Secretary Husu-Kallio, Director General Liu Zhiguang, Minister Chen Lei, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. We have some ground-breaking business ahead of us, so I would like to start by thanking Finland for making that possible today.
My thanks also to the many players who have helped make the China-Europe Water Platform such a success, and my particular thanks to China and Denmark for the efforts and resources they have contributed. If the platform is up and running smoothly, it is largely thanks to you.
This platform is a powerful symbol. It shows the importance that Europe attaches to cooperation with China, and it shows the special place of water inside that cooperation. The presence of so many ministers here today, and the €8 million of support under the EU's Partnership Instrument, demonstrate Europe's growing engagement, and belief in the future of the platform.
Later on this morning Minister Chen Lei and I will sign a Memorandum of Understanding. This will formally establish a Water Policy Dialogue between the EU and China.
The Memorandum comes after a lengthy period of preparation, and I would like to take a moment to recall the steps that brought us to this important milestone.
Back in 2012, when the Platform was launched, we already had a high-level policy dialogue with the Ministry of Environment. But we lacked a formal equivalent with the Ministry of Water Resources.
The Platform enabled us to develop regular contacts with our counterparts in the Ministry of Water Resources, and the personal engagement of Minister Chen Lei enabled us to establish good communication channels.
Four years ago, the EU and China agreed on a broad medium-term framework to guide EU-China relations and steer cooperation across all sectors – not just in environment. This "EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation" called for stronger cooperation on water issues, and for promoting water policy dialogue.
Last year the EU adopted a new strategy on China, which reinforced cooperation on water issues still further.
These two strategic documents are a clear sign that reinforcing water cooperation is firmly embedded in the EU's broader external relations policy with China.
Late last year, I met Minister Chen Lei in Beijing again and we agreed to work towards establishing an EU-China Water Policy Dialogue. We want this dialogue to strengthen the work of the Platform, providing political guidance and reinforcing existing collaboration.
So that brings us today, where China is quite rightly the main item of business.
But there are other aspects of our meeting today that are also highly significant. I would like to highlight two in particular.
The first is that, if we want to improve water management, we cannot rely on governments alone. We need the engagement of a range of stakeholders, and not least the engagement of businesses.
So we stand wholeheartedly behind the development of the business element of the platform, which makes a significant effort to involve business in its work and I am already encouraged by the high level of participation in this element of the meeting here in Turku.
The second is the move to include the Sustainable Development Goals in the work of the platform. The SDGs are playing an important steering role in international cooperation and it is only right that the platform evolves to reflect this development.
Before I hand over to Minister Kiisler, one more thought. It has now been five years since the platform launch. Today we have a structure that reflects our priorities. We have a well-defined work programme and we have eight million euros under the Partnership Instrument that provides stability and certainty for the next few years.
That means, ladies and gentlemen, that the preparatory phase is over. We are now into implementation. So it's very important to keep up the pace, and to secure results that will build support for next phases of the platform.
That means learning to showcase results, and developing a new reflex. When we decide on actions, we also need to agree in advance on how they will measure. With your expertise, and your enthusiasm, I am sure we can achieve that shift together.
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