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It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the 9th Meeting of the Speakers of the Lower Houses of the G8. Welcome to Ottawa in our beautiful parliament Buildings! I¶d like to take an opportunity to introduce the heads of delegation: Germany His Excellency Dr. Norbert Lammert President of the Bundestag of the Federal Republic of Germany United States of America The Honourable Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America France His Excellency Bernard Accoyer President of the National Assembly of France Italy His Excellency Gianfranco Fini President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Republic United Kingdom The Right Honourable John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Japan The Honourable Takahiro Yokomichi Speaker of the House of Representatives of Japan European Parliament The Honourable Jerzy Buzek President of the European Parliament
Russia His Excellency Oleg Morozov First Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation It is particularly my pleasure to open this Ninth Meeting of the G8 Speakers as I had the honour of hosting the inaugural Speakers¶ Meeting in my hometown of Kingston, Ontario eight years ago. As you may recall, the two-day meeting was focused on three topics that were important then and continue to be important today: the strengthening of parliamentary committees, parliamentary diplomacy, and democracy and terrorism.
In my fulfilling career as Speaker, I must say that one of the most rewarding parts of this role has been the opportunity to meet with other parliamentarians and discuss issues of common concern.
Each of our respective Heads of Government, after gathering in Muskoka on 25±26 June, agreed that the G8 is bound together by a shared vision recognizing that major global challenges can and must be addressed in partnership with the global community.
The G8 Muskoka Declaration is coloured with optimism and hopes of recovery from the global economic crisis. It charges our nations to see the opportunity to progress, where mere months ago our prosperity was in doubt.
The G8 Speakers¶ Meeting is unique in that it is a multilateral forum where heads of legislatures and parliaments can meet regularly for an open dialogue on important issues related to their respective parliaments.
Through our work on legislation, scrutinizing government spending and debating policy, parliamentarians play a central role in supporting global cooperation and in the implementation of the Muskoka Declaration.
The work of this group is of immense value to parliamentarians, governments and to civil society. This group has taken an active role in addressing some of the most challenging issues of our time.
Since the inaugural Speakers¶ Meeting in 2002, we have met in every G8 country and have considered the role of parliaments in combating the drug trade and organized crime; in promoting peace and disarmament; and in supporting new and emerging democracies and parliaments.
In Canada, we place great importance on meetings such as these, and generally in international parliamentary relations. They enable us to play a critical role that complements and enhances diplomatic initiatives undertaken by our government, and to strengthen our ties to international bodies and other parliaments.
As we begin this ninth meeting, I would like to congratulate everyone present for making these gatherings such a success.
Canada¶s work in contributing to inter-parliamentary relations is accomplished through several means: parliamentary associations and inter-parliamentary groups, parliamentary conferences, parliamentary exchanges, and protocol events.
In Canada, we have a well-established system of parliamentary associations and inter-parliamentary groups. There are currently 12 recognized associations, which include the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, the Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, and the Canadian Group on the InterParliamentary Union.
Through participation in such associations, Canadian parliamentarians are able to open dialogues on difficult subjects through the relationships they develop with parliamentarians of many other nations.
One highly noteworthy example of how personal relationships can be effective in international relations is the effort of international parliamentarians, who through formal and informal discussions via the Inter-Parliamentary Union, were instrumental in generating support for the Mine Ban Treaty. As you are aware,
this treaty became formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.
Parliamentary conferences are an excellent mechanism to enable large numbers of parliamentarians to meet and exchange ideas. Canada has hosted many such conferences, including the Sixth Plenary Meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum
of the Americas (FIPA) in 2009 and the Fall Meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) in 2008. These conferences provide critical forums for international parliamentary dialogue on a range of issues.
Parliamentary exchanges can include simple exchanges of information or reciprocal visits by speakers of parliaments or other parliamentary officers.
Despite the important role of inter-parliamentary relations and the work of parliamentarians in the international arena, we are regularly faced with challenges, particularly in difficult economic times. Public perception of the work of parliamentarians in relation to inter-parliamentary affairs has not always been kind. The public tends not to appreciate fully the value of the work that we do in these areas, and as a result questions the need for such activities. This periodically leads to pressure to reduce budgets for parliamentary associations and conferences.
An unfortunate consequence of budget cuts is that there may be an untoward reliance on third-party sponsored travel: that is, travel sponsored by particular states or organizations who may have particular interests or perspectives that they wish to promote. These kinds of sponsored activities cannot be allowed to be substitutes for inter-parliamentary activities in which parliamentarians themselves set the agenda and determine for themselves what issues are worthy of discussing and promoting.
I would now like to turn to the first session of our Ninth Meeting, and the topic proposed by His Excellency, the President of the National Assembly of France,
Bernard Accoyer: ³Evaluating the Activities of International Parliamentary Assemblies and Inter-parliamentary Relations.´
It seems to me, in light of some of my earlier remarks, that this topic is most appropriate and timely, given the challenges faced by parliamentarians in their work in inter-parliamentary relations. The topic enables us to reflect on the work we do in this area. To reflect on how inter-parliamentary relations have evolved over the course of several decades; on the new global challenges and how parliamentarians may rise to meet these challenges; and finally to consider ways to address the challenges posed by budgetary pressures in relation to the work of inter-parliamentary affairs.
Our lead speaker will be Mr. Bernard Accoyer. In addition to his role as the President of the National Assembly of France, Mr. Accoyer is the Mayor of Annecy-le-Vieux. He has served as a député in the National Assembly since 1993, having been re-elected on successive occasions. He continues to occupy that post.
His political activities include the position of Chairman of the Union pour un movement populaire (UMP) Group from May 2004 to June 2007 and first ViceChairman from 2002 to 2004.
It is my pleasure to welcome Mr. Bernard Accoyer.