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Anförande vid Ambassadors Conference of Turkey's Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Anförande i Izmir, Turkiet

It is truly a pleasure to start the year in Turkey and particularly here in Izmir.

At a time of rather profound challenges in a rapidly changing world, we have the opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the past and look at different paths for the future.

2013 is the year that will take us to 2014.

That's a century after the guns of August 1914 tore apart the world as it had existed until then, throwing Europe into a prolonged darkness of strife, conflict and divisions that did not really end until 1989, when we could recommence the process of building a Europe whole and free, democratic and dynamic.

This is still work in progress.

In the slightly more than two decades that have passed, we have seen some spectacular successes.

The peaceful reunification of Germany. The restoration of the independence of the three Baltic states.

And the safeguarding of the rule of law, of freedom and of open market economies for 100 million Europeans in ten countries, stretching from the Gulf of Finland in the North down towards the Black Sea, through the enlargement of the European Union.

It was by no means preordained that all this would be possible. But it was, and it has brought more positive change than anyone could have imagined.

But much remains to be done.

At the moment, economic issues are in focus in a number of European countries.

Being here, we have particular reason to note the massive amount of European help that has been given to your close neighbour Greece in its very difficult efforts to overcome the effects of decades of neglect of sound economic policies.

A year ago, you could hardly open a paper anywhere in the world without reading someone predicting the imminent demise of Greece, the euro or the European Union, or - often - all of the above.

That has not happened, and it will not happen. And the prophets of doom have, wisely enough, muted their voices somewhat since then.

The reason is simple: the lessons of the past, in all their dimensions, have taught us Europeans that it is only by working together that we can move forward.

We are now engaged in serious and extensive efforts to improve and deepen the common structures of economic governance in the European Union.

This might well go somewhat deeper in the countries that have adopted the single currency, but we will be vigilant so as not to impair the functioning of the EU single market, which is the world's largest integrated economy and by far the largest trading entity.

The challenges ahead of us should not be underestimated. We are facing a world of new competitive pressures. We have to deal with the debts and deficits of the past. We are facing the ageing populations of the future.

But neither should we neglect our strengths.

Out of the ten most competitive economies in the world, six are in Europe. Out of the ten leading countries in the transition to the digital world of hyperconnectivity, seven are in Europe.

We provide roughly 70 per cent of global development assistance.

Our trade with the rest of the world is not in deep deficit - in fact, it's in rough balance. So is the current account.

Twenty years ago, the Swedish economy was in deep trouble. Ten years ago, the Economist labelled the German economy the sick man of Europe.

But fundamental reforms have produced fundamental results in both cases. In fact, most of Northern Europe is doing relatively well today.

A decade from now, we might look back at the development of some of the economies of Southern Europe in the same way.

Indeed, Turkey also demonstrates that a crisis can pave the way for reforms that bring new growth opportunities.

What is different today from a few decades ago is the global environment.

Decades of globalisation have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, have given new confidence to rising nations and powers, and paved the way for a new middle class from Shanghai to Sao Paolo.

I was born in a world of two and a half billion people. Today, the world's population is seven billion. And by the middle of this century, it is likely to surpass nine billion people. We Europeans - Swedes, Turks and all others - will account for 7 per cent of the world's population.

This vividly illustrates that it is only be working together that we can truly influence a global environment that in different ways will influence us all more and more.

In 1914, the world was dominated by Europe. In 2014, we will be living in a Europe dominated by the world.

My country is among those spearheading the development of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union in recognition of this simple fact.

And while much certainly remains to be done in this respect, I do believe that real progress is being made.

We will review progress this year. We will discuss the initiative for a new European Global Strategy taken by Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden.

And as we approach the European Parliament elections in June 2014, and the election of new leaders and representatives of our Union for the next half decade, I'm convinced we will be ready to take new steps in the area of common foreign and security policy as well.

As we look forward - to 2014, to 2015 with the particular challenges you will be facing, to 2017 with memories of the 1917 shaping of the modern Middle East, to your 2023 - it is obvious that the years ahead are likely to be turbulent ones.

But perhaps not in every respect.

Sweden is actively working on the new issues of cooperation in an Arctic region immediately affected by a fairly rapid rate of climate change.

We are heavily involved in the efforts of the Eastern Partnership of the European Union, including the volatile area of the Southern Caucasus.

We are working - also with Turkey and Brazil - to assure that internet freedom is protected everywhere and for everyone.

We are discussing how to best contribute to stability and development across the entire belt of challenges in Africa, from Somalia over Sudan to Mali and Niger.

We are reaching out in partnership to other parts of the world.

