Speech at the Danish Institute of International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Rt Hon Winston Peters
Deputy Prime Minister Foreign Affairs

Foreign Affairs Speech at the Danish Institute of International Studies,

Copenhagen, Denmark (25 April 2019)


Tak og Velkommen  Thank you and welcome.

For many of you living here in Denmark it must seem like New Zealand is a country at the very end of the earth.  Having made the flight here, we can confirm that you’re absolutely right…

While New Zealand is about as far from Denmark as you can travel, this is just a geographic separation.  Despite distance we share many similar values and experiences.

It is a particular honour to speak to you on this day, the 25th of April, here at the Danish Institute of International Studies. Today marks what we call in New Zealand “Anzac Day” – the day on which we commemorate the sacrifices made by our service men and women over the last century and more in the pursuit of freedom.

A great number of New Zealanders lost their lives during two world wars fighting to defend Europe from tyranny and from fascisim.  It is therefore a privilege to speak today in Denmark, a thriving, peaceful and innovative democracy with which our country – New Zealand – shares so much.

Sadly, many of you will know of the terrorist attack which took place in Christchurch last month.  It is no exaggeration to say that something of New Zealand’s innocence was lost that day.  This was an utterly callous act of terrorism, perpetrated by a coward against people at prayer in their mosques.

We are deeply grateful for the messages of sympathy, support and solidarity we received from Denmark, including from Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II, Prime Minister Rasmussen, Foreign Minister Samuelsen and Defence Minister Frederiksen. 

To mention the attack is to make the point that friendships between countries like ours, assume even greater significance in these difficult times.

Many have asked whether New Zealand’s foreign policy settings have shifted in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.  The answer is that while the act of terrorism disrupted our national life, for a time, New Zealand’s foreign policy continuity is not disturbed because its foundations are deeply rooted in our national values and experience.  The values that drive us remain strong:

  • Equality, tolerance and fairness;
  • Democracy – New Zealand is one of only nine countries with an uninterrupted sequence of democratic elections since 1854;
  • Freedom, from fear, and from want;
  • Human rights, as set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration;
  • Guardianship for our environment.

Our foreign policy has, and will always be driven by clear-eyed assessment of New Zealand interests and these bedrock New Zealand values.

But we recognise that achieving solutions that advance our interests and align with our values, depends on the ability to work with other countries.

The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said in her first major foreign policy speech: “we speak up for what we believe in, stand up when our values are challenged, and work tirelessly to draw in partners with shared views”.

There are few places in the world that are as close to us in terms of values and how they see the world as Denmark and its Nordic neighbours.

Domestically, we both enjoy high standards of governance, consistently taking out the top spots in international surveys reflecting transparency and the absence of corruption.

Denmark and New Zealand lead the world in most global measures of equality, peacefulness, personal freedom and respect for human rights.

We share a record of being trailblazers in terms of social justice.

You may know that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women achieved the vote – in 1893. 

Nordic countries have also been global leaders on gender empowerment.  Given the leadership Nordic nations have shown in providing for the poor and vulnerable in their societies, it may interest you to know that New Zealand created the first comprehensive welfare state in the 1930s.

Denmark is consistently ranked at or near the top of the United Nations’ happiness rankings likely due to its economic prosperity, good medical care, social equality and social welfare system.  

Our countries have also applied this value-driven approach on the global stage, often in partnership with each other.

We share similar world views on almost all global issues, including trade, the environment, including preservation of the polar regions, human rights, disarmament, security and adherence to the international rules based system; of which we are among the strongest supporters. 

We are instinctive and active multilateralists unafraid to stand up for what we believe in.

New Zealand and Denmark are both active contributors to international peace and security, as mediators and regular contributors to peace operations. 

New Zealand is pleased to support Denmark’s candidature for the UN Security Council in 2025-2026, and we wish you well for a successful campaign. 

Given our close alignment of values and perspectives, it is only natural that we should do more together, both bilaterally and on the global stage.

It is for this reason that, on becoming Foreign Minister again in 2017, we took the decision to boost New Zealand’s engagement with the Nordics. This is why the re-opening of the New Zealand Embassy in Stockholm, with accreditations to Denmark and our other Nordic friends, was our priority.

In times of global uncertainty New Zealand and Denmark need to be working more closely together.

States like us have much to lose from global instability and the disregard of rules.

In times like these, when multilateralism is under threat, when our values of fairness, equality, and respect for human rights are being increasingly challenged, and when formerly open trading nations are increasingly turning to protectionism, we need to be prepared to fight for our values.

And we need to deepen our cooperation with friends who share these values.

We would like to highlight a number of areas where we need to cooperate more closely in asserting our values and tackling key issues on the global stage.

Foremost amongst these is the critical issues of climate change and environmental sustainability. 

Denmark and New Zealand are countries which histories and national identities are informed by our connection to the ocean and environment.  It’s no secret that climate change calls for global unified action. None of us can opt out of severe weather events, or rising sea levels. So nor should we have the ability to opt out of preventative action. 

That’s why the New Zealand government has made climate change a priority. We are proud champions of the “Carbon Neutrality Coalition”, and we were pleased to have Denmark join the Coalition in 2018.

