Europe Day reception 2015
Speech by Vincent Piket
Head of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao
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Honourable Financial Secretary John Tsang
Honourable Members of the Legislative Council
Mr Song Ruan, Deputy Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry
Distinguished guests, dear friends,
Also on behalf of my colleagues from the EU Member States I wish you a warm welcome to the Europe Day reception 2015.
70 years ago the Second World War came to an end in both Asia and Europe. The end to six years of horrendous armed conflict, genocide and human suffering is commemorated around the globe.
65 years ago, with Europe still in ashes, the European peace project started. Visionary leaders from former enemies France and Germany were joined by others in the objective to make another war in Europe impossible. How? By integrating Europe in very concrete and practical ways.
It has worked. Europe’s integration, from six countries in the 1950s to 28 countries now, is a daily reality for the EU’s 508 million citizens. They can live, study, work, trade, travel, and retire across national borders -- as if they are at home, regardless of which passport they hold. It has made the EU peaceful, stable and prosperous. For several of our neighbours, joining the EU is the main foreign policy goal. The EU has also become a foreign policy player, promoting rule-based solutions to conflict. And on global issues such as climate action and development cooperation, the EU is recognised as a world leader.
That achievement we celebrate on “Europe Day.” But we know we have to move on. Because there is armed conflict and instability in regions around us. Because the financial crisis took a heavy toll on our citizens, our societies. Our big job now is to sustain our economic rebound and create jobs. We have to complete our internal market, reduce and diversify our energy imports, and proceed with fiscal consolidation. On the latter matter, Financial Secretary, we would love to learn how every year you turn a prudent fiscal outlook into another record breaking budget surplus.
Over the past year, EU-Hong Kong relations have continued to flourish very well. They form part of our relations with China, with whom yesterday we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, with a visit by the EU's High Representative for foreign policy Frederica Mogherini. The EU remains Hong Kong's biggest external trade partner, coming only after the Mainland. We are your second investment partner, again only after the Mainland. This afternoon, we held a seminar about investment cooperation. The background is that the EU is rolling out a 315 billion Euro Investment Plan; the seminar looked at the role Hong Kong can play in mobilising investor interest from Asia.
Also in other areas EU-Hong Kong relations are branching out. Over the past year, there have been visits to the EU by the Chief Executive, the Financial Services Secretary, the Education Secretary, and by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam, just this Monday. These high level visits reflect a growing cooperation agenda in areas as diverse as financial services, education, customs, environment, IPR and innovation.
Hong Kong is going through a crucial phase in its democratic and institutional reform. But I can tell you that the EU puts trusts in Hong Kong's growth. Ten days ago, the EU brought out its annual report on the "One country two systems" principle in Hong Kong. Our conclusion is that, notwithstanding challenges, the principle continues to work well. That explains why Hong Kong remains an attractive place for business and why 1,940 EU firms are based here; their number continues to grow. The EU supports the introduction of universal suffrage, in line with the Basic Law, and offering the people a high degree of participation and genuine choice. We hope that, through constructive discussion, Hong Kong will be able to reach a timely agreement.
In short, Financial Secretary, there is a lot moving in EU–Hong Kong affairs. So today we do not just celebrate Europe Day but also our excellent and dynamic bilateral relations.
And celebrate we do in a fantastic way, with a presentation of the culinary diversity that makes Europe such a great place. When you accepted to be our Guest of Honour, Financial Secretary, we did not ask you if you preferred fish or meat for your supper. The reason is that tonight we have both. To be precise, we have many kinds of each. So, if you do not want the codfish cakes, we offer you eel. If mussels are no good, we have razor clams. If no Parma ham, then Iberico, Austrian mountain ham, Finnish dried sausage, or Irish black pudding. If no cheddar, then gouda or feta or Romanian truffle cheese. For dessert chocolate, or egg tarts, shortbread, and Hungarian chimney cake. I have counted 14 kinds of beer, and even more wines and some very exotic spirits. That's putting the EU's motto "United in diversity" into practice.
I close by thanking the Member State Heads of Mission, their sponsors and wine ambassadors, for their wonderful contributions. All your missions and companies have put this evening together. Including the champagne offered by Pernod Ricard for the toast.
I would also like to thank the Honorary Consuls for their great support and sponsorship. Particularly, Kenneth Ting, the Honorary Consul of Cyprus; Matthew Lam of Estonia; Lady Ivy Wu of Croatia; Roger King of Latvia; Raj Sital Motwani of Lithuania; Leo Kung of Luxembourg; Vivien Chou of Malta; and Willy Lin of Slovakia. Thank you very much indeed.
In closing, I wish you a very pleasant evening and would like to invite you to please join me in a toast to the people of the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.