Ceremony of Investiture of T.E. the Captains Regent, Speech by Aurelia Frick (Liechtenstein)
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Mercoledì 02 Ottobre 2013

SAN MARINO -  Ceremony of Investiture of T.E. the Captains Regent

Speech by H.E. Aurelia Frick, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Education and Cultural Affairs of the Principality of Liechtenstein

San Marino, 1 Oktober 2013

Your Excellencies, The Captains Regent

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor and privilege for me to be here today and to address you at the Ceremony of Investiture of T.E. the Captains Regent. I wish to thank you for the invitation, the warm welcome and hospitality. Friendship and a strong bond of connection have been guiding the relationship between San Marino and Liechtenstein for years. My participation at this very special occasion, which is deeply rooted in the traditions of your country, is an honor for myself as well as for Liechtenstein. I would like to congratulate you and convey the best wishes on behalf of the Government and the people of Liechtenstein.

San Marino and Liechtenstein are among the smallest States in Europe. And certainly, we both face issues that specifically confront small countries, such as:

- How do we maintain independence and sovereignty?

- How can we be economically viable?

- How do we best sustain our governments?

- How can we make our voices heard in the international community?

 

Both our countries have developed their own way in dealing with these challenges, and we both have done it quite successfully. I would like to quote an important Liechtenstein politician:

“If we put our advantage to good use, we can imagine a small nation that is a danger to none, but deserves respect from all.”

The Liechtenstein politician, who said this of Liechtenstein, was Peter Kaiser. He was stating it at the Frankfurt Assembly of the German Confederation in 1848. This statement guides our action and our engagement.

The notion of a small state deserving respect from all couldn’t be more true for San Marino, the oldest republic of the world and an epitome of peace, democracy, and political stability.

San Marino is a role model for these most noble values in a world that is changing faster than ever. Over the past months and years, we have witnessed upheavals of historic proportion almost on a daily basis. Borders disappear, focuses shift. The political and economic map is changing at an unknown speed. It has become a world of dependencies and decreasing distances.

Peace, human rights and stability are values all of humankind are striving for. Yet, they are threatened for millions of people on a daily basis. Stability in many regions of the world has been eroded. Millions of people depend on humanitarian assistance. The world continues to be deeply troubled by the ongoing conflict in Syria: the heartbreaking loss of life, the mass displacement, the persistent impunity. And there are many more trouble spots around the world where basic human rights are being gravely violated.

Furthermore the global economy has been grappled by the euro and financial crisis for more than two years. The European currency area has been drawn into turbulences since the beginning of the Greek crisis in May 2010. These turbulences continue to keep politicians and citizens throughout Europe in suspense. Europe is wrestling with the right way out of the economic crisis. New regulation is being imposed on the financial markets.

These developments do not stop at our national borders. Global problems have global consequences. They also have direct consequences on our country. The Liechtenstein business location felt the impact of the global economic crisis. We are also affected by the euro and financial crisis. The hard Swiss franc has made our exports more expensive. The tax debate is being conducted with increased intensity. The call for automatic information exchange is becoming louder.

But it is not only Liechtenstein; it is not only small countries which feel the consequences of global crises. No single country in the modern world can escape its strategic environment. As the foreign minister of Liechtenstein, a country surrounded by friendly neighbors with whom we have strong ties as partners, I am aware of the great fortune of our geographic location. Our location at the heart of Europe contributes to our prosperity. But this was not always the case. Even just a hundred years ago, two world wars were ahead of us. Our geographic location makes it easy for us to understand the horror that led the world community to found the United Nations in 1945 after the end of the Second World War, and that led towards the creation of the European Union.

Yet given our size, we are latently more exposed to external economic and political influences and shocks than powerful large States. The path we chose in order to maintain independence and sovereignty and to be economically viable include a prudent household policy, a liberal economic framework, the entrepreneurial tradition that has been cultivated and strengthened over generations, and of course our international ties.

It has always been clear to the Liechtenstein government that we must pursue a very prudent household policy. We have continuously avoided building up a debt burden that future generations may not be able to bear. The difficult current economic climate has merely strengthened our conviction that we must remain committed to balanced budgets and improvements in productivity.

We have also launched a comprehensive structural budget reform in order to cut public expenditure by more than 15 percent and find new sources of income for the government. Our long term goal is to be able to ensure a long term financial equilibrium for the State’s account. Fortunately, however, the objective is to avoid the need to incur any debt in the future and not to reduce an existing heavy debt burden.

Despite current expenditure cuts due to the economic crisis, we are still in a fortunate position. We have no public debt and also built up reserves which exceed annual public expenditure. Since we have no natural resources we must rely primarily on the business acumen of our population. Additionally the Liechtenstein Government does its outmost to nurture a sound and business-friendly regulatory environment and a public administration.

