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PM welcomes historic visit by Sweden’s leader

14 February 2005 Media Statement

PM welcomes historic visit by Sweden’s leader

Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Cabinet colleagues have today hosted the Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, who is making the first visit to New Zealand by a Swedish prime minister.

Helen Clark said New Zealand and Sweden enjoyed a warm and co-operative relationship, and that it was a great pleasure for her to welcome Goran Persson to New Zealand.

After being formally welcomed on the forecourt of Parliament Buildings today, Mr Persson held discussions with Helen Clark in her office, and later participated in a meeting of the Cabinet. A lunch was also held in his honour.

“I have met Mr Persson on a number of occasions at meetings of the Progressive Governance Network, where we established that we, like our countries, have a lot in common,” Helen Clark said.

“During our talks today we have canvassed a range of international and regional issues, and explored opportunities for taking our relationship forward and for increasing contacts between us.

“To that end the New Zealand Government has decided to lift the cap on the numbers of young Swedish citizens who can visit this country under the Working Holiday Scheme.

“From 1 July New Zealand will match Sweden’s no-cap working holiday scheme for New Zealanders visiting Sweden, meaning as many young Swedes who want to come to New Zealand on a working holiday can do so.

“At present the number of young Swedes able to come to New Zealand for a working holiday is limited to 500.

"The Swedish scheme has been one of our most popular in terms of people wanting to come here on a working holiday visa. Such schemes attract educated and talented young people to New Zealand. Visitors contribute to our workforce and economy, and then take the experience back home again.

“It is this sort of people-to-people contact that is such a valuable part of the relationship between New Zealand and Sweden,” Helen Clark said.

Today’s discussions also covered the broad multilateral and global security agenda.

Helen Clark said New Zealand and Sweden were natural allies across a broad range of global issues, and Sweden was a key friend of New Zealand in the European Union.

“On the issue of climate change there is scope for New Zealand and Sweden to co-operate on driving the process forward, beyond the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol this week.

“Both countries also strongly support the efforts of Kofi Annan to revitalise the United Nations.

“On disarmament, New Zealand warmly acknowledges the practical initiative Sweden has taken in funding the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, headed by Swedish diplomat Hans Blix. New Zealand will contribute about $80,000 to assist the commission’s research work.

“We also canvassed the European Union’s institutional development, which has important ramifications for New Zealand. Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko has to balance his aim of moving his country closer to the EU with the need for stable relations with Russia, a development Sweden observes closely.

“Our talks covered developments in the Asia-Pacific, in particular China’s continuing rise as a regional power.

“Cabinet ministers were interested in an exchange on economic policy, during which Mr Persson emphasised the importance of effective innovation polici es and investment in education. They are areas in which New Zealand and Sweden face similar challenges.

“While the economic relationship with Sweden is modest, our shared values, attitudes, and policies make us among the most like-minded countries on earth.

“The dialogue with Mr Persson during his visit has been warm and stimulating, and of significant value to New Zealand,” Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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