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Speech by Jean Asselborn at the occasion of the colloquium “Universities of tomorrow”

Date of Speech : 17-02-2005

Place : Abbeye de Neumunster, Luxembourg

Speaker : Jean Asselborn

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

At the occasion of the colloquium "Universities of tomorrow" organised by the University of Luxembourg and the Asia Europe Foundation, Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean Asselborn, made the following statement:

Dear Minister, Excellencies,

Dear guests,

I welcome you very warm-heartedly in Luxembourg at the Abbey of Neumünster at the occasion of the colloquium "Universities of tomorrow" organised by the University of Luxembourg and the Asia Europe Foundation.

It is an honour for Luxembourg especially during its 11th Presidency of the Council of the European Union to be host of this colloquium and to welcome representatives of an enlarged ASEM on both the European and the Asian side. I had the opportunity to participate in the 5th Asem Summit in Hanoi last October where the enlargement was decided which was an important step in the evolution of the process.

Luxembourg is, since the beginning of Asem in Bangkok 1996 and Asef in 1997 a keen supporter both of the indispensable dialogue forum between Europe and Asia and of the Asia Europe Foundation. Since the start of Asef Luxembourg was one of its generous financial supporters. Luxembourg was already the host in 2000 of an Asef  Meeting on the education in the 21st century.

The Luxembourg Presidency has on its programme, besides the well known priorities which are the financial perspectives, the mid-term review of the Lisbon Process and the examination of the stability and growth pact, also an important external policy programme.

On the agenda with Asia are many important meetings and exchanges with Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan.

On the multilateral level, next month the traditional EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting will take place in Jakarta and in May, Japan will be the host of the 7th ASEM Foreign Ministers meeting where the Future of Asem will be one of the most important subjects. During the Luxembourg Presidency an Asem ministerial meeting on culture and civilisation will be organised in Paris in June; a long term plan on promoting dialogue among civilisations and stepping up cultural exchange between Asia and Europe will be high on the agenda. The next preparatory meeting for this ministerial will be held here at the Neumuenster Abbey. Finally an ASEM Finance Ministers’ Meeting will take place in China in June.

The European Union is indeed developing ever closer relations to Asia, bilaterally as well as multilaterally and in political, economical and cultural, educational and technological fields.

Exchanges should however take place not only at political and official level but should bring our people closer together, strengthen the understanding of each other, as well as the tolerance and respect of our differences. In a globalised world where physical distances are constantly reduced, where people get closer and societies more interlinked, intercultural understanding and awareness and tolerance with regard to differences, whether cultural, religious, linguistic etc, gets more and more important.

In this regard, at the Hanoi Summit European and Asian leaders recognized that the Asem process should also seek to foster a sense of partnership among the peoples of the two regions. It was noted with satisfaction that the progress made in the dialogue among cultures and civilisations organised by Asem had already enhanced a culture of peace, tolerance and harmony among societies which provide the foundation for sound and stable relations between the two regions. The important role of Asef in building a bridge between civil societies by means of its programmes to promote intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges was also underlined in Hanoi.

In this context I also want to mention that 2005 is the year of people to people exchanges between the European Union and Japan and a lot of events are taking place in the framework of this exchange year both in Europe and in Japan. In the Abbey itself you can momentously visit an exhibition about modern Japanese art.

Cooperation in the fields of education and training is also a very powerful instrument at the service of fostering mutual understanding and of strengthening relations among citizens of different countries. It gives among others the opportunity to create a sustainable network of personal friendships and linkages as well as partnerships and it intervenes where future economic and political decision makers are formed.

It is essential for all of us to become more open to the rest of the world, to learn from each other and to absorb excellent practice.

I think that despite the apparent diversity in the structure and organization of universities in Asian and European countries, as well as their respective system of higher education, universities in Asia and Europe share the commitment to promote greater student exchanges, cross-cultural learning and educational co-operation between both regions. An enormous potential exists for mutually beneficial co-operation between universities from Europe and Asia.

A lot has already been undertaken, but I am sure that more can be done and accomplished to further strengthen our relations and to tackle together challenges which arise in a globalised world.

I wish you all a very fruitful and enriching colloquy and hope that you will enjoy very much your stay in Luxembourg.

This page was last modified on : 17-02-2005

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