For Liechtenstein it is absolutely essential to anticipate, as much as possible, how its strategic environment might evolve. Whether it might entertain some hope to selectively influence thinking and activities in that environment and, not least, how it can adjust to such changes in ways that would yield benefits to the country.

Our size also offers certain advantages. This is particularly valid in the absence of urbanisation and being surrounded by stable and secure political systems. Ways are short. We need not bear huge defence and security costs. We are faced with less migratory pressures than other States, thanks to our geographic position and thanks to the fact that we are the only double land-locked State in Europe.

One particular challenge of a country of the size of Liechtenstein, however, is to express ourselves on the global stage so that our voice is heard, and to gain as much freedom of action as possible. Our resources available for foreign policy are after all are modest compared with those of other countries. At the same time, we must always review our use of resources, especially in times of tight budgets. It is therefore a key priority for us to employ our resources both as sensibly and as effectively as possible. It goes without saying that we face the challenge of being considered equal partners at the international level. But to represent our interests, this equal treatment and respect are indispensable. My approach for achieving this goal is to position Liechtenstein as a reliable and committed partner showing solidarity in Europe and the world.

And this is one of the reasons why Liechtenstein strongly believes in the importance of playing an active part in European integration and international cooperation. Our membership in the European Economici Area, the EEA, and our Schengen association play a key role in this respect.

Liechtenstein is linked to the European Union through a series of multilateral and bilateral agreements of which the EEA certainly is the most important and far-reaching. Now that Liechtenstein has become a full member of the Schengen Area and joined the Dublin System, we have made a further big step towards strengthening our integration with the European Union, and we are proud of that.

About three years ago, my country celebrated its 15th year of EEA membership. I still remember very well when the two referenda were held in Liechtenstein on whether to join the EEA. We are the only country that in fact approved EEA membership twice in a popular vote: once under the assumption that our close neighbour Switzerland would join as well, and a second time knowing that we would have to do it alone.

On the occasion of our 15th “EEA Anniversary”, Liechtenstein carried out a comprehensive assessment of its experiences in the EEA. The outcome of the assessment was very positive. I am convinced that also today, the findings would barely differ. The situation, however, is somewhat different today: What is at stake now is less a matter of finding out how well we have faired with the EEA so far. What has taken up a lot of our attention in recent months, however, is rather:

- where we want to be in the next five to ten years,

- and whether the EEA Agreement in its current form is still the right blueprint to accommodate the changes in the European integration process.

Well, I can tell you that, in the European Economic Area, we’ve just come out of the first genuine, full-fledged review process on the Agreement involving both sides of the Agreement. Norway and Liechtenstein have undertaken comprehensive assessments of the functioning of the EEA-Agreement and its future potential for further development. The EU has done so as well.

The aim of the study commissioned by Liechtenstein was to analyze the actual operation of the EEA and its institutions up to now. It also puts these findings in relation to the developments that have taken place within the EU itself. The conclusions include not only a list of options for future changes to the EEA Agreement. They also shed some more light on scenarios for the future development of integration with the EU in a broader, more comprehensive way. The extent to which the EEA can serve as a possible inspiration for other bi- or multilateral association agreements with the EU is addressed too. Much of this could be of interest to San Marino. I am happy that our study has received a very good echo in EU circles. The report is held to be a very useful summary and analysis of the key features of the EEA.

Our aim was to provide a substantive and objective contribution to the deliberations and discussions on the Agreement’s future. The Liechtenstein Government currently is in the process of thoroughly examining the findings of the study in connection with the outcome of the EU’s own assessment of the Agreement which has not yet been completed. We think that the study makes a positive contribution to the on-going dialogue with the EU institutions and Member States as well as to the academic debate on European integration and the EEA in particular.

The good news is that none of the parties to the EEA has so far concluded that there is any pressing need to change anything of substance in the Agreement. We have actually achieved a solid common understanding that the EEA Agreement is still in keeping with the times. This is a remarkable expression of stability which provides us with a comforting level of security and legal certainty. Of course, there are some improvements in the daily application and operation of the Agreement that require improvement. We are working on this continuously. The highest priority for Liechtenstein remains the relevance, the functionality and stability of the EEA.

What is clear is that the European integration continues to be a «factory floor» where Liechtenstein must make an active contribution as a partner.San Marino has chosen a different approach with regard to the European integration so far. Whatever approach you will choose in the future, I am sure you will be successful. And you will always have a reliable partner and friend in Liechtenstein.

The world will go on changing. The global problems we are facing require global answers. The shared values of our global community form the basis to jointly solve the problems that affect us all. What we can do as small States is to anticipate the changes, to be a reliable partner and to lead by example. San Marino, with its long-standing tradition of peace, democracy, and political stability, certainly excelles in doing so.

I thank you.

[Aurelia Frick]