We appreciate Denmark’s early commitment – an original member - to the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.  This group was established by New Zealand in 2009 to research ways to grow more food without increasing greenhouse gas emissions. 

There is much we can do together in championing open, rules based trade, both in the WTO and bilaterally. The threat to the WTO should be a sobering reminder to us all of the importance of this institution.

At the same time, we want to promote trade policies that ensure that trade benefits are shared among all members in our societies, and that support our broader social and environmental goals.

We are also reliable friends and partners to each other in our respective regions.

New Zealand is deeply grateful for the advice and support we have received from Denmark as we seek to strengthen our relations and practical cooperation with the EU.

In turn New Zealand has much to share from its knowledge of East Asia.  We provide a natural partner for those seeking to engage with the region, given our deep integration into regional architecture, including through our extensive network of FTAs with Asia-Pacific countries.

New Zealand also has much to offer in terms of its knowledge and experience in the Pacific.

The Pacific may seem distant, but it is a strategically seriously important, and increasingly contested, space. And it is a region that welcomes the positive and constructive contribution made by its European partners. 

However, it is in our bilateral cooperation that the greatest potential lies.

Given our close alignment of values and perspectives, there is considerable scope for mutually beneficial dialogue and cooperation on domestic policy issues.  There is much we can learn from each other in areas such as social policy climate change, and innovation.

And we are barely scratching the surface of the potential in our trade and investment relationships.

This isn’t just about lifting trade volumes; it is about forging mutually beneficial partnerships, drawing on our respective strengths.

Denmark is amongst the most innovative and technologically advanced countries in the world. And your region also represents one of the largest investors in industrial research and development.

We are enthusiastic partners with you in these endeavours. Technology is New Zealand’s fastest-growing sector and our highest earning industry per capita.

New Zealand boasts one of the best business environments in the world, having been consistently ranked number one in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, as well as second in the annual prosperity index and third in the economic freedom index.

New Zealand is second only to, wait for it, Denmark in the 2018 Transparency International Corruption perceptions index, which measures perceptions of public sector corruption.

We were the first developed country in the world to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China in 2008.

The recently adopted Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement also provides access to eleven of the region’s most dynamic and prosperous economies.

It is of course the links between people that lie at the heart of any strong relationship. Despite our geographic distance, New Zealand and the Nordic countries are not strangers. Indeed travellers from the Nordic region were amongst the first Europeans to reach our shores.

Nordic whalers graced our shores in the early nineteenth century. Later that century, in the 1870s, a large cohort of Scandinavians immigrated to New Zealand, including Norwegians, alongside Danes and Swedes. One of them, former Danish Prime Minister Ditlev Monrad, also emigrated to New Zealand, helped facilitate Scandiavian immigration, and bequeathed his art collection to the people of New Zealand, where they still form part of our national art collection. Scandinavians established enduring communities called Norsewood and Dannevirke that still thrive today.

The Premier of New Zealand at the time of the nineteenth century influx of Scandinavians, Julius Vogel, ordered a study into how well the Scandinavians migrants had settled in New Zealand. The bad news is that the Danes were ranked behind the Norwegians and Swedes. The good news is that Danes were officially considered by the New Zealand Government to be the most cultured of the Scandinavian migrants, which meant they were less well suited to the scrub clearing expected of them, so recognition of Danish cultural capital will come as no surprise to today’s audience.

Today, New Zealand continues to be a popular destination for young Danes.  Every year, hundreds of young Danes head to New Zealand on working holidays or as students to attend New Zealand universities or polytechs.

Danish New Zealanders continue to make their mark on New Zealand today. Notable Danish New Zealanders include those that have succeeded as actors, lawyers, politicians, sportsmen, authors, diplomats – and, may it be said, even Chiefs of Staff.

Yes, we are honoured to have on our delegation today not one but two colleagues who proudly celebrate their Nordic origins, including my most senior and trusted advisor whose family hailed from this very country – Jon Johansson. His father, Danish born, was part of the post-World War Two Scandinavian diaspora that chose New Zealand to forge a new life.

My Senior Private Secretary, Helen Lahtinen, is also here this morning. Helen is Swedish born of Finnish parents. My Chief Press Secretary’s family is of Norwegian origin. My office, therefore, embodies New-Zealand-Nordic relations about as well as is possible.

One of our most well-loved children’s authors, Joy Cowley, is of Danish heritage.  New Zealand children grow up playing with Lego. And more and more New Zealand homes are embracing Danish furniture and design, with the “hygge” (“HEE-gah”) style of comfort and simplicity something which my delegation assured me we needed to mention!

Can we conclude by sharing a quote with you all.

“This day does not belong to one man but to all. Let us together rebuild this world, that we may share in the days of peace.”

That quote comes not from a poet, politician, or historian, but from a character named Aragorn in the first movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring. That trilogy was, of course, filmed in New Zealand, with Aragorn being portrayed by Viggo Mortensen, who proudly celebrates his Danish heritage.

The work we are undertaking to strengthen relations between our countries will foster greater political, economic, trade, and security ties – however, ultimately it will be the connections between people that will bring our countries closer together.

Tak.  Thank you.