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All-time high

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-06 17:19
All-time high

Ederer and his wife, Beate Grzeski, savor a cross-cultural wedding on the Great Wall last year. Provided to China Daily

 

The EU delegation celebrates its continental culture with a month of activities in May. Its ambassador to China shares with Mike Peters what an eventful tenure it has been for him so far, including marrying his long-time sweetheart on the Great Wall.

EU ambassador Markus Ederer is only about halfway through his tenure in Beijing, but his first two years have given him plenty to be happy about.

The EU delegation will kick off a month of "open house" events at European embassies across Beijing on May 8 for the third year - and celebrate Europe Day on May 9. Meanwhile, Ederer has just organized a China visit by Catherine Ashton, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the European Commission, one of many recent high-level visits on both continents.

He has been proud to support efforts to strengthen and broaden the Sino-EU strategic partnership, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. That has included major initiatives in sustainable urbanization, water, cyber security and defense.

In the middle of all that, Ederer also married his longtime sweetheart - Beate Grzeski, the economic counselor at the German embassy - in a ceremony on the Great Wall.

"Almost 10 years into our relationship, we decided to tie the knot in China," he says of the ceremony. "It was spiced by my Bavarian relatives coming dressed in dirndl and lederhosen, which raised a lot of attention when the whole group of about 100 went up on the Great Wall. I think the Chinese were almost as amazed at how we looked as the Europeans were amazed at the great edifice of the Great Wall.

"We built in quite a few good traditional Chinese elements into the ceremony - we had a lion dance, we had face-changing. But we didn't go overboard because after all we are not Chinese.

"It was a wonderful day, a great party," he says with a grin.

Fast forward to this month, when Europe Day events celebrate unity and peace in Europe.

It goes back to the Schuman Declaration, by then French foreign minister Robert Schuman, on May 9, 1950. After the continent was staggered by two world wars, Schuman called for France and Germany to basically pool their coal and steel industries to make war between the historic rivals "materially impossible".

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That first step was "the building stone for the first European Community", Ederer says. But the day has other symbolism, too: May 9, 1945, was the first day of peace on the continent after the World War II.

Today, Europe is both very diverse and unified, and he says Europe is proud to make a cause out of "leaving our children a world which is worth living in".

"So we have developed a sustainability policy and philosophy which has made us a green power," he says, "and this technology is something we very much share with our Chinese partners. [It] very much characterizes the products and services we export to China. When you think of European cars, European machine tools, European planes - even the chemical products and the food we export - it's all very environmentally friendly and safe."

The Chinese government's confidence "has been and is an important factor" in restoring and keeping confidence in the Europe and the euro zone, Ederer says.

Meanwhile, Europe has to do its homework.

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