Pierre Vimont
former Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service

Pierre Vimont was the Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), from December 2010, when the EEAS began operation, until March 2015.
Prior to this, Mr. Vimont was the Ambassador of France to the United States in 2007-2010, and chief of staff to the minister of Foreign Affairs in 2002-2007. He was previously Ambassador and Permanent Representative of France to the European Union from 1999 to 2002. Mr. Vimont joined the French Foreign Service in 1977. He was first posted to London where he was first secretary from 1978 to 1981. He then spent the next four years with the Press and Information Office at the Quai d’Orsay. From 1985 to 1986 he was seconded to the Institute for East-West Security in New York. Returning to Europe, he served as second counselor with the Permanent Representation of France to the European Communities in Brussels (1986-1990), and was subsequently chief of staff to the minister delegate for European affairs from 1990 to 1993. He went on to serve as director for development and scientific, technical and educational cooperation and then for cultural, scientific and technical relations. He was deputy director general of the entire Cultural, Scientific and Technical Relations Department from 1996 to 1997 and then director of European Cooperation from 1997 to 1999.
Born in 1949, Pierre Vimont holds a degree in law and is a graduate of the Institute of Political Studies (Paris) and the National School of Administration (ENA).

Franz Fischler
President of the European Forum Alpbach
Franz Fischler, Austria´s former Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries of the European Union, is the President of the Eco Social Forum Europe (Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO) since December 2004. He also runs his own consultancy business and is a lecturer in great demand. He started his career in 1979 in the extension service and served as Austrian Federal Minister for Agriculture and Forestry from 1989-1994. In his role as Minister, Franz Fischler led the negotiations on agriculture issues for Austria´s accession to the European Union. For nearly a decade (1995 to 2004) Franz Fischler then successfully shaped European Agricultural Policy as the Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries of the EU. A native of Tyrol, Austria, Franz Fischler holds a PhD from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.
Navid Kermani
German-Iranian writer

After completing school, Navid Kermani studied Islamic Studies, Philosophy, and Theater in Cologne, Cairo, and Bonn. He completed his studies in 1998 with a PhD. at the Rheinische Friedrich Wilhelms Universität Bonn on the aesthetic reception of the Koran. From 2000 to 2003 he was a Long-Term Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin / Institute for Advanced Study, and in 2005 he received his post-doctoral degree ("Habilitation"). From 2005 to 2007 he worked as a director and "curator for extraordinary events" at the city theatre of Cologne (Schauspiel Köln). Together with Guy Helminger he hosts the "Literary Salon" at the Stadtgarten Cologne since 2006. Since 2009 he is Senior Fellow at the “Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg Essen” (Institute for Advanced Study). He is a member of the German Academy for Language and Poetry and the Academy of Sciences in Hamburg. For his literary and academic work he was awarded numerous prices, the latest being the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal and the Hannah-Arendt-Price, both in 2011. His latest book Dein Name (Your Name), was nominated for the German Book price 2011.

Julia Kristeva


writer, psychoanalyst & professor at the University Paris Diderot
Julia Kristeva, born in Bulgaria, has been working and living in France since 1966. She is a writer, a psychoanalyst, Professor Emeritus at the University Paris-Diderot and a member of the Paris Psychoanalytical Society. She is a Doctor Honoris Causa in numerous universities in the United States, in Canada and in Europe, where she teaches regularly. Officer of the French Légion d’Honneur, officer of the French Ordre du Mérite, first laureate of the Hollberg Prize in December 2004 (this Prize was created by the Norwegian government to compensate the absence of Humanities in the Nobel prize list), she was awarded the Hannah Arendt Award in December 2006 and the Vaclav Havel Prize in 2008. She has written numerous essays – La Révolution du langage poétique, Histoires d’amour, Pouvoirs de l'horreur (essai sur l'abjection), Soleil noir (dépression et mélancolie), Le Temps sensible (Proust et l’expérience littéraire), the trilogy Le génie féminin : Hannah Arendt, Mélanie Klein et Colette, La Haine et le Pardon, Cet incroyable besoin de croire – but also novels, such as Les Samouraïs, Meurtre à Byzance or Thérèse mon amour. All her work has been translated into English and most of her books are also available in many other languages.
Paavo Lipponen
former Prime Minister of Finland

Born in 1941, Paavo Lipponen is a Finnish politician and former reporter. He was Prime Minister of Finland in 1995-2003, and Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Finland in 1993-2005. He also served as Speaker of the Parliament of Finland in 2003-2007.

It is culture that connects us best in Europe from North to South and East to  West. We share a common tradition, with basic elements from the  Greco-Roman culture, but from other cultures, too. We share common values of democracy, human rights and a social concience. European culture means accepting and encouraging diversity.
Culture flourishes best in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. In a time of financial crisis, culture can inspire innovation and prepare the ground for new advances in sustainable economic development. New jobs can be created in the cultural industries.

photo Johannes Jansson, via Wikimedia Commons

Radu Mihăileanu
French-Romanian film director and screenwriter

Radu Mihăileanu, the son of a Jewish journalist, left Romania in 1980 because of Ceausescu's dictatorship, to go to Israel, and then to France, where he graduated from the IDHEC cinematographic institute in Paris. In the 1980s, he worked as an assistant director, notably with Marco Ferreri. His first full-length movie as a film director, Trahir (1993), received several awards (Montreal World Film Festival, International Istanbul Film Festival…). His second movie, Train de vie (Train of Life), released in 1997 was an international success and received two awards at the Venice Film Festival. After meeting with Ethiopian migrants in Israel, Radu Mihăileanu started a new project leading to Va, vis et deviens (Live and Become) in 2005, for which he received the Best Original Screenplay César Award and several awards at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 2009, Le Concert reached 1,9 million spectators. His latest film, La Source des femmes (The Source) premiered in Competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. In addition to his work as a filmmaker, he published a book of poems in 1987, entitled Une vague en mal de mer.

