【NEWS】EU at 50: Taipei European School celebrates Europe Day

(By Erika Wang The China Post)Diplomats and business leaders from different backgrounds and countries yesterday joined an equally diverse group of Taipei European School (TES,台北歐洲學校) community members to celebrate Europe Day.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the European Economic Community, the forefather of the European Union, which was established in 1992 with the Treaty of  Maastricht.

“We feel that it’s a very important day and it’s the one unifying day where we can celebrate the EU and all of our European countries,” said John Nixon, CEO of TES.

On May 9, 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed the first concrete foundation of a European federation in what is known as the “Schuman declaration,” which is considered to be the beginning of the creation of the EU.

“The EU as we all know is…a powerful group, which in my opinion is founded on a common core of peace and solidarity,” said C.V. Chen (陳長文博士), chair of the TES Board of Directors.

Students of different ages and sections put together an impressive entertainment program for this year’s event, including a first-ever performance of the Romanian national anthem to welcome one of the EU’s most recent additions.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in January, increasing the EU to a total of 27 member states.

Nixon said that the students practiced the Romanian anthem for a couple of months, and they are learning the Bulgarian one for next year.

To mark the occasion in true TES style, a multilingual rendition by the school Choir and Ensemble was performed to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the anthem of the EU.

Nixon explained that for the Europe Day celebrations, the school always has students “doing something typically European,” such as a circus act with unicycles, a favorite among the crowd.

International representatives from France,England, Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland,and Honduras, among others, were at hand for the momentous occasion.

Pit Kohler, deputy director-general of the German Institute, called TES the “perfect place” to experience a European environment in Taiwan.

Dirk Sanger, member of the TES Board of Governors, said that as a parent of a TES student himself, he could attest to the school’s quality of education and to the joy the children have when going to school, which he attributed to “the very dedicated and motivated staff and teachers.”

After having conquered “yesterday’s challenges” of open borders and one currency, “tomorrow’s challenges” for the EU include working with renewable energy, keeping the environment clean, and continuing to build lasting peace, said Guy Ledoux, head of the European Economic and Trade Office in his remarks.

Quoting Winston Churchill’s call for a European family over 60 years ago, Michael Reilly, director general of the British Trade and Cultural Office, said that today “we have that European family.”

Reilly added, “We have what we have today because of vision, hard work, and determination of those who have gone before us. And the Europe of tomorrow will depend on the vision, hard work, and imagination of today’s Europeans.”

Addressing the audience mostly in French, Jean-Claude Poimboeuf, director of the French Institute, said, “We can see that in only 50 years, Europe has achieved a lot: peace and stability, freedom and democracy, free flow of people and goods, and prosperity.”

“Taiwan attaches very great importance to our ties with the EU,” said for her part Chang Siao-yue, vice foreign minister. To illustrate, she cited last year’s bilateral trade of US$40 billion between Taiwan and the EU, as well as the 25,000 Taiwanese studying in the EU.

In her closing remarks, Chang said she wished the EU continued success and growth, and hoped for stronger ties between Europe and Taiwan.

TES Europe Day celebrations started more or less from the outset in 1992 when the three schools came together, explained the TES CEO.

Nixon, a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), is already gearing up for next year’s Europe Day. “They want me to ride the unicycle!” he said with a smile. “The children bought me a unicycle for my 50th birthday, so maybe one year I will be able to do it,” he added.