Poul Michelsen, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, hosts reception in Copenhagen
Yesterday, December 8, Poul Michelsen, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, hosted a reception for ambassadors to Denmark and other guests at the Representation of the Faroes in Copenhagen.
The minister presented the new government and its priorities with special reference to foreign policy. Mr. Michelsen explained that the Faroese economy is strong and highlighted the importance of international cooperation as a condition to economic growth and welfare in the Faroe Islands. It is necessary for the Faroes to secure market access for Faroese goods as well as trade cooperation in general.
Around 70 people attended the reception. There were 36 embassy representatives from countries such as the USA, China, Russia, Great Britain, Japan, Italy and South Korea in addition to the Nordic countries as well as representatives from the Danish Foreign Ministry and more.
The minister's speech:
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a true pleasure and indeed an honour to receive you all here today.
This is the first time I see many of you, as I am new in the office as Foreign and Trade Minister of the Faroe Islands.
So I take this opportunity to address you and inform about our new government and some main political objectives.
After the general election to the Faroese Parliament on September 1st this year, a new Government was formed two weeks later.
It is a coalition between the three parties Javnaðarflokkurin (the Social Democrats), Tjóðveldi (the Republicans) and my own party Framsókn (the Liberal Independent Party)
Some of our main goals are to secure a viable economy underpinned by a both dynamic and sustainable industry and business environment.
The Faroese economy is performing well. We have had an annual growth rate of 5-6% these past 5 years.
Our budget for next year is 5.5 billion DKK of which the Danish support is 642 million. Our GDP is nearly 16 billion.
GDP per capita is about 320.000 DKK.
Unemployment has fallen below 3%, and we are about to turn the deficit in the Government’s budget into a surplus already next year.
The new government has also re-organized its own administration.
Under the previous coalition, the Foreign Service was a department under the Faroese Prime Minister’s Office. Now, we have merged the Foreign Service with the previous Ministry of Trade and Industry establishing the new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The aim is to better utilize possible synergies in the administration of Trade and Industry and Foreign Relations.
The Faroese economy is a very open one.
Most of our production is exported to a variety of foreign markets, and most things we use in daily consumption are imported from abroad.
Faroese Foreign Policy is very much about pursuing our commercial interests in the global market.
International trade and business cooperation is key to economic growth in the Faroe Islands.
Diversification of our market relations is one of the main objectives, and things have been moving in the right direction for some years now.
A few years back almost 80 percent of the Faroese export of fish products went to the European Union. This proportion has shrunk to about half that size, and we are now exporting to several other important markets such as China, Nigeria, Russia, and the United States.
This Government is committed to make the Faroes a more active player in the global community.
It is about finding new markets for both exports and imports.
And in this regard we choose to obtain free trade relations with as many countries as possible. The Faroes have already signed Free Trade Agreements with the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.
As our main export commodity is fish and related products, veterinary agreements with different countries are very important. We are now trying to make such agreements with China and Brazil.
And we are looking forward to becoming a member of the World Trade Organisation.
But being active on the international arena is not only about these grand formal agreements, although they are significant and important frameworks.
It also means business to business relations, and it means that we develop the right transport infrastructure to ease the movement of goods and persons.
It means being able to find the right sources of finance and cooperation between business partners across the borders.
It is about regulating migration, so that we also secure the workforce of our industries, while still being in control of immigration into the Faroes.
Accordingly, we are now in negotiations with the Danish government about the transfer of immigration regulation and border control from Danish to Faroese authority.
Tourism is a growing and promising industry in our country, and we are looking forward to further growth in this area.
In relation to this, I hope that the small appetizer “Visit Faroe Island” that you saw, might tempt you to visit the Faroe Islands and maybe recommend others to do so as well.
Regarding oil exploration, we will open a new licencing round in 2017, and – although this is hardly the right moment – we would like to see foreign oil companies come to explore in the Faroes.
I could mention many other interesting perspectives on economic and commercial development in our country, but for now, I will just finish by mentioning the interesting perspectives of the whole of the Arctic region.
The Faroes are strategically located at the doorstep between Europe and the Arctic. Demand for ship- and port services and other economic activities are growing in this part of the world.
Based on these facts, the Faroes Islands are determined to tap into this well of opportunities, and we will be looking for interested partners to join both in our efforts to develop already established businesses and in our search for new opportunities.
Ladies and gentlemen, once again thank you for being here today. I appreciate the international contacts and possibilities for cooperation that an event like this is all about.