BLOG: Four Dynamic Windows Onto Europe
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November 21, 2008
by Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean
I am about to set out on a new State visit, this time to Europe. At the request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, my husband Jean-Daniel Lafond and I will be travelling to Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia, accompanied by nine delegates representing various academic, cultural, institutional and social sectors. Four countries with which Canada has strong historic ties and thousands of whose nationals are now Canadian citizens. Four dynamic windows onto Europe, at the heart of the European Union. Four nations with which Canada wants to strengthen its bonds and pursue successful agreements.
In addition to the official program, protocol events and bilateral meetings, it is important to us that we open a dialogue with civil society, as we have always taken every opportunity to do. Bringing diplomacy back to the human level gives us a better understanding of the issues facing the countries we will be visiting and allows us to get to the heart of their realities. This will help us to build interesting and more productive bridges between our societies. The members of our delegation will greatly enrich these discussions with their perspectives and expertise. We made a point of assembling a very diverse team with a wide range of interests and backgrounds, young and old alike, from various regions across Canada.
We also believe in the importance of cultural diplomacy. The Art Matters forums that we will hold along the way promise to be lively. Just like the youth forums, which are also on the program, based on those we have organized across Canada, that will focus on the concerns, aspirations and initiatives of youth. During our visit, we will explore a number of issues, including the place of minorities, the integration of the Roma into society, the status of women, the fight against discrimination, the place that the arts and culture hold in the public sphere, governance, and opportunities for trade and cultural and institutional exchanges.