01 March 2020


Summary of a public forum conducted 28 February 2019 featuring European Heads of Mission, written by Summer Scholar, Nathan Walsh.


Under the backdrop of ever changing and contentious Brexit negotiations, the original philosophy for founding a united Europe; that of ‘unity and diversity’, appears to be under threat. On the 28th of February 2019, the University of South Australia’s Hawke EU Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence facilitated a public forum featuring sixteen European Ambassadors and High Commissioners who discussed the future aims and directions of the EU in the areas of Culture, Commerce, Heritage, Education and Research. The forum, which was introduced and lead by EU Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Dr Michael Pulch, had an overarching theme of identifying how a united Europe can draw strength from its cultural diversity.


Initiating the proceeding, H.E. Dr Michael Pulch outlined a historical picture of how the EU has been shaped through the years. Ambassador Pulch highlighted the varied trials the EU has already withstood and showed how events, such as the fall of Yugoslavia and the Northern Ireland Peace Process, showcased successful EU lead diplomacy. For Ambassador Pulch, this historical awareness is a must in understanding how the EU project actually functions. Too often the EU has been framed as a mere economic enterprise, but ‘at the root of it, the EU was always a peace project’. With the looming finalisation of Brexit talks and a furthering of parochial ideologies spreading throughout Europe, the success of peaceful EU lead diplomacy is needed more than ever.


Promoting a peaceful and united Europe has been coupled with a need to recognise individual cultures and autonomies. Maintaining the unique cultures of individual member states is a key goal of the EU, enshrined within the Treaty of Maastricht. As part of his speech, Ambassador Zimburg highlighted this feature of the Treaty of Maastricht, showcasing the commitment the EU to both national and collective displays of European culture and heritage. This respect and preservation of the diverse cultural backgrounds within the EU is argued to enhance European cohesion and social stability, while also benefiting employment and economic growth. Within the EU-Australian context, the direct involvement of the EU Embassy in Canberra with national multicultural festivals highlights the tangible practices the EU is undertaking at strengthening the cultural underpinnings of its member states in their relationships with third countries; furthering both their individual cultural identities and economic independence. 


With the development of advanced automation, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, the global commerce sector is faced with new challenges, specifically with respect to maintaining economic growth and social cohesion. Ambassador Prinz’s talk focussed specifically on the shift towards what has been labelled ‘Industry 4.0’. Ambassador Prinz highlighted how the increasing interconnection of supply chains that occurs within Industry 4.0 offers new opportunities for collaboration between Australia and the EU. European manufacturing know-how can assist Australian business, for instance, in becoming leaders in the burgeoning Hydrogen fuel, food production and private satellite spheres, according to Ambassador Prinz. Such collaborative initiatives are said to help diversify both European and Australian markets. Additionally, the presence of expatriate European communities in Australian society can assist with the development of new Europe-Australia business collaborations.


Croatian Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Betty Pavelich Sirois, discussed the contemporary and historical influence Croatian and other European migrants have had on Australian national culture and identity. Maintaining bonds to tradition cultural past-times and countries of origin has enabled the Croatian migrant diaspora to maintain a sense of belonging and community in a new and distant place. Over time, these cultural traditions have flourished to bring about a sense of purpose by contributing to the concept of Australia in a variety of different ways. Ambassador Pavelich Sirois argued that this is true for a wealth of European migrant communities in Australia, not just for Croatians. This is exemplified with the building of the Croatian Embassy in Canberra by local Croatian communities, highlighting a pride and commitment to both Croatia and Australia. This pride for both Australian and European identities, can assist in establishing successful joint ventures into the future.


High Commissioner Mavrommati discussed the crucial role that EU-Australia research, innovation and economic collaborations plays in promoting prosperity in both Cyprus and Australia. South Australian based Cyprian communities are argued to assist in furthering the EU-Australia research potentialities, specifically in assisting growth in both Cyprus’ and Australia’s higher education sector. Australian researchers already participate within the Horizon 2020 research and innovation initiative, which Commissioner Mavrommati suggests could be bolstered by future joint online diplomas and degrees held between Australia and the EU.


With the prospect of a new look European Union in years to come, it has never been a more important time to bolster the EU’s relationship with Australia. The advancement of shared European-Australian ideals and objectives is evident in international collaborations under the Horizon 2020 and ERASMUS+ projects. The presenters highlighted how Australia’s past migration policies have promoted the growth of similar ideals in Australia and the EU. These ideals include that of political consensus and compromise, are essential to global safety and security.