Every year on 9 May, the European Union’s day, we celebrate peace, unity and freedom in Europe. 2018 also marks the 25th anniversary of the European Union’s presence in Hong Kong. A lot has changed since.
Back in 1993, the EU Office was opening its doors on British territory and the EU only had 12 member states. Today, Hong Kong has become a thriving global hub under the freedoms provided by the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, while the EU has united over 500 million citizens and formed the largest trading block in the world.
The EU and Hong Kong have developed a lot over these years and so has our friendship. Our relations have become more mature and interconnected, and our people have grown closer. Europeans mourned with Hong Kong the victims of the SARS outbreak in 2003. In Europe we were moved by the show of support of Hongkongers for our victims of terrorism.
How else has the EU changed? In these 25 years the EU has been hard at work with a forward-looking attitude. We continue to work on all areas to prepare Europe for the future.
Our economy has been strengthened and we are growing steadily and sustainably. We continue to focus on the new opportunities offered by the Digital Era, which require new skills and a new vision.
We have nourished our cultural diversity, which fuels our world-renowned creative industries. We continue to push for a globalisation that is beneficial to the well-being of everyone across the globe. Above all, we are more committed than ever to our strong international engagement, one that brings peace and protects all of us from the horrors from which the European Union was born.
In the past 25 years, the European Union has pushed technological, social and moral boundaries in all areas of life. Through projects such as Galileo, the EU has developed a network of satellites that keeps us on the edge of tomorrow. Through our environmental standards, we provide the most advanced and respectful protection of nature in the world.
Our coordinated food and safety mechanisms are a badge of trust for our consumers, in Europe and abroad. Our relentless defence of social progress and the right and freedoms of our citizens is unmatched. Our upcoming data protection laws, which will enter into force on 25 May, are the world’s leading safeguards for the privacy of our citizens.
Thanks to the €80 billion we invest in research through the Horizon 2020 programme, we are making breakthroughs in medical treatments, energy sources and telecommunications. Among the projects involved are 10 joint research projects between the EU and local universities.
A strong and innovative European Union means a solid and reliable partner for Hong Kong. In 2017, EU-HK bilateral trade reached an all-time high in goods and services. Few people realise that the EU is Hong Kong’s largest trade partner after China.
Likewise, Hong Kong is one of the EU’s top ten investment partners. Our relationship creates new opportunities for both sides through joint research schemes, academic programmes, exchanges in creative industries, and working-holiday schemes among others.
As a sign of friendship, Hong Kong will mark Europe Day by lighting the clock tower in Tsim Sha Tsui with the colours of the EU, as Europe lit up its landmarks for the Lunar New Year within the EU-China Year of Tourism. We are also looking forward to welcoming Chief Executive Carrie Lam to Brussels in June to further cement future cooperation projects.
The European Union and its Member States have proven to be good and loyal friends to Hong Kong people. As we celebrate 25 years of EU presence in Hong Kong, we renew our commitment to contribute to Hong Kong’s success, which is entrenched in our shared allegiance to the rule of law, our shared universal values, and the adherence to the “one country, two system” principle.
Signed by the Head of the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao and the Consuls General of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Finland, and Sweden.