Delegation of the European Union to Armenia

EU Ambassador's Speech for Europe Day 2019

Seoul, 09/05/2019 - 04:28, UNIQUE ID: 190509_1
Speeches of the Ambassador

EU-Ambassador Michael Reiterer highlights on the occasion of the Europe Day 2019:

"As President Moon Jae-in has pointed several times, the functional cooperation which built the European Union provides inspiration for building peace on the Korean Peninsula".

"Jean Monnet Chair professors in Korea teach European values, culture and languages and foster mobility of students and academics."


Today we celebrate Europe Day. On the 9th of May 1950 the then French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, proposed placing the coal and steel industries of European countries under common control.

Putting the strategic industries under common control was intended to render war between Member States materially impossible. It worked. Europe enjoys an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity.

Functional cooperation can also build peace on the Korean peninsula. In his Liberation Day speech and in his recent opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, President Moon Jae-in indicated how functional cooperation in Europe inspires his proposals for building peace in Northeast Asia.

Today the EU leaders meet in Sibiu, Romania to reflect on their aspirations for the future strategic agenda of the EU.  In two weeks' time, 400 million European citizens will vote to elect Members of the European Parliament in the world's largest transnational democratic exercise.  

While we sometimes refer to the 9th of May as Schuman Day, the inspiration came from the French political and economic advisor Jean Monnet.

His vision of building union through cooperation ultimately brought about a new system of international relations. Today, the European Union stands as a beacon of what can be achieved through strong multilateral institutions and the rule of law – both in short supply these days.

The relevance today of Jean Monnet's insights is striking: If you allow me to quote him:

  • "There will be no peace in Europe if the States rebuild themselves on the basis of national sovereignty, with its implications of prestige politics and economic protection...

On the importance of strong common institutions:

  • "Nothing is possible without men; nothing is lasting without institutions."

However, Monnet was aware that institutions need the understanding and trust of people – today we would call it the people-to-people dimension, or connectivity:

  • "Building Union among people not cooperation between states."

Education has been the basis for building people-to-people in the European Union. The Erasmus Programme has allowed generations of university students to study in other Member States. Erasmus Plus has opened the world for Europeans and Europe for all – I am glad that we have former Erasmus students among us today.

Exchanges and cooperation dedicated to furthering understanding of European integration have appropriately taken place under a support system named Jean Monnet Actions. The programme is people focussed. It encourages mobility between academics, researchers and students specialising in the European Union.

As populist politicians seek to erect not only physical barriers between countries, but also in the minds of young people, international educational exchanges could not be more vital.

I would like to pay tribute to the Jean Monnet Chair Professors and Centers of Excellence in Korea. These positions exist at Korea University, Yonsei University, Seoul National University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Busan National University.

The talented professionals holding these positions have for decades guided Korean students in their study of European integration and the values, culture and language that underpin it. Their work has been a pillar in building today's Strategic Partnership between the EU and Korea. It was fitting the spirit of Jean Monnet that all five centres of excellence joined forces earlier today to host the seminar, "Jean Monnet: Past-Present and Future".

My special thanks go to Korea University for providing this splendid venue. Our sponsor AE Brand Korea has ensured that with four different brands of European beer we will not go thirsty – thank you CEO Matthew Holmes on behalf of all of us.

Many Member States helped to give the event a European touch: Romania, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, is treating us with fine red wine. This is complemented by delicacies and drinks from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Slovakia, Spain and 'apfelstrudel' from my cook Kimi.

My thanks to them as well as to my staff who worked together with the team of the Korea University to make today happen – they even did not forget to book nice weather!



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