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Northeast Asia Peace Initiative

Forums in Japan on Insights about European Integration

Tokyo, Japan - UPF-Japan organized a series of programs April 3-5, 2014 dedicated to the theme, "Peacemaking Processes in Europe: Proposals for East Asia." The featured speaker was Dr. Walter Schwimmer, former secretary general of the Council of Europe and author of The European Dream, a history of Europe over many centuries with special focus on the quest for increasing integration, as evidenced in the rise of the Council of Europe and the European Union. Dr. Thomas G. Walsh, president of UPF International, was also a featured speaker along with Dr. Schwimmer.

UPF-Japan Chair Dr. Yong Cheon Song was the host and organizer, along with Mr. Eiji Tokuno, president, and Mr. Seichi Kikuya, secretary general of UPF-Japan. The tour began on April 3 at the Japanese parliament before a gathering that included 26 members of the Diet as well as diplomats and academicians. The following day the program venue was in Osaka, and the tour concluded in Sapporo on April 5. Cherry blossoms were in full bloom in Tokyo and Osaka, while snow still remained in Sapporo, capital of the northern island of Hokkaido.

Given the background of developments in the Ukraine, along with similar issues arising in the East and South China Seas, the program was timely and stimulating, drawing large audiences. It was clear that the experience of Europe as it moved toward increasing cooperation and integration, even involving former enemies who had been involved in history's most horrific conflicts, provided an important basis for reflection on the current state of affairs in East Asia, particularly at a time when relations among Japan, Korea, China and several Southeast Asian nations are not entirely harmonious.

Each of his lectures concluded with the following statement: "In spite of what remains to be done, I believe that we have taken a great step forward and, with the help of all who believe in the vision of our founding fathers, we shall accomplish the vision of a united Europe. A dream of hundreds of European generations is coming true, and I am convinced that such a dream is not restricted to Europe. All mankind has much more in common than what could divide us. As East and South East Asia have a history of conflicts and ideological rifts, reconciliation of former enemies and rivals should play a similar role to Europe."

People in the audience found helpful insights in the presentations, drawing parallels between the challenges facing Europe and those facing Asia.

"The lectures made me feel the real difficulty of achieving peace in Europe," commented one university professor. "We have formidable challenges in East Asia, but today's experience with Dr. Schwimmer will push me forward for peace."

The head of a peace federation in Osaka offered these reflections on the forum: "Dr. Schwimmer's lecture on his personal engagement in European integration made me realize that dialogue and confidence-building are the keys to open future integration in east Asia and beyond. The process of settling the hostile past between France and Germany gave me very good lessons for our endeavors of rebuilding friendly relations between Japan and Korea and between Japan and China. I will work for a council of East Asia."

"I could appreciate the modern history of Europe, where numerous individuals dedicated themselves to peace," commented a municipal official. "While our Asian situation is filled with enmity between neighbors, it is hardly conducive to achieve something together at this moment. We have to find a starting point even from a minor step."

In a press conference at the National Press Center following his lecture in Tokyo, Dr. Schwimmer pointed out, as one reason for the recent tensions, that European leaders did not utilize the good offices of the Council of Europe, in which both Russia and Ukraine were members. He stressed that the crisis should be resolved through peaceful diplomacy and dialogue. His interviews were published by several major newspapers.

The Council of Europe has aspired to create one peaceful Europe based on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It was established in 1949, shortly after World War II, and has expanded to include most of the countries of Europe. Now as co-chair of the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations, Dr. Schwimmer continues to pursue the dream of one Europe.

For the text of Dr. Schwimmer's speech click here.

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