The summer holidays are ending, but the Christmas/New Year break has been over for several weeks in Europe and we are back to business with the most important issue for our future, the adoption of the new Lisbon Treaty that will allow us to make a major step towards our further integration. In order to be ratified the Treaty must be ratified by all the Member States without exception. This will be an important process in 2008 that we will closely follow. Already five Member States have ratified Hungary, Slovenia. Romania, Malta and France.
In Australia what is important to us is to establish a good, solid working relationship with the new Government. This has already started with the visit of Trade Minister Simon Crean to Brussels in January and a number of other important Australian ministerial visits already scheduled (Minister Carr and others…). The 23 EU member states represented in Australia will actively cooperate to reach a better understanding and cooperation with Australia and will strive to increase the visibility of the European Union in Australia. The recent launch of the EU balloon, the Windows on Europe Film Festival and Europe Street in the National Multicultural Festival are but some symbolic signs of our existence. More importantly, we want to emphasise the relevance and some of the important benefits that the EU holds for Australia.
I am here not only to represent the EU with the other Member States missions but also to follow the evolution of Australian policy. The new session of the Parliament is one important event this week and we will follow it with great interest, in particular the process of reconciliation. Even if it is an internal Australian matter, it is important for us to follow since it will certainly have a very long term impact on the cohesion of this already multicultural country. Roots are always important and should be well looked after since they are essential for the tree to develop harmoniously. We in Europe have also been through a reconciliation process since the very origins of the EU and one of the main achievements of the European construction is to have reconciled former bitter enemies.