Speaker’s delegation report tabled
26 July 2008
Speaker’s delegation report tabled
The report of the Speaker’s cross-party delegation to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary was tabled in Parliament today.
The annual Speaker’s delegation builds on New Zealand’s bilateral relationships by developing relations between parliamentarians. Each year Parliament hosts about 50 delegations from other countries. The New Zealand Parliament sends an annual delegation, led by the Speaker, to countries considered strategically important for political, economic, trade and cultural reasons.
Ms Wilson said the last three Speaker’s delegations had sought to strengthen New Zealand’s economic and trading relationship with European Union countries.
‘Important economic linkages lie in Europe and in particular the new market of Central-Eastern Europe. The relationships formed on these visits can only be enhanced by a better understanding of their culture, systems and economy,’ she said.
This year’s delegation had two specific objectives. The first was to engage with parliaments that are proportionally represented and which have coalition governments.
The second was to learn more about the new enlarged Europe and understand the role played by Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The delegation’s visit was well-timed with the Czech Republic planning for when it assumes the Presidency of the European Union in 2009. Hungary’s term is in 2011. Poland, the largest of the new European Union member states, is a significant regional player in European East-West security relations.
Ms Wilson said she saw the cross-party delegation’s role to open doors, help establish relationships and work together in the interests of New Zealand – leaving it to the professionals to advance economic relationships.
‘Because this was a parliamentary delegation led by the Speaker, we were given access at the highest level including meetings with the Presidents of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
‘Members of the delegation also met Speakers and Deputy Speakers from the three countries, the Czech Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, Hungary’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, select committees and parliamentary friendship groups.
visit to Hungary came at a time of political uncertainty as
the junior coalition partner withdrew, leaving Hungary with
its first experience of minority government.
‘Hungary, like New Zealand does not have an upper house. There was much interest and discussion about how New Zealand operates with a minority government.
‘I noted that various New Zealand governments had successfully pursued their legislative programme for the last nine years with minority governments.’
The delegation attended the laying of the foundation stone for an AHI Roofing plant at Várpalota, about two hours drive west of Budapest. The investment by AHI Roofing and its parent Fletcher Building is the largest New Zealand investment in Hungary and one of the largest in Europe.
‘We were told that the Speaker's attendance had helped support AHI's mana and had impressed their Hungarian hosts with the seriousness of their commitment to the venture.
‘This is particularly important at the local government level, where a good understanding between AHI, Fletcher Building and the Várpalota city authorities will be essential for the success of the project,’ Ms Wilson said.
In Poland, the delegation visited the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Warsaw Uprising Museum. Ms Wilson laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw and visited New Zealand war graves at a military war cemetery at Cmentarz Rakowicki.
On Anzac Day, in what is believed to be a first, representatives of the Czech Republic joined New Zealanders, Turks, Americans and British at a ceremony in Prague to remember those who gave their lives in service of their country.
The working holiday scheme between the Czech Republic and New Zealand, which enables young people from each country to travel and work in the other, has been welcomed. It is hoped that similar schemes will be adopted in Poland and Hungary.
Overall, the high level of the meetings demonstrated the value of cross-party Speaker’s delegations, Ms Wilson said.
The delegation had the opportunity to promote the benefits of trading with New Zealand and encouraging investment.
‘New Zealand has a good international image which is in part due to face-to-face contacts between our Members of Parliament and their counterparts in other countries.
‘This reputation has attracted many other overseas parliaments to visit New Zealand to learn about our form of democratic government.’
The report is
on the Speaker’s web page