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José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Opening remarks by President Barroso at the opening ceremony of the first EU-China High Level Cultural Forum

Opening ceremony of the first EU-China High Level Cultural Forum

Brussels, 6th October 2010

Mr Prime Minister,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Premier Wen. It is a pleasure to receive him in Brussels for the ASEM Summit, as well as for the first EU-China Summit since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.

I am also extremely pleased that we are here together for the opening of the first EU-China High Level Cultural Forum, an initiative agreed upon with Premier Wen at the Nanjing Summit last year.

The High Level Cultural Forum brings together leading intellectuals from the European Union and the People’s Republic of China, representatives of two great cultures. It has an important role in building on the tasks we have set ourselves in the Summit, to deepen and enhance our relationship and improve our cooperation at all levels. I hope the Cultural Forum will become an annual event as the Business Summit has become.

We have recently celebrated 35 years of EU-China relations. For 35 years, we have build a strong partnership based on common political goals and shared economic interests. We have continued to add value to our strategic partnership as we have entered into the age of globalisation.

The EU-China commercial and economic relationship is one of the most important in the world and has become a major source of wealth, jobs, development and innovation for both sides. It is right that we should also focus our efforts on expanding our relationship in other areas. We have to reach out to our peoples and bring them together through projects that will contribute to enhancing mutual understanding, respect and trust.

We have to invest more in the great potential of our people-to-people relations to consolidate the future development of our strategic partnership.

The EU-China High Level Cultural Forum is an important step in this direction as an unprecedented platform for communication between influential scholars from China and Europe.

Europe and China represent two old civilizations, with long history and culture. Both have made great contributions to social progress and cultural development. They are birthplace to many eminent thinkers, philosophers, and artists whose great achievements had become part of the spiritual heritage of mankind.

The first EU-China High Level Cultural Forum provides an excellent framework for an open dialogue on the ancestral values of the two civilizations, and on their ethical and aesthetic foundations. Yet at the same time it will address current social and cultural concerns of both EU and China and provide a platform for a reinvigorated cultural dialogue.

We need a bridge between our peoples and cultures that will help us understand and learn from each other. The Forum provides that bridge and ensures cultural cooperation can take a more prominent place in our relations.

We announced during the last Summit in Nanjing that 2011 will be EU-China Year of Youth.

I believe this initiative offers an excellent opportunity to step up our relations by focusing on our young people, a very important resource for our societies.

The EU-China Year of Youth will be an occasion for us to share practices and experiences on issues such as youth unemployment, encouraging youth entrepreneurship and youth engagement vis-à-vis global challenges such as climate change, sustainable growth and fight against poverty. We wish to invest in our young people today to develop networks and long-lasting partnerships for tomorrow.

Continuing our efforts beyond 2011 will be an important element in bringing us closer and further promoting and deepening our partnership.

I am therefore extremely pleased that later on today in our EU-China Summit we will formally announce that 2012 will be EU-China Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

I am confident that the discussions we will hold this afternoon during the Summit will be open and substantive and will bring us one step closer to achieving our common goals.

I would also like to encourage the participants in the Cultural Forum here present to look together towards the future and bring their own valuable contribution to building common ground and further enhancing the mutual trust between the EU and China as we address our shared responsibilities in a globalised world.

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