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Madame the Commissioner ,
I am particularly happy and proud that Belgium was chosen by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to host this ceremony that marks the closing of the International Year of Chemistry. It is entirely appropriate to celebrate this international year in Belgium because our country has produced so many renowned scientists over the years, and chemistry is very much a Belgian science. Indeed, Belgium has the world's highest ratio of chemists per capita and chemical industry, as a percentage of our GDP, is the highest in Europe.
This year also marks the hundredth anniversary of the Solvay Physics and Chemistry Councils which have often brought together in Brussels great minds like Marie Curie. We also celebrate this year the fact that it was a hundred years ago that she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
United Nations years are always about raising awareness for good causes. And Chemistry is definitely at the service of so many good causes. Chemistry is the science which has enabled mankind to break new boundaries and overcome seemingly impossible challenges.
But the work of chemists is never finished because there will always be fresh challenges for mankind: challenges such as providing access to clean water for all, clean energy, health and sustainable life styles. That is why this event is quite rightly focusing on the world in 2050. This ceremony is not only about celebrating everything that has been achieved; it must also make us think about all that still remains to be done.
The world is facing important challenges in its use of energy, natural resources and the provision of food, water and health for its populations.
Our innovative research is crucial to the development of new products, applications and services. Our industry is central to a successful future and to improving quality of life for all. The way to meet these challenges and overcome them is through education. We need to educate the general public to be aware of what is happening to the world around them, we need to educate young people to become the brightest and best scientists and we need to ensure that all sections of the society have access to this education.
These are difficult times for our societies on many levels. We must find a balance between our life styles and the respect of our planet. Chemistry can help us achieve this balance. The chemistry of the future must now more than ever be both more sustainable and more responsible.
The scientific community and industry must demonstrate that their advances are not only beneficial for mankind but also safe for the planet. I have absolute faith in the potential of our young people to achieve this and to push the boundaries of chemistry ever further so as to make the world a better place by 2050.
I wish you all very interesting discussions and fruitful debates.
Thank you for your attention.