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The Role of the Delegation
Normally changes are done in connection with the approaching New Year, but again, we are ahead of our time and opened a new chapter in the EU-Korea relationship: after nearly twenty years we moved from the S-Tower which had served us well to the new premises at Seoul Square – light and new environment for a head start in 2018 where we will celebrate 55 years of EU-Korea diplomatic relations.
First big event of course will be the PyeongChang Olympics and Paralympics to whose success we want and will contribute. Especially those bravely overcoming their difficulties and participating in the Paralympics are close to our heard. We are confident that they will be held well prepared and in good spirit in a safe environment as Foreign Minister Kang has recently shown the diplomatic corps.
Like many we disappointed but not entirely surprised by the new missiles test carried out by the North Korean regime. The EU continues to support the parallel approach of President Moon of sanctions and pressure while pushing for a diplomatic and not military solution to the problems.
The EU has reaffirmed its policy of Critical Engagement combining pressure while keeping communication and dialogue channels open and expressed its readiness to support such a process in consultation with key partners. Having sent for the first time a special envoy also to the European Union President Moon signalled his interest in enhancing cooperation with the EU not only in terms of foreign policy but also in studying the European social model. Foreign Minister Kang and the EU High Representative Mogherini have already established a good personal relationship which facilitates high level contacts as demonstrated by a meeting in October in Brussels.
The last Gateway Business Mission concentrating on one of the pet themes of Koreans, actually not only Koreans, organic food and drinks – we are confident that the good turn out will translate into business opportunities.
Similarly the Study in Europe Fair was visited by more than 1000 students over a weekend; I hope they made up their mind and join the ever-growing number of participants in the ERASMUS Plus program whose 30th anniversary we celebrated at this occasion. 9 million alumni in Europe and world-wide is already a respectable number.
I am also proud to say that we stand firm with our Korean partners in applying the mutually beneficial Free Trade Agreement and the multilateral trading system. Europe is open for business as is Korea and thereby we strengthen the trust in the multilateral trading system. When the European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom visited Seoul in the context of the ASEM Trade Ministers' meeting she could take stock of six years of implementation of the Free Trade Agreement and underlined the need to keep the multilateral system open: “Protectionism does not protect” was her precise message.
Last but not least I hope to find in cooperation with our Korean colleagues quickly a solution to the listing of Korea as a non-cooperative jurisdiction for tax purposes, getting content and procedures together should help finding a solution not to cloud the excellent relationship.
May I extend my best wishes for the upcoming holiday season – I will try for the first time skiing in Korea – and a prosperous and peaceful 2018, the Year of the Dog.
EU Ambassador to the Republic of Korea