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The Warsaw Voice » Society » August 13, 2008
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Tackling EU Identity
August 13, 2008   
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The Willa Decjusza (Villa Decius) conference center in Cracow was the setting for the seventh Visegrad Summer School July 6-19. Fifty young intellectuals, mostly from the Visegrad Group member states-although other neighboring countries were also represented-buried themselves in regional issues for two weeks.

Paweł Świeboda, from the DemosEuropa Center for European Strategy, opened the summer school with a lecture. This was followed by a debate on the future of the European Union moderated by Paul Gillespie, foreign editor of The Irish Times, with ambassadors and foreign ministry officials from the participants' home countries on the panel. The consensus that emerged was that the EU, as a political and economic entity, needs to be distinguished from Europe as a civilization, and that geography and value systems are distinct aspects of European identity that need to be differentiated.

The Visegrad Summer School continued its tradition of focusing on corporate responsibility and sustainable development, the main twist this year being the requirement of "carbon neutrality." The Aeris Futuro Foundation, whose mission is to offset carbon emissions by planting trees, was on hand to calculate the school's "carbon footprint" from the amount of paper used, energy consumed and so on. They estimated that 210 trees would have to be planted to compensate. The school participants therefore planted the requisite seedlings in the Babiogórski National Park, southern Poland, as part of the Foundation's "Time for Forest" project.

The Visegrad Group includes Poland, the current president, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. The alliance was originally set up to integrate the former Soviet satellites into the European Union and was named after the Hungarian town in which it was signed.

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