06 June, 2008
60th anniversary of the Congress of Europe 1948-2008, May 23rd-24th, The Hague
This was a very successful event, blessed a lovely sunshine in the lovely Dutch capital. I could not attend the opening Plenary, though I have no doubt that the three key speakers gave a strong note from the start.

The workshops held on the Friday afternoon were introduced by brilliant personalities. In the workshop dealing with Economic and Social Europe, Ms Joao Rodriguez gave a masterly presentation on the Lisbon strategy. The debate took place on the basis of the preliminary contributions sent over the internet and was lively. Some important ideas were exchanged, though time was missing to go beyond purely ideological statements, at times: women’s rights, inclusion, innovation, economic coordination were among the most debated issues.

The results of the debates were presented the following day in the impressive “Nieuwe Kerk”. The moderators did a great job , especially the moderator for the workshop I had attended. Ann Mettler summed up the concerns expressed by the participants by stressing the issue of equal opportunity for women and for young people, briefly summing the concerns about precariousness and lasting inequalities. Concerns were expressed that the key advances and proposals in the historical Resolutions of the European Congress were somewhat overlooked or forgotten.

The ensuing speeches by the representatives of most institutions were brilliant. Each speaker managed to convey a sense of the identity and mission of the institution he represented. There were of course no women on the panel and the only speaker in French was Mr luis Maria de Puig, for the Council of Europe. Differences were also audible between the Prime Minister of Slovenia representing the Council and Mr Barroso, President of the European Commission, when presenting their respective priorities.

The exchanges with the public were brilliantly moderated by Mr Pat Cox, president of the European Movement and were followed by a press conference. The afternoon was devoted to the replies to questions from the public and from the European Forum of Civil Society, with TV cameramen.

Overall, an enthralling event full of majesty, with brilliant presentations by political leaders and quality debates. The quality of debate was somewhat poorer in the workshops than the official ceremonies and debate: they looked like a superficial race for a wish list, at times, and there was a sense of superficiality and caricatural oppositions at times under the time pressure.

Two regrets/suggestions: it was impossible to enter the “Ridderzaal” on Saturday, the historical place for the original Congress, because of the official dinner; there should have been an official visit arranged the day before or in the morning. Though this could run the risk of repetitiveness if repeated, it would be useful and thought-provoking to actually reread and discuss the historical resolutions.

Catherine Vieilledent
UEF Groupe Europe

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