EU-China High-level People-to-People Dialogue Plenary Session
Shanghai, 14 November
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Ministers and Vice-Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be with you today to celebrate the fourth meeting of our EU-China High-Level People-to-People Dialogue.
The EU and China are strategic partners, working together in many fields. But our cooperation and exchanges in education and culture, multilingualism and youth play the most important part in creating closer ties between us.
Look at China’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure initiative: it will undoubtedly contribute to opening trade. But just as the old Silk Road once did, it will also help people to move, knowledge to expand and mutual understanding to grow.
The political willingness to promote such contact and enhance the scope of our cooperation was reiterated only few months ago at the 19th EU-China Summit in Brussels.
It is true that economic uncertainty, rising social inequality and acts of terrorism have put many of our values to the test. Hence it is precisely now that openness, mutual understanding, integrity and solidarity are most important. Education and cultural exchanges, together with youth and sport initiatives, can significantly contribute to developing intercultural skills and cross-cultural awareness. This is the underlying principle of our Dialogue, and the reason that we need to keep it as open and as inclusive as possible.
The three previous High-Level People-to-People Dialogue meetings organised since 2012 have resulted in important follow-up actions and achievements.
I would like to highlight the impact that some of them have had and outline the future course I believe our Dialogue should take.
In the framework of the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue, two EU-China thematic initiatives were launched. Coming up in 2018, the EU-China Year of Tourism will have an ambitious programme. The opening events will take place in Venice in Italy, the city that symbolises the mutual benefits of the old Silk Road. As the Year is partially about creating economic opportunities, these events will include the first EU-China Tourism Business Summit.
But the expanding tourism flows between the EU and China also open up opportunities for our citizens to get to know each other better. To boost this, the European Union proposes a simple but powerful idea to connect many local initiatives: creating an EU-China “Light Bridge”.
On 2 March 2018, China will celebrate the “Lantern festival”. A number of landmark buildings and sites in the EU could be illuminated in red on that day. Local authorities could organise events where European and Chinese communities celebrate this beautiful tradition with “sky lanterns”.
The second part of this initiative could be put into practice in China around 9 May 2018, with landmark sites illuminated in the blue of the EU flag. We are discussing this with Chinese central and local authorities. Our embassies, among others, could join in to co-organise events where Europeans living in China would meet Chinese friends.
Another initiative following on from the Dialogue was the first EU-China Education Ministers Conference, held one year ago in Beijing. We discussed quality education, enhancing individual mobility and strengthening the links between education and enterprises.
Mutual recognition strongly relies on trust and quality assurance. The EU-China 'Tuning initiative' has helped to enhance outcome-based education, establish commonly acknowledged quality criteria and develop tools for mutual recognition.
Let me also highlight the crucial role of the Erasmus+ programme, the EU's flagship programme for education, youth and sport, as well as Horizon 2020, in supporting cooperation between EU and Chinese institutions and fostering the mobility of students, professors and researchers.
Under Erasmus+ we have opened up credit mobility to all countries in the world, including China. As we have heard before, Chinese participation has exceeded expectations.
Erasmus+ offers young people the opportunity to discover other points of view; a chance to meet people from different cultural backgrounds. And this is true not only for students, but also for volunteers, youth workers, learners and providers of vocational education and training, higher education staff and athletes.
Some of those activities, such as capacity building and strategic partnerships in the field of youth, are open to Chinese participation, and we would like to see more people taking part. We have a number of networks and stakeholders with a genuinely international scope. We will work to mobilise them as they could be helpful in promoting such activities.
2011 was designated as the EU-China Year of Youth, an initiative agreed outside the High-Level People-to-People Dialogue, but which has enabled many joint initiatives on youth. The All China Youth Federation and the European Youth Forum have led most of these initiatives, including today’s seminar on the role of youth in cultural diplomacy.
Out of school programmes offer important learning opportunities to people who are beyond the reach of formal education. This is why we promote non-formal education through policy cooperation and through the Erasmus+ programme.
Let me touch upon culture, too. Cultural exchanges contribute to the development of better relations based on trust and understanding, which can only benefit wider political and economic relations between the EU and China.
I believe that cultural cooperation at the city level is one of the most promising areas of EU-China cultural cooperation. And what better way to foster this cooperation than the forum that has just opened, on the European Capitals of Culture and the East Asia Cities of Culture? This event brings 40 mayors and culture professionals from Europe together with Chinese, South Korean and Japanese culture professionals and city representatives to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
We are very proud of our European Capitals of Culture initiative. Over more than thirty years it has evolved into one of the most ambitious cultural projects in the EU. We believe that cities from Europe and the three Asian countries should have the opportunity to share good practice on topics they care about, such as cultural innovation, sustainable development and social cohesion. We hope that the forum will lead to concrete, long term cooperation projects, reinforcing future exchanges.
Talking about exchange, the Atelier for Young Festival and Cultural Managers that took place in Shanghai less than a month ago is a brilliant example of what dialogue between people can bring to young professionals – and to society as a whole. In the EU we also have a Global Cultural Leadership Programme organised once a year by the Cultural Diplomacy Platform. This is an opportunity for young Chinese cultural professionals to connect with other young professionals from around the world.
Another project I want to mention is linked to cultural innovation and creative industries, a booming sector in both China and Europe. The EU is financing Creative Tracks, a pilot project connecting young creative entrepreneurs worldwide.
The Creative Tracks platform will have its final event on the campus of the China Central Academy for Fine Arts tomorrow. The winners of a global competition challenge "b.creative", dedicated to social innovation, will receive their prize. I welcome the partnership with the Academy and encourage more cooperation on this theme in the future.
Building on these achievements, we are now ready to extend our dialogue into new areas. Gender equality has become an important chapter of our policy dialogue. The first EU-China seminar on gender equality was organised in the framework of the third High-Level People-to-People Dialogue meeting. This year’s seminar will focus on women’s economic empowerment and will address, in particular, young women and entrepreneurship and the issue of work-life balance.
I believe we have a lot to gain from sharing our experiences in this area. I would like to see gender issues, and in particular the fight against gender-based violence, take on a more central role in our Dialogue.
Another topic worth exploring is sport. I very much look forward to seeing the outcomes of the first EU-China sport seminar that will be hosted tomorrow. Strengthening the integrity of sport, promoting grassroots sport and encouraging people to be more active are all areas where the EU can add value. Sport has a unique power to bring people together – and could therefore play an important role in further boosting our Dialogue.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Building mutual understanding between people and cultures is today more important than ever. We must invest in developing the appropriate tools to foster it, to improve intercultural skills and cross-cultural awareness, especially in our young generation. But this is only possible if young people learn the values of respect, intercultural dialogue and diversity. Let us keep working to give them all the opportunities to do so.