(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Dear Minister Kollerup,
Many thanks for your invitation today for the signing of the Partnership Agreement. It is a pleasure to be in Denmark, and to have the opportunity over the coming days to see what this partnership means in practice and is achieving for ordinary people in Denmark.
This partnership is crucial. Because there is an old proverb: if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.
As Europeans, we want to go far. The journey starts with the recovery from Covid. But our ambitions are much bigger than that.
Europe has already taken the first steps on the long journey towards the twin transition: our passage to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral continent; and to making a success of the new, digital economy; and to doing this in a way which leaves no region behind.
This is a huge ambition! And if we want to go far, we must go together.
This is the heart of our Partnership Agreement. It is an agreement to go together. An agreement between Denmark and Europe of the steps to take with key European Investment funds for Denmark.
Now you might ask, how was this agreement drawn up? And who got to the decide the priorities? Well, look around the people in this room. Because it was drawn up by a broad consultation of all the partners. In fact, Denmark went through several rounds of consultation to draw up the vision that embodies this partnership agreement and the various European investment funds that play a differentiated but synergetic role within it.
Many of these partners are here today, and I thank you for your work.
And to you I say: “This partnership agreement is our joint commitment to the future we want to create together. Because cohesion policy is not just an investment instrument, but a policy anchored in the basic principle of partnership, a partnership within Denmark, and between Denmark and Europe. The Partnership Agreement was designed by all partners and we will make it work, all together”.
So what do we have to work with? The investments concerned are just over a billion euros over 7 years.
This is a considerable investment, but I know that we are just one piece of a broader jigsaw puzzle, which includes various sources of Danish national investment, as well as other European sources of investment such as the Recovery and Resilience Fund.
However, do not underestimate the impact of Denmark as a good example for all regions in Europe. From renewable energy, to renovation, from innovation to fairness, you can be a source of good practice from which others can benefit.
So what is in this Agreement?
Our first major theme: the funds will invest in a greener Denmark.
In our goal of making Europe the world’s first carbon neutral continent, we face two key challenges: reducing energy use and finding replacements for fossil fuels.
Our investments will support Denmark as you lead the way in renovations and new forms of insulation, as well as in finding fossil fuel replacements. These investments will not only make Denmark even greener, they will also be a source of new jobs.
Our investments will also help SMEs recycle various forms of waste, either into energy or into new raw materials.
We will be watching all these projects closely: these are the kind of projects which we would hope to roll out across Europe. So please evaluate them well, gather the data, so that we can reproduce your success elsewhere.
One of the greatest resources here in Denmark is the sea. Denmark will play a key role in marine renewable energy. Your extensive experience here, could serve, and will serve, as inspiration to others across Europe.
Our investments will also support Denmark in greener maritime transport. You have a crucial role, not just in Europe but across the world, as the world’s fifth largest maritime shipping nation. Let us work together, to set a good example.
Our investments will also help making fishing and aquaculture more sustainable and more resilient to shocks. This is especially important in the context of Brexit which has hit the fishing industry hard. We in Europe are supporting all the affected sectors with the Brexit Adjustment Reserve, for which the first two tranches of investment were paid out to Denmark in May.
But I am pleased to see that our investments will not just shore up the past but will invest in a greener future industry, managing resources more sustainably.
Again, you can serve as example and inspiration for others. One of the EU’s missions is to ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030′. The goal is to protect 30% of the EUs sea area as well as restoring marine ecosystems and 25,000 km of free-flowing rivers. We want to reduce plastic litter at sea, reduce chemical pesticides by 50%, and make the blue economy zero carbon – and zero waste.
For this ambitious European target, we will rely again on Danish experience and the examples of your projects.
Our second major theme: we will invest in a more innovative and digital Denmark.
We have encouraged Danish partners, from the business world, from research and the academic world, and from the administrative and political world, to create a “smart specialisation strategy”, a roadmap to industries of the future.
European investments will support innovation in those fields: from sustainable insulation materials to healthy, natural food from nature, from robotics to IT applications, and much more.
These new technologies will provide new jobs in SMEs across Denmark.
Our investments will also support digitalisation, for example, strengthening the digital side of retail by advising companies on digital marketing and e-commerce.
One specific innovation, which I know is close to the minister’s heart, is welfare technologies. This is the development of apps for the health and welfare sector. This is something we would like to encourage elsewhere. Again, I urge you to document your experiences and be ready to share them across Europe.
But a key bottleneck for innovation is workforce skills. As you know, the Danish labour market is experiencing the most severe labour and skills shortages since 2008.
In more than one-third of all recruitments, employers fail to find a candidate with the required qualifications. Four out of 10 companies see labour shortages as the main growth challenge in 2022. And recent studies suggest that in 2030, Denmark may have a shortfall of up to 100,000 skilled workers.
So European investments will help raise the skills of the workforce, through more vocational training, matching these skills to existing, and future, labour market and business needs. This will include the skills and competences needed for the green and digital transition.
In particular, we aim to help increase the share of young people enrolling in vocational training, from the current 20%, to the 30% set by the Danish government for 2025.
European investments will also support entrepreneurship. The survival rate of newly established businesses in Denmark has improved, but there is still a way to go.
So we will support tailored advice for new businesses to develop their business, and especially to help them export.
Our third major theme: European funds will invest in a fairer Denmark.
Denmark is already an excellent example here. First, because you are the European country with the smallest disparities between regions. And second, because despite this, you are not content with this achievement, but still want to improve.
Our investments will support eight “regional lighthouses”, the strongholds of eight Danish regions. For example, in Bornholm, we have been supporting a maritime transport hub, developing wind energy and providing green fuel in view of the 60,000 ships which pass the island each year.
We are supporting this with the technology needed, the skills needed and the infrastructure needed.
Each of the 8 regions has a similar strong point, agreed with local people, and we will build on all 8 of them!
In addition, the Just Transition Fund will support the two regions most affected by the transition to a zero carbon economy: North and South Jutland. We will support new economic activities to replace fossil fuels, as well as the new skills needed for them.
We will also support infrastructure investments in tourism-dependent regions outside major cities. We want to attract private investments to these areas.
We will also invest around 20 million euros in the town centres of medium-sized towns. These are towns with growth potential but face the closure of businesses and services due to competition from online commerce, or from larger cities.
These projects will be planned and implemented in close collaboration with local people. They have a broad range of possibilities, from supporting micro-enterprises to creating an internet café, from creating a playground to pedestrianisation, or a new environmental project. And I am sure that local people will dream up many other things that we could not have imagined.
So, these are our 3 key priorities, our joint plan in the Partnership Agreement, and our joint investment through Danish and European Funds: a greener Denmark, an innovative and digital Denmark, and a fairer Denmark, where all regions and cities, and all citizens, wherever they are, participate.
We want to go far, we must start now.
We have a solid partnership agreement, now is the time for concrete actions on the ground.
You have formally submitted some of the ESF+ and the ERDF programmes. And we expect to receive and adopt the remaining programmes in the autumn.
I am happy to see that you have also started implementing. That a first shadow monitoring committee meeting has already taken place to decide on the project selection principles. And you have launched your first calls for proposals.
I can only commend your speed, because it will be crucial to get the project pipeline up and running as soon as possible.
These then are the first steps on our journey together, towards a greener, more innovative and fairer future, not just for Denmark, but for Europe.
I urge you to evaluate and document good practices. To be ready to learn, and share your experiences, across Europe.
This is the spirit of Europe and the spirit of our Partnership Agreement. We want to go far: let’s go together.