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Danish EU presidency plans global tasks with Japan’s help

by Anders Fogh Rasmussen

On July 1, Denmark assumed the presidency of the European Union. Today, together with European Commission President Romano Prodi, I will meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Tokyo at the 11th EU-Japan Summit. This summit, which has taken place annually since 1991, is an important occasion for promoting EU-Japan cooperation and sharing views in a wide range of areas. It is no coincidence that I travel to Japan at the very beginning of the Danish EU presidency. It is a testimony not only to the growing importance of European relations with Asia and Japan but also to the priority the Danish EU presidency will place on external relations and global responsibilities. In September, Denmark will host the Fourth Europe-Asia Meeting, or ASEM 4, in Copenhagen.

EU-Japan relations are excellent. We have a flourishing trade; investments both ways are important; and exchanges on the cultural front continue to rise.

EU-Japan cooperation in the political field has also strengthened significantly over the past couple of years. We can further develop and enhance our cooperation. We must continue to explore ways to strengthen the EU-Japan partnership.

Europe and Japan share important values. We have built our societies on democracy and respect for human rights. Internally as well externally, we can boast of having accepted a high level of social and environmental responsibility.

Japan and the EU provide approximately three-quarters of total development assistance worldwide. We share the belief in the benefits of international cooperation within the United Nations. Indeed, Japan and the EU were among the first to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We share values and a vision for a better world, and we act on these values.

The adoption of the EU-Japan Action Plan in December of last year was an important step toward closer political as well as economic and cultural cooperation between Japan and the EU. The plan is a strong framework for EU-Japan cooperation in the areas of peace and security, economy and trade, global challenges as well as popular and cultural relations. Since the plan was adopted, we have made progress in a number of fields, including disarmament, arms control and counterterrorism. Most importantly, in January, we worked closely during the successful Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan.

EU-Japan cooperation has a great potential, and the Danish EU presidency will do what it can to increase that cooperation over the next six months.

In holding the EU presidency, we face other important tasks. The presidency will be the greatest foreign-policy task for Denmark in many years. We have one very clear main task: The enlargement of the EU. The Danish presidency hopes to complete enlargement negotiations with up to 10 new member states.

The conditions for accession to the EU were defined in Copenhagen in 1993; the negotiations for enlargement may conclude there in 2002, thus completing the circle. We have a historic and moral obligation to seize this opportunity to consolidate peace and create the basis for progress across the entire continent.

I am happy to have been entrusted with this historic task. For more than 10 years former Communist countries of Eastern Europe have worked hard to transform their structures. Now they are getting ready to enter the family of democratic and market-based societies. We must receive them and create “One Europe.”

To the benefit of all Europeans, Japan and other democratic and market-based societies, our family of democratic nations will be enlarged. We will all benefit from the increased trade, security, international cooperation and cultural exchange that naturally will follow.

Besides EU enlargement, the Danish presidency will work for greater freedom, security and justice, giving priority to battles against global terrorism, the trafficking of human beings and child pornography. We will strengthen our cooperation on asylum, immigration and border controls. We attach great importance to the development of strong international cooperation in this area. And we will of course invite Japan to join us in our efforts.

We will also give priority to sustainable development. We must continue to develop our societies from a combination of economic, social and environmental perspectives. We will review the policies of agriculture and fisheries in Europe.

In an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, it is crucial that the EU shoulder its global responsibility. We, therefore, must strengthen the EU’s common foreign and security policy. The Danish presidency is prepared to bring this issue forward. In this endeavor, we will of course seek close cooperation with Japan and other like-minded countries.

At ASEM 4 on Sept. 23-24 in Copenhagen, leaders of Asian and European nations will have the opportunity to discuss issues of common interest. The fight against international terrorism will figure high on the agenda. We must not succumb to attempts by ruthless terrorists to divide the international community.

We will also engage in a dialogue on economic issues and on cultures and civilizations. I look forward to hosting ASEM 4 and to cooperating closely with Japan and Prime Minister Koizumi as a key partner in realizing a successful summit.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg will be another major event under the Danish presidency. This summit represents an important opportunity for focused EU-Japan cooperation. The summit will cover areas where both Japan and the EU have demonstrated vision and the ability to act.

In Johannesburg, we must seek a global deal based on the successful results achieved in Doha and Monterrey. We must secure a sustainable world for this generation and for the future.

The developed countries must promise to take steps to open their markets, while offering development assistance to the developing nations. At the same time, it must be recognized that good governance is essential for sustainable development. It is a precondition for attracting the necessary investments that are required for sustainable development.

Finally, we must take all necessary steps to ensure that economic growth goes hand in hand with the protection and improvement of our environment.

EU-Japan relations are rich. The potential for enhanced cooperation is obvious. The friendship between Japan and Europe is old. More than 450 years have passed since Europeans reached Japanese soil. Goods and values have been a very important part in the exchange between Japan and Europe ever since. It is my sincere hope and ambition to further this exchange by deepening our economic and political relationship. The EU-Japan Summit today will be an important step forward in this endeavor.