Twice a year, we organise different kinds of events, such as exhibitions, concerts and conference debates, which are open to the civil society and are aimed at celebrating the history, the culture and the political activity of the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
(16-19.04.2018) One decade after its accession to the EU, on January 1 2018, Bulgaria took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. For the months ahead, it will be chairing the meetings of the Council and be the main driver of the Union’s agenda.
The European Parliamentary Association took the opportunity to shed light not only on the country’s political priorities, but also on its history, culture and people, by organising a series of events in collaboration with the Permanent Representation of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe.
On Monday 16 April, the Permanent Representative of Bulgaria to the Council of Europe, Katya Todorova, and the President of the European Parliamentary Association, Herbert Dorfmann, welcomed 100 guests to the Villa Schutzenberger for an initiative aimed at celebrating the country’s cultural richness. As guest of honour, the APE was especially pleased to welcome Her Excellency Liljana Pawlowa, Bulgarian Minister for European Affairs.
After an introductory speech of the Minister, the audience had the opportunity to appreciate the beauty and diversity of Bulgarian landscapes and cultural heritage through the projection of several short films. To this contributed also a performance of the pupils of the school “Petit Prince” from Varna, Bulgaria, who made all the way to Strasbourg to exhibit in an impressive demonstration of popular dance and singing.
Subsequently, guests were invited to visit an exhibition of a collection of paintings that the pupils realised to illustrate their understanding of the European project and, then, to discover several Bulgarian food and drink specialties during a reception in the association’s cellar.
On Wednesday 18 April, the APE took up on one particular priority of the Bulgarian Presidency i.e. the Western Balkans, and organised a debate on the topic “A European Perspective for the Western Balkans: The way ahead”. Guest speakers of the evening were David McAllister, German MEP and chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Andrey Kovatchev, Bulgarian MEP, quaestor and member of the same committee and Ivan Boev, lecturer of EU law at the University of Strasbourg.
Are Western Balkan countries ready to join the European Union? What restrictions are there? Which challenges lie ahead? These were some of the questions discussed throughout the debate. MEPs McAllister and Kovatchev clarified during their interventions that the criteria set out by the European Commission must be complied with and that there can be no short cuts to EU-membership. 2025 is hence an „indicative date“ and not an automatism. However, both sides, i.e. Western Balkan countries as well as the EU, have to foster a durable dialogue – despite any existing conflict – because such dialogue is of crucial importance to the stability of the region and the stability of Europe as a whole.
The closing event of the “Days of Bulgaria” was the breakfast on Thursday 19 April. Bulgarian MEP Andrey Novakov, expert on budgetary policy, focused on the “EU Budget after Brexit: a Bulgarian perspective”. “The EU budget is like a family budget. We should not leave unpaid bills and we just cannot afford to neglect the financial needs of our family members”, this was the message of MEP Novakov. The members of the APE then took the opportunity to engage in discussions about how and where to use EU funding effectively.
(23-26.10.17) In July 2017 Estonia took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the first time in its history and in a decisive moment for the future of the European Union.
The European Parliamentary Association, together with the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the Council of Europe, set up a special program to celebrate the history, the culture and the political engagement of this country.
On Monday 23 October, it was the day of the opening celebration of the Days of Estonia. The evening started with the screening of “The singing Revolution”, a documentary film created by James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty about the nonviolent revolution in Estonia, in which hundreds of thousands of Estonians gathered publicly between 1986 and 1991, in an effort to end decades of Soviet occupation. The Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam, who contributed to the realisation of the film, was also there and intervened provide his insights into that dramatic period of the Estonian history.
After the screening of the film, our guests visited the exhibition “The wild side of Estonian landscapes”, a photographic collection of the many beauties of Estonian nature, and, then, had the opportunity to experience the culinary culture of Estonia, with a cocktail with traditional Estonian food and drinks.
On Wednesday 25 October we organised a debate on the topic “European Defence Union: The end of soft power?”, with the participation of two prestigious guest speakers, i.e. MEP Urmas Paet (ALDE), rapporteur for the European Defence Union report, and MEP Tamás Meszerics (Greens), shadow rapporteur for the same report.
What is the way forward to put more union in our defence? And what use would the EU make of its more efficient military capacity? These were just some of the questions that the public raised during the debate.
Next, on Thursday 26 October we organised a breakfast on the topic “Estonia: a model for a digital Europe” with MEP Kaja Kallas, who has been rapporteur on the report on “Towards a Digital Single Market Act”. For our members, this was an occasion to discover the many efforts that Estonia made in the field of digitalisation and how this model could be implemented at European level.
(3-6.04.17) The anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, the triggering of Article 50 by the United Kingdom after the Brexit referendum, presidential elections in France; Malta took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in turbulent times.
