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OFFICE TO HONG KONG AND MACAO
Europe Day reception Hong Kong 2017
Speech by Carmen Cano
Head of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao
Honourable Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen
Honourable Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim
Honourable President of LEGCO, Andrew Leung and
Members of the Legislative Council
Mr Song Ru'an, Deputy Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry Office in Hong Kong,
Distinguished guests, dear friends,
This is my first Europe Day in Hong Kong, and I am delighted to celebrate it today with all of you in this beautiful residence. Special thanks to our host the Consul General of the Netherlands, Annemieke Ruigrok and her husband, for opening their home to us.
On behalf of my colleagues, the Consuls General from the EU Member States represented in Hong Kong, and my team at the EU Office, I would like to welcome so many friends of Europe here today.
This is a special moment, as we celebrate sixty years since Schuman's vision, born from the ashes and nightmares of the war. His dream was somewhat simple: that war among European countries would become unthinkable. His dream is the core foundation of the European Union.
Unifying Europe was never going to be easy. The EU is more than a single market or a customs union, it is working in progress, an ambitious and unique project which becomes even more needed in these times of increasing uncertainties and challenges.
Some time ago, during a radio interview in Hong Kong, I was asked by a sceptical interlocutor about the reasons to celebrate the EU's 60th anniversary. Well, Thanks to the European Union, tonight we can toast and celebrate a continent that has known its longest period of peace in history; that elects democratically their leaders, 28 sovereign countries who believe that protection of civil liberties and human rights are necessary for the development of a modern society; a continent where people travel freely, companies do business without barriers; trade is free and rule based. These are just a few reasons to celebrate Europe today ….
It is true that we are all facing a more challenging world. ''Uncertainty'' was the word which was more often used in the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong in January this year. However, economic data in Europe show positive growth. Populism has been defeated once again: the French people, same as the Dutch and the Austrian people before them, have reiterated their trust in Europe and the Euro, and their will to continue building a stronger Europe.
But we shouldn't be complacent, there is a lot to do to answer the needs, expectations and concerns of our citizens: security, growth and employment. There is a lot to do to consolidate the role of the European Union as a global actor, both economically and politically.
European citizens in London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin or Stockholm have repeatedly shown that we are not scared and will stand to defend the principles and values which glue us together.
We think that cooperation among societies is an integral part of how our global world works. I am pleased to say that cooperation with Hong Kong continues to strengthen. The number of European firms in Hong Kong, many of them represented here today, continues growing, over 2100 now.
Hong Kong is an attractive business hub in Asia, we all need to do our best to keep the uniqueness of its system. I would like to reiterate that Rule of Law is clearly an essential element of this uniqueness, and the key for the future development of Hong Kong. Without an independent Judiciary, without freedom of expression, without transparency and high anti-corruption standards, Hong Kong wouldn't be Hong Kong. These are definitely values that we share.
Two weeks ago, the EU institutions released their annual report on the functioning of the 'one country, two systems' principle in Hong Kong, a principle that the EU fully supports. The report highlighted that 2016 had been politically challenging in Hong Kong, and we expressed our hope that the process for electoral reform would be resumed in accordance to the Basic Law. Hong Kong has a dynamic society, cultivated, diverse and ready to further engage in public life.
The relations between the EU and Hong Kong have grown broader and deeper: not only a dynamic agenda of trade and customs facilitation, a very close cooperation on financial services, dialogue on tax matters, joint research programs, and education exchanges. We have also brought Hong Kong closer to European culture with successful events organized by the EU Office and by my colleagues the Consuls General of the EU Member States represented in HK.
You have all probably realized that I am about to close my speech without mentioning the word ''Brexit''. I think that the EU is more than Brexit and goes beyond the Brexit negotiations. Also because whatever happens with Brexit, the relations between the EU and HK will continue growing stronger.
And now I am going to close by thanking all my colleagues, friends and this wonderful city in general. My family and I have felt welcomed from day one. Hong Kong is a hectic city with a never-ending rhythm and we are happy to call it our home now.
I wish you a very pleasant evening. Tonight we will be able to enjoy French, Spanish and Italian wine, beer from Netherlands, Germany and Czech Republic. As you know, unity in diversity is our motto and our strength.
I would like to invite you to please join me in a toast
To the relations between the European Union and Hong Kong, which will continue growing stronger, for the benefit of our people.