection, job creation, and social and global justice.

Sustainable development is the EU's overall objective. But what about its implementation?

The EU has been at the forefront of combating climate change and promoting a so-called carbon-lean economy. But in many areas within Europe trends are still unsustainable. Demand for natural resources increases, there is a loss of biodiversity while energy consumption and emissions from transport continue to rise.

And as you all know, unemployment is increasing. Around 8.5 million jobs are expected to be lost in  2009-2010 and unemployment could rise to over 11% next year

The economic crisis began in the financial sector, but it is the workers and the unemployed who are now footing the bill. Especially the young. Labor market and social policy are primarily the responsibility of Member States, but the EU implements both coordinated and supportive activities. The key priorities for our work are to retain existing jobs, create jobs, and promote mobility, skills and adaptability.

To give young people opportunities for education and jobs is moreover the most important task for the EU.
Let me give two examples of funding at our disposal to mitigate the impact on the labor market. One is the European Social Fund. Another is the European Globalization Fund. Through globalization, the Fund may, for example, in 1500 former workers at Volvo Cars and its suppliers will soon get help in finding new jobs. The European Commission is prepared to contribute to almost 10 million Euros for this.

"We all face a series of great opportunities, brilliantly disguised as impossible situations", someone has written.

The statement well describes the economic crisis, but also on climate change. Combating climate change is not only a responsibility towards present and future generations, but also a tremendous economic opportunity. It is important to highlight that. For it is precisely the concern about the economic cost which at the moment seems to stand in the way of an ambitious and fair climate change agreement in Copenhagen in December.

Fighting for climate gives us the opportunity to create jobs and develop new sources of economic growth. To give an example: The development of clean and efficient environmental technologies can both reduce the cost of our foreign electricity and gas imports and put Europe into the lead. It will also create many new jobs. A Commission study shows that if we achieve the 20 percent energy efficiency goal then 600 000 new jobs can be created by 2020.

The EU is today the world leader in climate policy. We have already established a system of trading in emission quotas. And last year we agreed on a climate and energy package containing mandatory measures. And just today, the Commission is to limit emissions from light trucks and minibuses.

In order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, we must draw up strict targets for the rich countries in Copenhagen. As for our own contribution to a global, comprehensive agreement, the EU has made it clear that we will raise our target for emissions reductions from 20 to 30% in 2020 - provided that other industrialized countries also do their bit.

In addition, the large developing economies like China and India, should make a reasonable contribution, which is tailored to their respective responsibilities and capabilities.

The poorest countries are the most exposed and vulnerable to climate change. In Copenhagen, we must reach a global consensus based on climate justice.  Reach a consensus on social needs and development needs, equitable burden sharing and the principle that the polluter should pay. It is our moral duty.

With just a month to go until the Copenhagen conference, we still have a lot left to do in order to reach an agreement. The level of ambition and pace of the negotiations must be increased. And above all, we want the United States come with an offer. Regardless of whether the Senate manages to determine a position, President Obama needs to come to Copenhagen to demonstrate his commitment and the role that the USA is to play in the negotiations.

Most of all, I hope that a global climate agreement lays the foundation for a truly sustainable development in this century. Sustainability is not only for the environment but also for jobs and the economy.
Development cannot be sustainable unless it is fair. That means we have to work for fairer world trade and to reform the global financial system so that they are serve citizens, not just the market. It also means that we must defend democracy, human rights, equality and social justice. And that we promote the security and peace.

I read the Congress motions submitted in order to strengthen and develop the party's policies for a fairer world. There I noted, among other things, support for UN Security Council resolutions relating to women, security and peace. There remains an immense amount to be done in this area. Rape is used as weapon of war! Conscious and planned. In eastern Congo  1100 women are raped each month, according to a recent UN report.

This question you will certainly discuss tomorrow night, but I just want to stress how important it is. It is my firm belief that it is only through equal participation, protection and empowerment for women that we can succeed in creating a sustainable peace for all.

I was going to conclude by returning to how things hang together. When the Swedish EU presidency started in July handed over my personal but pointed gift to two men at the head of Europe: Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. It was a relay scroll made in Dalarna, which symbolizes visionary leadership.

In the middle a globe. On one side it represents seven generations back. Inside a small slip of paper with words of wisdom and a message, holistic, justice, perseverance and love. On the other hand, represents the next seven generations. The paper inside was empty and left so for Barroso and for Reinfeldt to fill in.

I do not know if they filled out that space yet, or if they will ever do it. But a woman  I know who does not need a relay scroll  to be reminded of  visionary leadership, is Mona Sahlin. She has already shown it countless times, not only in Sweden.

She has extensive international experience, from the previous Swedish EU presidency when she was in charge of labor law and health and safety to when she led the Swedish delegation to the UN world conference on racism in South Africa.

Or when she was Environment Minister and spoke in the UN General Assembly about the importance of sustainable development. A vision to transform and modernize Sweden into a green welfare state. A vision of an ecologically sustainable Sweden that ensures health, environment, gender equality and welfare while enabling us to better contribute to increased solidarity and a fairer distribution of global resources.

Mona! Our internal ideological compasses point towards you now. We know that you can lead, listen and inspire.

To you Mona, for all of us in here, the rest of the lyrics written by Emil Jensen:

You who know that a wall is just a bridge on its side
and that which is as it is need never always be so.

You who hear cries for help when no one else hear them,
do what you do and never get anything for it,
for if you don’t do it no one else will.
You who go where you go without anybody else steering your steps,
you are wounded but never martyrs.

You who dream but never turn a blind eye to what is going on around you,
forget your enemies but never your friends;
hiding and helping people you do not know.

You are not the most beautiful in the world,
the world is at its most beautiful in you.
And it's not in your eyes
it is what you see.
Thank you

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