Migration, security, single market; these are just some of the priorities that the Maltese Presidency has identified to tackle the current problems of the EU. The European Parliamentary Association contributed to bring the debate on these priorities to Strasbourg, by hosting the “Days of Malta”, a series of initiatives which brought together a unique audience, made of MEPs, diplomats and members of the civil society.
The Days of Malta started with a kick-off evening on Monday 3 April, which was welcomed with enthusiasm by over 140 members of the diplomatic corps and of the civil society of Strasbourg. The event began with the projection of the film “Malta: Cruise in the country of knights”, which gave the participants the opportunity to discover and appreciate the cultural richness and beauty of the smallest EU Member state. Right after, the Maltese Ambassador, Joseph Filetti, and the Maltese Honorary Consul, Eric Mayer-Schaller, inaugurated the exhibition “Malta – 7000 years of history”, which offered the numerous guests an insight into the history of the country and its links with the Alsatian Region. The evening ended, then, with a buffet of Maltese specialties and an delicious cocktail tasting of the APE’s partner, the renowned Alsatian “Distillerie Massenez”.
On Thursday 6 April, Ambassador Joseph Filetti, Permanent Representative of Malta to the Council of Europe, participated in our traditional breakfast meeting to discuss with our members about “Southern Neighbourhood Policy”. This is one of the priorities of the Maltese presidency and a vital issue for the EU at the moment, as the instability in the countries on the southern coast of the Mediterranean sea impacts directly on migration flows towards our continent.
Once again, our “Presidency Days” were welcomed with great interest and showed even and increasing participation rate compared to our previous editions. This was an important signal, that gives us the confidence to do even better.
We will be back in October, with the “Days of Estonia”!
(24-27.10.16) During the last plenary session in October 2016, we organised the “Days of Slovakia” in collaboration with the Permanent Representation of Slovakia to the Council of Europe, a three day initative to celebrate the history, the culture and the political activity of the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
On Monday 24 October 2016, more than 80 guests came to our villa to see the photographic exhibition “Alexander Dubček -The Human Face of Politics” realised by Vladimir Benko, who intervened at the beginnig of the evening.
Two days later, we hosted a lively debate on the EU enlargement to the Western Balkans. Many Members of the European Parliament, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, students and friends of the association came to discuss with our guest speakers, Eduard Kukan and Ambassador Zoran Popovic.
Finally, our members had the pleasure to discuss the priorities, the challenges and the achievements of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union with Ambassador Drahoslav Stefanek, Permanent Representative of Slovakia to the Council of the EU, during our traditional Thursday breakfast.
(11-15.04.16) From 11 to 15 April 2016, our association hosted the “Days of the Netherlands”, an initiative to celebrate the country holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first half of 2016.
Various events were organised at Villa Schutzenberger, starting with a magnificent concert on 11 April with Frank van Lamsweerde on the violoncello and Elyette Weil on the piano.
The APE also held two conferences during the week: On Tuesday 12 April, our members had the chance to discuss with the MEPs Jan Huitema and Michel Dantin, both members of our association, about the topic “Antimicrobial resistance – sharing best practices”.
The following day, Patrick Duval, lecturer of Dutch language and civilisation at the University of Lorraine-Metz, gave an interesting introduction on “the Symbolic Universe and the lost language of Dutch painters of the Golden Century” and thereby provided an insight into the Dutch culture.
Furthermore, our members and also other people from the civil society of Strasbourg were invited to enjoy an exhibition of geometrical abstract sculptures and pictures from the Dutch artist Johannes Blonk.
Finally, the perfect finale of the “Days of the Netherlands” was our traditional breakfast debate with a special intervention of two Dutch members of the APE, Jan Huitema and Marietje Schaake.
(26-29.10.15) The second Presidency Days in 2015 were dedicated to Luxembourg, the country holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union during the last six months of the year. The program of the “Days of Luxembourg” consisted of different kinds of events to show the huge diversity of a country that might seem small.
A conference with MEP and former Vice President of the European Commission for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, was the opening event on the 27 October 2015. The topic of the conference was “Personal data belong to citizens: a democratic battle”. The conference was preceded by a preview of an excerpt of the movie “Democracy: Im Rausch der Daten”.
On the 28 October, the members of the APE were invited to enjoy an excellent jazz concert of the Luxembourgish Maxime Bender Quartet in the “Salle du Münsterhof”.
As always, the Presidency Days were concluded by our traditional Thursday breakfast for our members, in this case in presence of H. E. Michèle Eisenbarth, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg to the Council of Europe.
(10-15.02.15) Latvia took over the leadership of the Council of the European Union at the beginning of 2015. From 9 to 15 February, the APE hosted several events to show the cultural and political highlights of Latvia.
