Marking Denmark’s Constitution Day (celebrated also among Danes abroad), its ambassador to Vietnam, John Nielsen, reflects upon the relations between the two countries during his tenure:
By John Nielsen
On June 5, Danes commemorate their constitution, which gives them the right to free speech, to cast votes and to play a role in the development of society. We celebrate the society we have been able to build on the basis of this constitution, a society with a vibrant democracy, with welfare standards for all citizens at its very core; free education, schools and universities, free healthcare and hospitals, basic economic support for families-in-need and a firm focus on building a sustainable green economy and future.
This year, we also celebrate the 100th anniversary of a constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote and stand for election.
The Danish welfare state relies on trade with other countries. Danish exports of goods and services are equivalent to roughly 55 per cent of Denmark’s GDP. One in four jobs in Denmark is directly or indirectly linked to the export sector.
Denmark has built a strong partnership with Viet Nam going back to our recognition of northern Viet Nam in 1971. For the last five years, I have celebrated Constitution Day in Viet Nam.
Viet Nam has become my second home. During my time here, I was happy to see how our partnership flourished in trade and investment, at the political level and within sports and culture. Since 1994, Denmark has provided Viet Nam with more than US$1.3 billion in development assistance. Today, Denmark is still among the largest providers of Official Development Assistance grants to Viet Nam.
We have supported the Vietnamese Government’s move for poverty reduction, offering farmers and fishermen opportunities to provide for their families. We have supported good governance and public administrative reforms, the strengthening of the private business sector and the national climate program.
In 2012, visiting Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt launched the “Growth Market Strategy” for Viet Nam, making Viet Nam one of only 10 priority countries. In 2013, during the visit of President Truong Tan Sang to Denmark, a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement between our two countries was signed.
Strengthening political dialogue and co-operation, trade and investment and co-operation in green growth, as well as education, culture and research, the Comprehensive Partnership lifted co-operation to a new level.
In the commercial field, bilateral trade has doubled since 2010. More than 130 Danish companies are present in Viet Nam. In a number of key commercial areas, we have seen a good match between Danish expertise and technology and the current challenges and demands in Viet Nam. This is particularly relevant in regards to energy efficiency, renewable energy, water and waste management, as well as fisheries and food safety, IT, healthcare, shipping and education.
Visits earlier this year to Viet Nam by the Danish Minister for Trade and Development Co-operation and the Minister for Education and a number of Danish educational institutions demonstrate the clear Danish ambition and commitment to support the reforms and development in Viet Nam.
Culture and sports are important areas of co-operation among our countries. In culture we have supported children’s literature, film, painting, design and more than 120 arts and cultural projects. Denmark supported the Monsoon Music Festival in Ha Noi last October.
The first international music festival in Viet Nam, it was inspired by the famous Roskilde Festival in Denmark. In 2012, we also co-founded the Viet Nam Mountain Marathon, which now takes place every year in Sapa.
I am profoundly optimistic about Viet Nam’s future. Viet Nam still holds great socio-economic development potential. Whether this can be unlocked, largely depends on continued institutional and economic reforms and integration of the Vietnamese economy into the global markets.
As we celebrate our Constitution Day, Denmark stands ready to forge an even stronger partnership between our two countries in the years to come; between our governments, our companies and not least among our people.