Odile Quintin

Odile Quintin, a French lawyer, has been Director General for DG Education and Culture at the European Commission for 2006 to 2010. With the Slovak Commissioner, Jan Figeĺ, she had responsibility for policies on education, training, youth, culture, sport and citizenship. In this role, she played a major part in increasing the recognition of these fields at Community level. In addition, within the scope of the portfolio of the Romanian Commissioner, Leonard Orban, she also had responsibility for policy on multilingualism. She entered the European Commission in 1971. Over the first eleven years at the Commission, she held various positions at DG Agriculture and then at DG External Relations. In 1982, she joined DG Employment, where she spent a large part of her career. She successively occupied the posts of Head of Unit, Director of the European Social Fund, Director for Employment and the Labour Market, and finally, Director for Social Dialogue. From 2000 to 2005, she worked as the Director General for DG Employment.

A fascinating report which offers a lot to think for future strategies and policies. International Cultural Relations are vital for positive dialogue, especially in a period of tensions, growing identitarianism, and fears. Much more should be done and good examples and practices should inspire policy makers.

Leila Shahid
former Ambassador of Palestine to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg

Ambassador of Palestine at the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg from December 2005 to March 2015, Leila Shahid served as General Delegate of Palestine in France between 1993-2005, UNESCO 1993-1996, the Netherlands 1990-1993, Ireland 1989-1990. Born in exile in Lebanon of Palestinian parents, Leila Shahid studied Anthropology at the American University in Beirut and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes. Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She is married to the Moroccan novelist and literary critic Mohammed Berrada. Leila Shahid believes in the importance of culture and art in her political and diplomatic work and initiated the two important cultural events on contemporary Palestinian art and culture in France in 1997, Le Printemps Palestinien, in collaboration with the Quai d’Orsay and l’Institut du Monde Arabe and in Belgium in 2008 Masarat, with the Communaute Francaise de Belgique and les Halles de Schaerbek in Brussels. Both events were very well received by the public as witnessed by the massive attendance and the media coverage.

Pooja Sood
Independent Curator and Art Management Consultant

Pooja Sood is the founding member and Director of Khoj International Artists' Association, an autonomous, artists' led registered society aimed at promoting intercultural understanding through experimentation and exchange. As a founding member of Khoj she coordinated the KHOJ International artist's workshop in Delhi from 1998-2001, facilitated the workshops in Mumbai (2005), Srinagar (2007) and Dharmashala (2012), among many others. In New Delhi, she has developed a radical space for alternative art practice at the KHOJ studios, which runs workshops, international residency programmes and diverse projects. She has raised funding for the development of a pilot national network for the arts based on the KHOJ model.

Ms. Sood was the Regional Coordinator (2000-2011) of the international artists' network facilitated by the Triangle Arts Trust, UK. Starting in 2000, she has researched and facilitated the establishment of organisations in the region (Vasl Arts Trust in Pakistan, Britto Arts Trust in Bangladesh, Sutra in Nepal, Teertha in Sri Lanka) thereby developing a south Asian network for the arts.

As an independent curator, Pooja Sood's recent works included the opening exhibition Connecting Unfolding for the new Korean National Museum of Modern and Contemporary art, Seoul (2013), along with 5 other curators. She is the editor of The KHOJ BOOK: 1997-2007 contemporary art practice in India, published by Harper Collins in 2010. She is currently working on editing a book on the 48c. Public Art. Ecology project and one on the South Asian Network for the Arts (SANA) due to be released in Dhaka in February 2014.

Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga
former President of Latvia

Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, was elected on 17 June 1999 by the Parliament for a four-year term as President of Latvia and re-elected for a second term in 2003. Outspoken pundit on social issues, moral values, European historical dialogue, and democracy, she was awarded the 2005 Hannah Arendt Prize for political thought. She was named Special envoy on the reform of the United Nations in 2005 and was an official candidate of the Baltic States (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) for the position of Secretary General in 2006. After earning a PhD in experimental psychology in 1965 from the McGill University in Montreal (Canada), she pursued a professorial career at the Department of Psychology of the French-speaking University of Montreal and conducted scholarly research on semiotics, poetics and the structural analysis of computer-accessible texts from an oral tradition - the Latvian folksongs (Dainas). In June 1998 she was elected Professor emerita at the University of Montreal and returned to her native land, Latvia, where on 19 October the Prime Minister named her Director of the newly founded Latvian Institute. Since 1999, she has received many medals and awards, twenty-seven Orders of Merit and ten honorary doctorates.

Stéphane Hessel

27 February 2013 - More Europe mourns the loss of Stéphane Hessel who supported the initiative since its very beginning. 

Stéphane Hessel was a diplomat, ambassador, writer, concentration camp survivor, former French Resistance fighter and BCRA agent. Born German, he became a naturalised French citizen in 1939. He participated in the editing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In 2004 he was awarded the North-South Prize by the Council of Europe and in 2008 the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. In October 2010, his essay Time for Outrage! (original French title: Indignez-vous !) was published in an edition of 6,000 copies. It has sold more than 3,5 million copies worldwide and has been translated in more than 14 languages. In 2011, one of the names given to the Spanish protests against corruption and bipartisan politics was Los Indignados (The Outraged). These protests, in conjunction with the Arab Spring, later helped to inspire other protests in many countries, including Greece, the UK, Chile, Israel and Occupy Wall Street. In 2011, Stéphane Hessel was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top global thinkers “for bringing the spirit of the French Resistance to a global society that has lost its heart.”