Check against delivery!
Thank you Julie [Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia].
It is really a pleasure for me to be here in Sydney. I thought it was impossible to find a better time to visit - maybe in terms of season it is possible, that is going to be a good excuse to come back - but in terms of political relations between your country and our Union, it could not be a better moment.
Because, as you said, we have intensified our common work in the last couple of years, with the [EU-Australia] Leadership Forum, with the Framework Agreement and most recently with a very positive beginning of our negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement.
We, in the European Union, see in Australia geographically probably the farest-away partner we could have, but in terms of bilateral relations and in terms of our cooperation around the world, we could not find a closer partner probably, and a partner that is truly like-minded.
This visit is to, first of all, pay back the many visits you have had in Brussels, and also as you said, we meet so often and so regularly around the world, that it is important for us to come here to Australia to testimony our deep commitment to work even more closely together, especially in these times where friends and partners that share exactly the same view of the world, on multilateralism, on free trade, on cooperative solutions on the need to invest in peace, security and prosperity around the world, need to come together and represent a point of reference for the many others in the world that are looking for collective leadership.
This is important for us, we see in Australia a key partner, not only in the Indo-Pacific, but it is a region that for us has a crucial importance, and also in the work we continue to do for a rules-based international order. As you said, strengthening multilateral trading system is for us particularly in these times particularly important, as well as strengthening other international institutions is vital for us to maintain global stability and prosperity. We see Australia as a crucial partner in this.
Let me also welcome you publicly, because, today, Julie [Bishop] confirmed to me that Australia has offered to deploy civilian expertise to the EU crisis response and capacity building missions. We will be working together in Iraq on a civilian mission to reform the civilian security sector of the country. This is a very practical cooperation and a very concrete way to show how we can work together not only for the benefit of our citizens, but also for peace, prosperity and security in the world.
We will continue working together and even deepen our cooperation, in particular in the Indo-Pacific region, but also in multilateral fora, in the trade negotiations and in the trade system worldwide.
Let me thank you, Julie, as a friend, as a colleague – but more as a friend than a colleague – for an excellent cooperation we have managed to establish bilaterally, but also in all the regional and international arenas where we are engaged together. You can count on the European Union as a friend.
Q: Do you have a timeline for when the [Free Trade] Agreement will be finalised?
I can confirm that we did not set up a concrete framework in terms of timelines, we just started. We launched negotiations in June, we started the first round in July - so the rhythm and the pace are quite intense.
I can confirm what Julie mentioned: we also assess the first round of negotiations as very positive and very encouraging. We have all the interest in proceeding fast. Obviously, a trade negotiation is a complex one, but we are aiming at a very ambitious, a very positive trade agreement for both sides - the sooner the better.
Q: How significant is it to have an EU representative, such a key friend as you have been describing each other, come to Australia?
For us it is a way to make it clear and evident that, notwithstanding the geographical distance, we value enormously our partnership with Australia, in particular in these times of global uncertainty and - as Julie mentioned – of some tendencies towards protectionism.
We believe that making a network of partnerships evident also to the rest of the world has a value in itself. Beyond our bilateral relations, which are excellent and which bring benefits to our citizens, there is a global responsibility we share and we are exercising this responsibility together, no matter how far geographically, we are so close politically and in our common engagement for the rest of the world.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I159310