The series of events started with the opening ceremony of the special exhibition “Breakfast in Europe”, a project of the Latvian Academy of Fine Arts with beautifully painted plates.
On Tuesday 10 February, the APE held a conference debate with the MEPs Artis Pabriks, Andrejs Mamikins and Daniel Caspary, as well as the diplomats of Canada and the United States, Alan Bowman and Elena Bryan. The interesting topic “Contemporary geopolitical choices: role of transatlantic trade and policy” attracted a large audience because of its importance not only for Latvia, but for the whole EU.
A day later, the members were invited to have another taste of Latvian culture at an amazing concert of the young accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, who gave a truly impressive performance.
On Thursday morning, the Permanent Representative of Latvia to the Council of Europe, H. E. Roland Lappuke, spoke to the members of our association at our traditional breakfast meeting.
The “Days of Latvia” finally ended with the presentation of the award-winning movie “Mother, I love you”, which was produced in Latvia.
All in all, it was a wonderful week full of exciting events to learn more of the beautiful country.
(25.11-7.12.14) The Italian presidency of the Council of the European Union was celebrated during the “Days of Italy” from 25 November to 7 December 2014. As always, the Days gave an interesting insight in the cultural and political activity of the country.
The culture of Italy was represented by a photographic exhibition of works of the talented artist Franco Fontana, a concert with the brilliant duo of the Soprano Lorna Windsor-Savi and the pianist Antonio Ballista as well as a projection of the Italian movie “Grande Bellezza”.
But the APE also organised events for a political exchange: On Wednesday 26 November, a conference debate with the Italian depute and Vice President of the APE Mercedes Bresso took place in our rooms on the subject “The Italian Presidency viewed from the European Parliament”.
And of course the Days of Italy could not do without our usual Thursday morning breakfast, in this case in the presence of the Ambassador Manuel Jacoangeli, Permanent Representative of Italy to the Council of Europe, who discussed about the impacts of the Italian Presidency with several MEPs.
(10-20.03.14) From 10 to 20 March 2013, the APE organised the “Days of Greece” in collaboration with the Permanent Representation of Greece to honour the country’s Presidency of the Council of Europe. Several intellectual and cultural meetings took place in the rooms of our association.
The Days began with a vernissage of the photographic exhibition “The Greek seas” which was opened by the Joseph Daul, President of the APE, and Iraklis Asteriadis, Permanent Representative of Greece to the Council of Europe.
On Tuesday 11 March, our association held a conference debate on the topic “Are the signs of the end of the economic crisis in Greece, outlined with regard to the Greek presidency of the Council of the European Union, signals for an actual recovery of the growth of the country and the EU?” with Georgios Papanikolaou and Nikolaos Chountis.
Under the motto “The Greek Muse”, the pianist Chara Iacovidou and the actor Jean Lorrain created a wonderful concert with a lecture of Greek poems, which marked the finale of the “Days of Greece”.
(9-15.12.13) During the last plenary session of the European Parliament in 2013, the APE organised the “Days of Lithuania” to celebrate the history and culture of the country holding the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the second half of the year.
As usual, the Days were opened by an exhibition, this time about the Lithuanian language, one of the oldest European languages which is still used until today: “Understanding Lithuania(n): Ancient Language for Modern Communication”.
On Tuesday 10 December 2013, a Lithuanian-Polish quartet gave an exceptional concert in dedication to the Lithuanian-Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz with excerpts of Lithuanian music of contemporary composers who were inspired by Milosz.
On the next day, the Lithuanian MEP and political theorist Leonidas Donskis introduced a publication together with his co-author Samuel Abraham concerning the topic “I remember, therefore I am: Milan Kundera and the idea of Central Europe” and lead a discussion about the content in the Villa Schutzenberger.
In summary, the “Days of Lithuania” were yet another chance to learn more about other European countries, their heritage and political responsibility.
(15-21.04.13) Ireland held the presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first six months of 2013, which is why the APE organised the “Days of Ireland” to honour the country’s political work for the Europe.
The Presidency Days began with a vernissage of the fascinating exhibition “The life and times of Samuel Beckett” on Monday 15 April 2013.
The following day, our members were invited to a political roundtable with several MEPs, moderated by the Irish journalist Karen Coleman on the topic: “The economic crisis and democratic accountability: how can the EU reconnect with its citizens?”.
After this lively debate, our association held a cultural event in honour of the Irish director Samuel Beckett with the presentation of Beckett’s “Molloy” as well as some wonderful Irish harp music.
By having a good mixture of politics and culture during the “Days of Ireland”, the participants of our events could really feel the Irish spirit in the Villa Schutzenberger.