Spring til indhold

Europaministerens tale til generalforsamlingen i HOTREC.

Afholdt 27.10.2011. 

Mr President, Distinguished Members of HOTREC, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to Denmark and to Copenhagen. I used to be major of Aarhus. At that time the weather was always the responsibility of the major. When I look at the weather today, I am happy that I am now a Minister.

Many thanks for the invitation to come here this morning and provide you with some thoughts on the situation in Europe, on Denmark’s up-coming EU Presidency. It’s an impressive programme the organisers have managed to put together for you. I hope that you will have some pleasant and productive days in Copenhagen. But let me say here at the outset that I feel extremely privileged to be able to make this address today before the start of your general assembly. And the reason is quite simple.

Because a short glance at the basic facts and figures about your industry will tell anyone, who cares about jobs, growth and prosperity in Europe that the hospitality industry is crucial to Europe’s future. Your well-being is Europe’s well-being. It is as simple as that. You employ 9 point 7 million people in the 27 countries that make up the European Union. You generated a staggering 266 billion euro in revenues in 2008 and your industry accounts for more than 5 per cent of the EU’s GDP. Despite the current economic problems in Europe, the EU remains the number one tourism destination in the world with around 370 million international arrivals each year. While other business sectors have been busy shedding jobs during the past two years, you have actually managed to create 200.000 new jobs in the same periode. These are impressive figures by any measure, and let me personally express my gratitude to you and your members for the hard work, which lies behind these figures. It is hard work such as that performed by your members that keeps the wheels turning in Europe at this difficult moment in time, and it will also be hard work that eventually will allow Europe to overcome the current crisis. The Danish Government is very mindful of the contribution that you make and the concerns that you have. A former US lawmaker and senator – Patrick Moynihan – once said that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” He is right, and the facts about your industry make it abundantly clear to me that you are important, that your concerns matter and that the transformation  in Europe over the next few years will affect you.      

Ladies and gentlemen – with these opening remarks, I will now turn to the main topic of my speech today – the political and economic situation in Europe and Denmark’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union after New Year’s evening. At 4 o’clock this morning a deal was struck among the 17 EU Heads of State and Governments. We hope to see a comprehensive agreement to bring Europe back on track. It is necessary to do so. 

Three weeks ago, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, put it like this in his “State of the Union”-address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. He said: “We are facing the biggest challenge in the history of our Union.” and I agree with him. The current debt crisis might not be the only thing that matters – but it is close. The unique political entity now called European Union that was born out of the ashes of the Second World War, that has promoted democracy and free markets across national borders in Europe and that has helped underpin 50 years of economic growth and prosperity in Europe, is facing its most severe test at this very moment in time.

The combination of the European debt crisis, the competitive pressures from globalisation, and adverse demographic trends in several EU-countries that leave fewer people of working-age to pay for an increasing number of retirees on state pensions, is creating a perfect storm. It is, however, a storm that the EU must be able to weather. I stress “must”, because quite frankly, what is the alternative? I don’t see any. At least not any appealing ones. And that is why the responsible governments in Europe must now rise to the occasion and do so collectively rather than as an uncoordinated hotchpotch of 27 small and medium sized European countries. Reforms at the national level are vital and urgent, but they are not going to be sufficient. We need reforms at the European level as well for the obvious reason that the 27 Member States of the European Union after more than 50 years of political and economic integration have become closely interconnected. Nobody can just depart on their own so to speak and forget about the rest of Europe, because the Member States are interconnected today and important events in one Member State are bound to have a spill-over effect in other Member States – be it positive or negative.  

Of course, being one of the smaller Member States in the EU and being outside the euro-zone, the Danish Government does not harbour any illusions that we can rescue Europe single-handed, when we assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on January first. What we will do, is to make an all-out effort at the negotiating table in Brussels in order to push through decisions that can stimulate economic growth, create jobs and help business in Europe to thrive again. In this context, it is the firm belief of the Danish Government that a fundamental driver behind growth and job creation in the future will be a green transformation of the Western economies. In a nutshell, we need growth to be green in order to become sustainable in the longer term. The transformative process of achieving green growth, however, will create thousands of jobs along the way and thus provide new opportunities in the short term for the 22 million unemployed people living in EU countries. Budget discipline, growth, jobs and a green transformation is at the heart of Denmark’s EU Presidency. Let me provide you with a few specifics of what we intend do during our Presidency in order to turn this political vision into a practical reality.

In 2012, one of Europe’s biggest success stories – the Single Market – will celebrate its 20 year birthday. In the first 10 years of its existence, it created about 2 point 5 million jobs and 1 point 2 trillion dollars’ worth of added prosperity in the 15 European countries that made up the EU back then. But in the following 10 years, the results have been less impressive. One of the reasons is that the Single Market is in need of a make-over. The European Commission will put forward a package of 12 initiatives aimed at creating a better business environment in Europe that will promote innovation, reduce red tape and bring the Single Market firmly into the digital age. Among other things, a digital Single Market means improved conditions for e-commerce between European countries, more broad-band roll-out throughout Europe and lower telephone fees. Another key part of a modernized Single Market will be an efficient and user-friendly EU Patent System. It will allow businesses across Europe to avoid having to submit applications with 27 different national patent authorities in order to acquire an EU wide patent protection. If things go as planned in Brussels, European companies will be able to escape this hideous paperwork as they will only have to submit one single application to a European Patent Office

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am fully aware that the hospitality industry today is faced with major challenges just like many governments in Europe are faced with severe economic headwind. One might say that the situation in your industry to some extent is a mirror image of the situation in the wider European societies. Tourist activity declined 5 point 6 per cent in 2009, and according to a European Commission-study on Europe’s tourism industry, prospects for growth in your industry are not encouraging. Of course, the eruption of the Icelandic volcano in April and May last year did not help matters at all. According to the European Commission, around 2 million international arrivals to Europe were cancelled because of the volcanic ash clouds that originated in Iceland, and these cancellations had enormous economic implications for tour operators, hotels, restaurants and cafées across Europe. And I have also learned that Europe’s hospitality industry is feeling a much stronger competitive pressure from emerging and developing countries that are able to attract an increasing number of tourists. This places new demands on you and requires you to find new ways of doing business and launch new products in order to lure tourists back to Europe again. For you sake and for the sake of Europe at large, I hope that you will succeed in adapting to this new business environment facing you today. Europe needs your industry to thrive and stimulate our economies.   

As a reflection of your importance, tourism has also been directly inscribed into the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union. Furthermore, in June last year the European Commission published a communication that contained 21 concrete initiatives aimed at helping your industry back to higher growth rates. Of course, with Denmark being one of the smaller tourism destinations in Europe, my government is keen on ensuring that the EU’s tourism policy will help the industry in all of Europe and be relevant for all Member States. Any EU-initiative must also provide added value to on-going efforts at the national level to promote tourism. And speaking of the national level, I can tell you that the Danish Government is planning to make an ambitious strategy for Danish tourism in close cooperation with the relevant Danish tourism stakeholders.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your members make traveling easy. Your members make traveling convenient and your members make traveling affordable for millions upon millions of people each year. You represent the facilitators and operators that allow people of all ages to experience the beauty of our own continent and the wonders of this world. I firmly believe that Europeans will need to continue traveling as extensively in the future as we have done in the past, if not more so. We need to travel. It is the best way to become friends.

I look forward to make an address at the dinner tonight. 
Thank you.