Prime Minister's speech at the Nordic Baltic Summit

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A transcript of the speech and Q&A given by Prime Minister David Cameron at the Nordic Baltic Summit in London on Thursday, 20 January 2011.

A transcript of the speech and Q&A given by Prime Minister David Cameron in London on Thursday, 20 January 2011:

I think it’s very clear we need to combine Lithuanian levels of internet access, Swedish education in computing code with Estonian levels e-government and e-commerce.  Add to that Norwegian understanding of energy storage, Icelandic ability to encourage female participation, Finnish levels of childcare and family-friendliness.  Add to that the Latvian ability to go from austerity to growth so rapidly with Danish expertise in renewable energy.  If we wrapped all those things together I think we would genuinely create the good life.  Of course, what would the British bring?  Well, apart from a sense of generosity in recognising the strength of others, I hope a creativity and inventiveness, not least in the field of bringing people together to discuss these important ideas.

So let me thank all Prime Ministers for coming to London, as well as the chairs, the facilitators and all the presenters and contributors.  This has been a different kind of summit.  No question of politicians being locked in a smoke-filled room, no sign of a boring pre-prepared communique telling us things we already know.  Instead, this summit has been about generating and exchanging ideas, about challenging our preconceptions, about learning from each other’s experiences, how in these tough economic times do we boost jobs, enterprise and economic growth while promoting greater wellbeing and a higher quality of life for our citizens.  And I believe today we have made good progress.  I think one of the outcomes of this should be that so many of the ideas that we have talked about should be part of Europe’s growth agenda, whether it’s about green growth, about entrepreneurialism, about the digital economy, all of those issues need to be in the European programmes and I’m sure we’ll all drive that forward.

First of all, today we’ve created a hugely valuable new network.  Nine Prime Ministers from the UK, Nordic and Baltic countries have got together for the first time in our history.  But this is about more than just government-to-government exchange.  We’ve brought together for the first time politicians with policy experts, business leaders with thought leaders and also innovators and implementers.  I hope that new relationships have been forged, new contacts made, ideas exchanged and debated.  And while as governments we’re committed to supporting, cajoling and inspiring change, we want to see this new network take on a life of its own, embedding an entrepreneurial spirit right across our region.  I’m pleased that to keep this network alive we will be putting in place some social media platforms for all participants to continue this discussion online and Fredrik Reinfeldt and I have been discussing how we may have a follow-up conference to this next year, possibly in Sweden, which I think would be hugely welcome given all the enthusiasm we’ve heard for what we’ve done in the last 24 hours.

But a network like this must also have a clear purpose, and some people have asked me why I’ve convened this particular group of countries.  But I think the answer is simple.  We face similar economic and social challenges; we have a huge amount to learn from each other.  The Nordic and Baltic countries have some of the most high-tech, innovative companies, some of the most radical approaches to delivering public services and some of the best ideas about how to improve general wellbeing and quality of life.  So yes, I want to see action on economic reform by Europe as a whole, on trade, on regulation, the single market, on innovation, but I believe the UK, Nordic and Baltic countries can be the avant-garde, can be in the guard’s van of delivering jobs and growth.

So let me focus briefly on a couple of the ideas that have emerged from our discussions.  First, trade.  We’re all agreed that increasing trade is the biggest boost that we can give to our economies, and make no mistake the economic climate we face today is tough, but it’s precisely because of those pressures that we must trade more with each other.  Trade between the United Kingdom, Nordic and Baltic countries is already £54 billion a year, roughly the same as UK trade with China, but following a very successful trade event held yesterday where companies such as wind-turbine business Vestas will create 400 new jobs in Britain and where energy-company Vattenfall will be opening up the new headquarters in London, I can also announce that Infomentor and Arla Foods have announced investments into the UK, and there’s one more concrete step forward that I can announce today, and that is that Britain’s new trade minister, Lord Green, will be taking a trade mission of business people and investors to the Nordic and Baltic region and will set up a taskforce to boost our trade links.

Trade, however, is only half of the story; to generate sustainable growth and improve our society’s wellbeing, we acknowledge today that we must do things differently.  We have to innovate.  This is partly the responsibility of governments and we heard about some great government initiatives today.  From the e-government and digital initiatives we have heard about from Estonia; the policies to improve equality in the workforce like the ideas on workforce participation and paid parental leave from Norway; ways to encourage enterprise such as innovative approaches to unemployment benefit that we have heard about from Iceland, or the vocational training in Denmark that you are putting in place for young people.  All in all, the ideas we have heard today give us, I believe, as Prime Ministers and as heads of government, real food for thought.

However, there is a crucial role for business and for society too.  For example, from Finland we have heard about groundbreaking technology initiatives like the Nokia Innovation Mill which converts thousands of unused innovations into new start-up companies.  In Lithuania they have got the world’s second largest producer of apps, and on the green agenda we have heard a lot about smart grids, of which Sweden is amongst the most advanced countries.  We have been inspired by ideas from Latvia where entrepreneurial organisations are already taking over the delivery of some previously state services.  So there are a huge amount of ideas coming not from government, but from businesses, from civil society, from NGOs, from think tanks, and elsewhere.

To help us follow up and to make sure these ideas are built on, I am grateful to the three think tanks that have been taking part today: Policy Exchange, Reform and the RSA; they have agreed to work with our chairs to bring together the points from today and recommend ways forward.