I am pleased to be here this evening to join
the celebration of EU enlargement which officially
took place last Saturday 1 May.
Australia welcomes this historic and ambitious
step in Europe's further integration. Foreign
Minister Downer has asked me to extend his personal
congratulations and his regret that he cannot be
here this evening.
Allow me to pay tribute to the extraordinary
achievement of political and economic transformation
which is represented by enlargement to 25 member
states. The drivers behind European Union have
always been a mix of visionary political ambition
and incremental practical endeavour. Its achievements
have been such that neighbours have been eager
to join. We have seen it grow from an initial six
members to nine, to 10, 12, 15 and now to 25. This
latest wave of enlargement is especially significant
in moving beyond the cold war rifts and divisions
that affected Europe so profoundly for so long.
The 10 accession states have been enthusiastic
in embracing democratic ideals as many of the historic
movements for instance in Poland, Hungary and the
then Czechoslovakia, demonstrated. Citizens of accession
states have for some time been reaping the rewards
of their accelerated transformation and reform. In
Central Europe, economic growth has expanded steadily
over the last few years. Average growth across accession
states was estimated at up to 6.4 per cent in 2003.
(Economist Intelligence Unit).
While celebrating these
successes, Australia also shares with EU members
a sense of disappointment that Cyprus will not
be joining the EU as a reunited country.We are
nonetheless encouraged by the EU's actions to
promote further economic development in northern
Cyprus. The promise of political stability and
economic prosperity provided by EU membership means
that further expansion of the EUs borders can
be expected. Bulgaria and Romania are already candidate
countries, with Turkey and Croatia in the wings.
The weight and ambition of a European Union of
25 members will be of significance for Australias
interests - in many spheres. An EU of 25 will have
significant impact in the international arena.
The enlarged EU now has over 450 million citizens.
Its GDP is now worth over US$ 8 trillion, or around
onequarter of the world's total production. The
EU now accounts for about 19 per cent of world
trade. It has increased its potential to be a major
strategic weight in international diplomacy. The
EU now represents 25 votes in multilateral fora.
All this brings with it the imperative that the
EU demonstrates leadership and responsibility for
its actions - across all fronts of the international
We hope that the EUs pursuit of a European
Constitution will help it achieve the structural
flexibility it needs to address contemporary challenges.
As President of the European Commission Romano
Prodi said of enlargement only some weeks ago:
With this historic event, the European Union
is at a crossroads. The choice is simple: to sit
back, consolidate our position and become consumed
with our own internal issues or to move forward
and look to play a greater part in global affairs.
The gravity of recent events, including the tragic
bombings in Madrid, brings sharply into relief
the need for decisive and coordinated international
responses to global security issues. Australia
welcomes the creation of an EU Counter-Terrorism
Coordinator which will hopefully serve to drive
forward EU-wide action. The EU has - of course
- been a significant force for stability in its
own region and its near neighbourhood. EU member
states have played a key role in the Balkans and
more recently in Afghanistan, under the NATO banner
and in sending a peacekeeping force to the Congo.
We have certainly appreciated the EUs interest
and involvement in our region to date and we hope
that the EUs practical engagement in the Asia
Pacific will continue and grow.
In the trade and economic arena, Australia and
the world will also look to an expanded EU to make
truly comprehensive and global commitments on agricultural
Australia is committed to continued development
of our bilateral relationships with the EU and
all its member states. The EU, taken as a single
entity, remains our biggest trade and second largest
investment partner. We have substantial bilateral
partnerships with European countries. And we share
the same fundamental values that underpin the EU:
liberal democratic principles, respect for the
rule of law, and the importance of free enterprise
in economic growth and increasing prosperity and
welfare of our citizens.
We also have close people-to-people links; the
vast majority of Australians have European ethnic
origins. Indeed, Australia is home to many who
have family and historical links in the new member
states. There are here in Australia active communities
from each of the accession states. Australia has
gained significantly as each of these communities
has made a distinctive and valuable contribution
to Australian culture and economic development
and enriched our multicultural society.
Our engagement with the EU across a broadening
range of common interests provides an excellent
framework for a dynamic and forward-looking relationship
as the EU settles into its new configuration. The
2003 Australia-European Union Agenda for Cooperation
identifies the work we will continue to undertake
including in security matters, trade, environment,
transport, development cooperation, migration and
asylum, and in education, science and technology.
We have seen considerable achievements in our cooperation
in these areas over the past 12 months. We look
forward in the period ahead to further cooperation
working with the added perspectives of the new
Australia has a considerable interest in seeing
the EU achieve its historic enterprise: its successful
expansion. We will make sure that our own partnership
with the European Union of 25 remains practical,
results-oriented and forward-looking. Once again,
congratulations on this momentous and historic