Wednesday, May 1, 2013

EU Day 2013

The Illinois International Review covered the 12th annual European Union Day in their Spring/Summer 2013 issue. This article originally appeared on the Illinois International Review website.

Matt VanderZalm, Managing Editor

Diplomats from countries with distinct perspectives on the challenges facing Europe were on hand February 15 for the 12th Annual European Union Day on the Illinois campus.

Consuls General from Greece, Croatia, and Turkey during EU Day.
Courtesy Aldona Gintautaite
Participating in the afternoon panel discussion, “Visions for a Future Europe,” were Consuls General from Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey. Each offered their point-of-view on the tasks at hand and on what lies ahead for the continent and European Union in light of challenging economic times not only globally but especially in the eurozone.

The Honorable Christian Brecht offered his take on behalf of one of the largest economic powers in Europe, Germany. He said that doomsayers were wrong in predicting the downfall of the eurozone and of nations like Spain and Greece which experienced severe economic problems following the global financial crisis that began in 2008. He pointed out that 10 years ago Germany was the “sick man of Europe.”

German Consul General Christian Brecht offers his thoughts on the future of Europe.
Courtesy Bob Pahre
Brecht also spoke of how interconnected the world has become, noting that most of the issues EU nations have experienced were felt by countries around the globe, adding that “crisis on Wall Street means crisis in world markets.” He concluded that the world will always be full of new risks and unexpected threats, but that the United States will find its strongest ally in Europe.

The Honorable Ioanna Efthymiadou, Consul General of Greece, spoke for the southern European nation which has faced some severe economic challenges since 2009. She called the crises facing Greece an opportunity to “revisit things taken for granted,” but agreed that in the global marketplace the EU must stick together to form a strong union capable of addressing the challenges that lay ahead. Efthymiadou added that there have been positive signs of economic progress, including a recently announced primary budget surplus. “We must keep the faith,” she said.

The Honorable Jelena Grčić Polić, Consul General of Croatia, and the Honorable Fatih Yildiz, Consul General of Turkey, represented two countries at different points on the path toward accession to the EU. Croatia is set to become the 28th member of the EU on July 1, 2013, while Turkey, which has been an associate member of the EU and its preceding organizations since 1963, has yet to be accepted for full membership, but is an acknowledged candidate. Yildiz believes the EU would only grow stronger if Turkey became a member state, while acknowledging that the EU must determine what its role is Europe.

EUC Director Bryan Endres, Irish Ambassador Michael Collins, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano, and Associate Provost for International Affairs Wolfgang Schlör at EU Day 2013.
Courtesy Aldona Gintautaite
“Is the EU primarily a civilian power, an economic power, or military/political power?” Yildiz asked.

Since Croatia has not yet acceded to the EU, Polić kept her remarks short, saying that “peace is above all the most important value to pass on to our children.” She also aired a brief promotional video highlighting Croatia’s sense of optimism as it joins the EU, and encouraging members of the audience to visit her home country.

Earlier in the day, His Excellency Michael Collins, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, delivered the “State of the EU Address.” Ireland currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. Among the topics he addressed was the possibility of Great Britain leaving the EU and the continued economic recoveries in Greece, Spain, and around the continent.

EU Day events are funded in part by U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant and the EU Center of Excellence grant.

For more information on EU Day 2013, visit: euc.illinois.edu

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