More integration among the 27 countries of the European Union would boost trade and tourism and help member countries’ economies better compete on the global stage, Denmark’s ambassador to the U.S. said Oct. 21.
Following an interview with GlobalAtlanta, Friis Arne Petersen, who has represented his country in the U.S. since 2005, made the case for further EU integration during a luncheon speech hosted at Emory University by the school’s Claus M. Halle Institute for Global Learning.
He said some Danish citizens and others from small countries have expressed concern that lowering trade and regulatory barriers translates to further infringement on their national sovereignty.
This tension was shown clearly in June, when Irish citizens voted in a referendum against the Lisbon Treaty, a pact supporters say would have streamlined the bloc’s aging institutions.
Mr. Petersen said Ireland’s rejection of the treaty and the stall that has ensued shows the increasingly democratic nature of the union. All 27 members must ratify the treaty before it can go into effect.
Though slowed, the integration process must not be derailed, Mr. Petersen said.
By “pooling sovereignty” with other EU members, places like Denmark, which has only 5.5 million people, can benefit by plugging into the EU’s vast market.
“By sharing our sovereignty, by adding it together, by pooling it, we actually can more easily be of real value and importance in the world scene and we can also grow our countries stronger and better,” he said.
Making clear that the EU is not the “United States of Europe,” Mr. Petersen told GlobalAtlanta in a filmed interview the bloc has nearly 500 million consumers and a gross domestic product surpassing that of the U.S.
Customs and border passport controls have been eliminated among the majority of member states, allowing goods and people to travel freely between countries.
Given its increasing integration and influence on the world stage, the EU merits consideration as a superpower, at least economically, Mr. Petersen said.
Those who would reject this notion “would have to say that China and India by themselves are not global powers,” he said in his speech.
He conceded that the EU is a “special kind of superpower,” one that has yet to establish a unified military force that exerts itself even close to the same level as many of its individual members.
But he reiterated that a new paradigm is at work in Europe, as the continent, once ripped apart by war, has for the most part adopted a posture of cooperation.
Mr. Petersen has been to Georgia a few times before. During his recent visit to Atlanta, he met Gov. Sonny Perdue for the first time, visited the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionand went to the Trade Commission of Denmark in Buckhead.
The trade commission has an Accelerator program that is currently providing office space and basic business services to help more than 20 Danish companies establish operations in the U.S.
Celenia Software, which started its North American business in the Accelerator, is soon to move out to its own Atlanta office space, according to Trade Commissioner Jan Sauer.
Mr. Petersen took part in an “Accelerator Appreciation” event on his first night in Atlanta. He said the incubator is one of many ways Denmark is partnering with Georgia.
The state has a larger population than his country, so it’s easy to compare the two economies and look for areas of cooperation, Mr. Petersen said.
Georgia is looking to become a center for energy innovation and hoping developments in cellulosic ethanol, fuel derived from the structural component of plants, will drive growth in this area.
Mr. Petersen said Denmark has a competitive advantage in the energy field. Since 1973, when oil-producing states in the Middle East withheld supplies to punish Denmark for its support of Israel, Denmark has sought energy independence.
Thanks in part to oil discoveries in Danish areas of the North Sea, Denmark has whittled its complete dependence on foreign sources to a rate of almost zero.
“Green” jobs are thriving in the country, which has been able to “delink” economic growth from increases in energy consumption, he told GlobalAtlanta.
Mr. Petersen recently visited Omaha, Neb., where Denmark-headquartered Novozymes is building a $100 million facility to produce enzymes to break down corn ethanol and eventually, cellulosic ethanol.
Danish companies, he said, hold 60 percent of the world's market share in the field of using enzymes to turn biomass into biofuels.