Since the last visit to New Zealand by a European Commission president 30 years ago, the world has been transformed. The old division in the geo-political order between developed and developing nations has faded. Today there are multiple poles of economic influence. Sharing values with like-minded countries will be increasingly important. Commonality of basic principles and long-term objectives will carry more weight in foreign policy than geographical proximity. In this context, New Zealand and the European Union have a close and enduring relationship, based on the Joint Declaration of 2007. They have convergent interests in many areas, most notably Afghanistan.
I am privileged to be here among you in this historic and world-leading university--the biggest in New Zealand--with its longstanding tradition of openness towards other cultures, reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the city of Auckland with its mix of Maori, European, Pacific and Asiatic heritage.
The European Union Centre Network exemplifies this openness. In today's multi-polar and inter-connected globe, reaching out to our closest partners is not just important; it is fundamental. Today the European Union and the countries of the Pacific region enjoy multifaceted partnerships. Not just politically, but economically and culturally too. Those interlocutors include the fifteen Pacific Islands countries that are signatories of the Cotonou Agreement, four EU overseas countries and territories, as well as New Zealand and Australia, whom we consider close and like-minded partners.
New Zealand clearly plays an essential role in the region. Indeed, it is uniquely positioned to foster sustainable development, economic growth, regional integration, good governance, democracy and human rights across the Pacific. The European Union endeavours and aspires to be New Zealand's partner in that.
It is almost 30 years since a European Commission president has visited New Zealand. Since then, global geopolitics has dramatically shifted: from the fall of the Soviet bloc to the spread of information technology, and more recently accelerated by the financial and economic crisis since 2008. In essence, power has been dramatically re-balanced.
The new geo-political order will no longer be divided between developed and developing nations, but between multiple poles of economic influence. In this context, sharing values with like-minded countries will be increasingly important. In this new reality, commonality of basic principles and long-term objectives will carry far more weight in foreign policy than geographical proximity.
I will expand on this by elaborating further the values and aspirations that Europe shares with the Pacific and New Zealand and outline how they will be of critical importance in the 21st century: important not only in further cementing our relationship but also in shaping the new world order. Both our regions have a tradition of being open to the world and an aspiration to seek shared and sustained prosperity for their citizens.
The financial and economic crisis that has shaken the world since 2008 has had a major impact on Europe. It has put into question many of our economic and fiscal policies and made us rethink some of our past choices. But this does not mean Europe is in decline. Seen in its full context, our situation is quite strong. The transformation of Europe compared to 60 or even twenty or ten years ago is extraordinary. We have not only built the world's largest single market and trading bloc, and created the world's second-leading currency; we have united a continent and stayed true to the values of our social market model. Four of our member states belong to the G8, and we are key players in other international for a such as the G20 and United Nations. For these reasons we will remain a key global partner for a long …