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Europe Day reception Hong Kong 2018
Speech by Carmen Cano
Head of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao
Honourable Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Honourable Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs
Members of the Legislative Council
Mr Song Ru'an, Deputy Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry Office in Hong Kong,
Distinguished guests, dear friends, dear Consuls General
Happy Europe Day!
It is my great pleasure to welcome the honourable Chief Executive Carrie Lam tonight. On behalf of my colleagues, the Consuls General of the EU Member States represented in Hong Kong, and my team at the EU Office, thank you for taking time away from your busy agenda to celebrate with us this very special year for EU-Hong Kong relations.
Tonight we celebrate not only Europe Day, but also the 25th Anniversary of the European Union Office in Hong Kong. In a non conventional way for a speech, I would like to start by saying that…
Once upon a time, 25 years ago, somebody… far away in Brussels saw the potentials and regional strategic value of HK. It was then decided to open an office of the European Union, not only of the basis of common interests and economic opportunities, but mainly taking into account the values and principles that we share. Our beliefs and aspirations.
It was an exceptional decision, as this is the only Office of the European Union which is not located in the capital of a country or accredited to an International Organization.
When it was opened, the European Union was not well known in Hong Kong. As one of the first outreach activities, the first Ambassador Head of Office decided to rent the Hong Kong public buses to display banners and information about the European Union, which was then called the European Communities.
Things have changed a lot in 25 years. The European Union and Hong Kong are now key partners. We have grown older, and wiser. The challenges are always there, but we both have the resilience and the capacity to reinvent ourselves.
Back then the EU "only" had 12 Member States. Today, the EU has grown to over 500 million citizens united in peace and prosperity. It is no longer a dream or a vision shared by a few, it is translated into everybody's real life. It pushes technological, social and moral boundaries.
The EU, same as Hong Kong, is preparing for the future. The challenges are big.
Europeans join forces to develop satellite technology, to set the most advanced environmental standards, to make our food and safety mechanisms a badge of trust for our consumers, and to ensure that our relentless defence of social progress and universal rights and freedoms is unmatched across the globe. Soon, our data protection laws, which will enter into force on 25 May, (I know they will create some burden, but) will improve the protection of our citizens by setting the world’s strongest privacy safeguards.
Madame Chief Executive, a strong and innovative European Union means a solid and reliable partner for Hong Kong. We are currently working together on 11 research projects through the Horizon 2020 scheme. Yet our relations still have room to grow. We want to work together on creative industries such as fashion, E-sports, the gaming industry, the Internet of Things, and many more.
Our people to people relations are also growing. Hong Kong now has working holiday schemes with 8 Member States. In June we will launch the first Music Festival of European and local musicians. As a sign of our friendship, Hong Kong is just about to light the TST clock tower with the colour of the EU – the EU blue. For the Lunar New Year, Europe lit over 50 landmarks within the 2018 EU-China Year of Tourism.
The bond that binds us goes beyond trade and culture. We are pleased that Europeans and the people of Hong Kong share a mutual allegiance to the rule of law, to universal values, and to the strict adherence to the "one country, two system" principle. We all know that without these core values, Hong Kong wouldn't be Hong Kong; and our companies, of which we have more than 2,100 would not have chosen Hong Kong as their home.
Madame Chief Executive, we are also looking forward to welcoming you in Brussels next month to strengthen our future cooperation.
I know that you attend many functions and National Days, but this is the only one where you can taste such a diverse display of food and beverages. Today, all of you will be able to eat wonderful desserts provided (and some even made) by our Consuls General. Tonight we feast on delicious desserts from Belgian chocolate and Polish poppy cake to Greek Baklava and Austrian, German bakery. Beer from Czech Republic, Spain and Germany, sparkling wine from the UK (at least this year, not sure about next) and wine from Rumania and Sweden (Yes, there is also wine in Sweden, Ikea too?)
I am going to close by wishing you a very pleasant evening, . Don't forget to try our delicacies and to look out the window for the clock tower lit in EU blue.