In November I was at the Asia-Europe Summit in Vientiane in Laos. Just before that, I had attended the European Union-League of Arab States Foreign Affairs Ministerial Meeting in Cairo. And later this month I'm off to the summit between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago de Chile.

But when I speak of turbulent times ahead, I am referring to the entire region between the Nile and the Indus. Here, history has started to flow fast, although we cannot be certain which direction it will take.

This region is our immediate neighbour.

Not only on the map, but increasingly across the street back home.

Close to two per cent of Sweden's population comes from Iraq. Approximately one per cent originates from Iran. We are home to the largest community of Syrians in Europe. The Kurdish issue is as alive with us as it is in other societies.

We have a profound interest in what is happening.

The hopes of the Arab awakening are certainly still with us.

But equally vivid are the pictures of the horrible tragedy that has been unfolding in Syria for almost two years now.

The war there has now claimed six times as many lives as the conflict in Kosovo and more than half of the number killed in the long years of wars in Bosnia.

But neither should we forget the even higher number of people killed during a decade of civil war in Algeria or the still even higher number killed during the even longer and brutal civil war in Lebanon.

There are no models. Just tragedies. And consequences for decades to come.

The longer the fighting goes on, the more difficult will be the road back to some sort of a stable Syria.

And the greater will be the risk of us facing years of sectarian strife that could stretch from Beirut to Bagdad, to Basra and to Bahrain.

Thus, we now ought to seek to re-engage the UN Security Council in an effort to achieve the peaceful transition that everyone desires.

There are possibly those who believe a quick and purely military solution is possible. But prospects are deeply uncertain.

And a profoundly fractured society, and a seriously destroyed country, will hardly be the best basis for stability, neither in Syria nor in the wider region in the years ahead.

It will open up new questions and it will pose new dangers.

The integrity of Syria is as important as the integrity of Iraq or of Lebanon or of Cyprus or of Azerbaijan. Disintegration anywhere is a threat to people everywhere.

I salute the efforts that Turkey undertook to avert the disaster in Syria, and I admire the generosity that the Government and people of Turkey, and your entire country, have shown in this profoundly difficult time.

We must now look ahead together.

What lies ahead of us could well be even more difficult than what we have already seen.

The European Union is eager to work as closely as possible with Turkey in tackling these challenges. And we must work together on the wider challenge of this region of soon to be 400 million people.

We must help to prevent the revolution of rising expectations of the Arab awakening today turning into a revolution of failed expectations some years into the future.

The facts are stark.

The IMF has concluded that "to absorb the unemployed and new entrants into the labour force, the emerging economies of the Middle East and North Africa would require annual real GDP growth of more than 7½ per cent - almost 3 percentage points higher than the average achieved in the past decade."

Achieving this - and at the moment the trend is going in the other direction - will require profound economic reforms and profound steps towards economic integration within the Arab world, as well as huge steps towards its economic integration with the rest of the global economy and notably with that of the European Union.

Here, the example of Turkey is also an important one.

Your impressive economic development cannot be seen in isolation from your joining the EU Customs Union more than a decade and a half ago.

We must be prepared to offer reforming economies of the Arab world the same opportunities. The model of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements is open for them whenever they are ready.

In area after area, we have a deep interest in working together.

And let me say how impressed we are with the quality of your diplomatic service as we join hands around the world - be that in Mogadishu, in Mazar-e-Sharif, or in Manhattan.

We find that we are united by a common view of what needs to be done to meet the forces of disintegration, of strife and of turning back from progress towards open, democratic and secular societies.

We have a profound interest in the developments taking place in Turkey.

I can say this, representing as I do a country whose support for Turkey's membership of the European Union is more consistent and stronger than that of many other European countries.

Sometimes we are critical friends.

But that is because we truly want to support your continued reform process - your work on a new constitution, your work to better safeguard human rights for everyone, your efforts at conflict resolution and reconciliation with all your neighbours - in the firm belief that this is good for Turkey, good for Europe and good for the much wider region that we care about.

It should be possible to give your accession process new momentum during the coming year. Our EU discussions in Brussels less than a month ago gave new signals.

It's not a given, but it's a possibility.

It requires steps on the part of the EU. But it also requires steps on your part. Even in diplomacy, it takes two to tango.

Sweden will do its utmost to help.

Our relations have deep roots in history.

I value my friendship with many in this impressive country of yours, notably Ahmet Davutoglu. In just a few days' time, we will welcome Minister Egemen Bagis to Stockholm. And we are looking forward to President Gül's state visit to Sweden.

Yesterday, here in Izmir, I also stumbled across a good example of the rapidly growing economic links between our two countries.

Here, textile factories are turning out one million shirts a month to send to Swedish retail giant H&M, which then sells them to young people all over the world.

Most certainly in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo as well.

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