Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to Drottningholm palace! I hope you have had some interesting days here in Stockholm.
Yesterday, Sweden took over the Swedish EU Presidency. To say that Europe is facing many challenges may sound obvious. There are many important issues that have to be handled during the coming years. High on the agenda are, for instance, the financial and economic crisis and the climate change.
The world is experiencing the worst economic crisis since the 1930's. While taking measures to overcome this crisis we need to safeguard the free movement of goods, services and, most importantly, people across the international borders. Some see the movement of people as a threat to our security and a challenge to our societies and economies. I do not agree.
Time has come to look at mobility of people as an opportunity to enrich our societies and make Europe stronger and more prosperous. We must guarantee the individual´s human and legal rights. We must avoid building walls between people and strongly support measures for satisfactory integration of all into our societies.
It has been said many times and it needs to be repeated; the impact of the climate change is one of the most important issues for humanity to solve. This will be one of the main issues for the Swedish Presidency.
Politicians, policy makers, business leaders, media and consumers all have to take their responsibility and work together for sustainable solutions.
Swedish experience can give hope. In my country it has been shown that it is possible to combine the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions with economic growth. The use of oil has decreased significantly while the use of bio energy has grown rapidly. So, Sweden has made progress toward a better environment - but not fast enough. Further action is urgently needed by the whole international community.
One easily becomes pessimistic when observing the various crises to the eco system that could be triggered by a climate change scenario. In spite of that, it is satisfying to see that positive development occur in many parts of the world. Both climate change and sustainable solutions need to be highlighted even more with a wide participation from all parts of society.
My personal commitment to environmental issues began at an early age. As a young boy, I joined the Swedish scout movement and I am still an active member. For more than 30 years, I have been the Honorary Chairman of the World Scout Foundation and the President of the Swedish section of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
More than 15 years ago I founded the Royal Colloquium, which is an international environmental symposium with experts and participants from all over the world. The Royal Colloquium meets every second year and this year we explored issues relating to “Climate action: Tuning in on energy, water and food security." One main conclusion of our meeting was; to be able to reach a sustainable balance between supply and demand of natural resources, efficiency of use is seen to be a key to progress.
Tackling climate change will require leadership and commitment. I can only wish for a closer collaboration between all nations and in this context the European Union has a crucial role to play.
I do hope you have a wonderful stay here in Stockholm. Good luck with your important work in Brussels.