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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Opening of 'Europe meets the world' exhibition
'Europe meets the world'
Copenhagen, 12 January 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking Prime Minister Thorning Schmidt for so kindly inviting me to join her in opening this superb exhibition.
I would also like to thank Mr Madsen, the Director of the National Museum of Denmark, and all his team for his warm welcome and congratulate his team on bringing together such an impressive and thought-provoking collection. I just visited it very shortly and I was really impressed. I think it is very good that the exhibition starts with the kidnapping of Europe. As you know Europe was a very beautiful princess that was kidnapped by Zeus, the god of gods, the head of gods, from what is currently Lebanon. I think Europe, as a beautiful princess, should be treated with respect and admiration. It is great that during this period of your Presidency, you can meet personally Europe at the beginning of this exhibition.
I was also impressed by the fact that all the pieces, all the objects in this exhibition, come from the collection of this museum which is really a great demonstration of the traditional openness of Denmark. This comes from all parts of the world, not only from Europe – from Africa, from India, from the Americas. This is really impressive. There were no loans, so you have no debts. This kind of prudent management is very appropriate and let me congratulate you for that.
The exhibition also reminds us that Europe is not just about the markets. We are always speaking today, because of the crisis, about the financial markets, but Europe is about culture, Europe is about values, Europe is also about civilization – civilization that has great moments, also darker moments to be honest, but Europe is about culture. That is why I am so pleased to be here in a place of culture like this – the National Museum that as you said, Director, it comes from the ideas of the Enlightenment, one of the greatest moments of the European history and civilizations. We should not be afraid of the word "civilization".
This exhibition reminds us of how over centuries Europeans have helped shape the interconnected world in which we now live.
In times of peace the European continent has been the forerunner in promoting ties of openness, trade, and exchange around the globe.
But Europe has also engaged with the world in less fortunate ways, in times of conflict, destruction, and bloodshed. In the middle of the 19th century a British scholar, Sir Henry Maine, wrote that "war appears to be as old as mankind but peace is a recent invention." Indeed it is and a fragile one too.
But since 1945 we in Europe have set aside war amongst ourselves, and have instead concentrated on trade, common interests, shared values, democracy, rule of law, freedom.
We owe so much to the clear vision and steady determination of post-war European leaders. Great leaders with a great vision, a vision that was about peace, about values, but it was a pragmatic vision of building this process through concrete interconnection, interdependence in terms of interests. They have created also very important institutions to serve the overall European interest and a community of law in which all Member States have equal rights and responsibilities. They proved that pooling efforts and working together is not a threat to nations' sovereign choices, to nations' identities but it is the only way in which European countries can exercise influence in an increasingly globalised world defending our values of freedom and solidarity.
The benefits of sixty years of European integration are clear. We are the largest trading block in the world and being an economic giant brings unparalleled advantages in terms of economies of scale.
Our single market gives European companies a domestic marketplace that is second to none, with some 500 million consumers and a spirit of fair competition that inspires dynamism and innovation.
Moreover, as this exhibition recalls, Europe can count on a wealth of skills, many forms of creativity, traditions of openness, and stable, strong and tolerant societies.
If we are to overcome the present economic crisis, we need to unleash this potential in Europe, the potential of entrepreneurship, the potential of the Single Market, our trade relationships with international partners and of course the inherent skills and talents of European people. Denmark, an open trading nation with a strong national identity, shows that to be open and to have a strong identity is no contradiction at all. Denmark is a good beacon in these troubled times.
Around us the world is changing fast, and Europe has both to cooperate and to compete with big economic and geo-political entities – old and new. Faced with this changing reality and global challenges from climate change to the fight against poverty, our best hope is to remain united and determined to move forward together.
It is only by renewing our commitment to the European ideas and context that we will free up the growth we so badly need – by deepening the Single Market in goods and services and taking it digital, by promoting new technologies and sustainable resource use for instance for green growth, by working together to tackle the employment challenge, especially the problems among young people.
With the Danish Presidency, the European Commission will be working hard this year to build on Europe's strengths to create a new growth dynamic in Europe - sustainable growth, fair growth and green growth.
As this exhibition shows, we Europeans should indeed remain confident that we have what it takes to continue to do well in the world.
Thank you for your attention.