|Ambassador João Vale de Almeida at Caterpillar in Peoria, IL.|
On March 29, the European Union Center hosted João Vale de Almeida, Ambassador and Head of the European Union Delegation to the United States as part of the Eleventh Annual EU Day. In addition, the EUC co-sponsored the Peoria Area World Affairs Council's 42nd Annual Central Illinois World Affairs Conference: The European Union and Germany: Challenges for Today, Promises for Tomorrow, which the Ambassador attended. The following article from the Peoria Journal-Star discusses the Ambassador's remarks, made at the PAWAC conference. Check out the article below or on the PJStar website.
by Catharine Schaidle
PEORIA — Despite the glut of bad news that has dominated the headlines recently with debt, recession and high unemployment, the European Union is prepared to do business with the state of Illinois, said Joao Vale De Almeida, ambassador and head of the European Union delegation to the United States.
"I believe we are on the right track," De Almeida said. "Europe is doing its homework and is preparing to come out of this (economic) crisis stronger and fitter and prepared to do business."
De Almeida made his comments last weekend during a conference on the European Union and Germany presented by the Peoria Area World Affairs Council .
In an interview before his address, De Almeida said the EU remains a very important partner for Illinois and the United States and both "have a lot in common in terms of values, democracy, a common history with our population (migrating to the U.S.). In times of the kinds of trouble we are living through, we face new challenges and the best friends need to get even more united."
He emphasized that Europe is "dealing with its problems and moving forward."
The concept of the European Union originated in 1957. Despite the history of the 27 member countries, the group is still relatively young, said De Almeida.
The journey toward a common passport, and for 17 of its nations, a common currency, has been long and difficult, the ambassador said. Yet this unique experiment has been successful with its member countries living in peace, security and environmental protections, "which explains why so many countries want to join."
At the same time, when the economic crisis spread to Europe, de Almeida said, "We realized we did not have the instruments required to deal with these problems."
The last two years have been marked by sacrifice by many of the countries in order to put the market's "financial system in order." Even his native Portugal has instituted austere measures which will be felt by every family in the country.
"There is no alternative. We need to do so in a way that is not harmful to growth," De Almeida said.
He also addressed the role of Europe's largest economy, Germany, that has borne most of the burden of bailing out the failing economies of Greece, the Irish Republic and Portugal.
"Germany is a founding member of the EU and also a very important member," De Almeida said. "But it also benefits from it. Most of German exports go out to the EU countries. It is also important for Germany to have tranquility and stability at its borders and the EU provides it. If Germany were to rely only on its internal market, it would not be as successful today."
De Almeida said he was in Belgium when Gov. Pat Quinn visited last month to promote Illinois trade, tourism and business opportunities.
"A momentum has been created now to increase and reinforce our trade and investment relationship," De Almeida said. "There are opportunities for us to create more jobs and more trade on both sides.
Illinois was the first U.S. state to establish a foreign office in 1968.