Strasbourg was the scene of an amazing event last Friday and Saturday: l’Association Mistral Est’s fifth annual “Universal Dancers International Hip-Hop Dance Festival.” More than 2,000 cheering fans gathered on Friday night to watch as over 200 talented young hip-hop artists from France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Germany and the United States put on a dazzling and inspirational show. The U.S.A. was represented by four performers from the Las Vegas-based, national championship winning “Battle Born Crew”, and SUPER CR3W hip-hop sensation Ronnieboy was also on hand to act as a judge in the “battles” that took place on Saturday, the second day of the festival.
I was definitely one of the oldest people in the crowd on Friday night, and probably the only person in the house wearing a necktie! I was given the honor of opening the event with some brief welcoming remarks, and despite the enthusiastic and screaming reception I received from the fans, I wasn’t kidding myself! They just wanted to get the old guys out of the way so the show could begin! And they were not to be disappointed. The performers put on an incredibly exciting show.
As I explained in my remarks, despite my California roots I am definitely not an expert on things hip-hop. But if I were to try to find one word to describe the phenomenon that is hip-hop, it would be “diversity.” There was an incredible range of diversity on display, not only among the dancers themselves, but in the styles and ranges of dance moves displayed. Everything from acrobatic break-dancing street moves, to modern jazz, to classical ballet (although instead of pirouetting on toe, the dancers did so on their heads!) Surprisingly (to me) one of the most popular numbers was a commanding and powerful tour de force set to the music of Vivaldi – albeit a heart-pounding, Red Bull-fueled, club mix version! It was amazing!! What impressed me the most about all the performances, besides their athletic and artistic beauty, was the incredible dedication and determination required of all the performers. It was clear to this hip-hop novice that the young adults on the stage weren’t just goofing around and bustin’ some moves; they were there because they had spent hours and hours of hard work perfecting the music, the choreography, the costumes and the theatrical emotions that one finds in professional dance productions.
The outstanding performances and the great atmosphere of the event were further proof that art, culture, dance, and sport transcends borders, and that through these vehicles, people who come from different places or who speak different languages can share moments of joy and creativity together. It was clear that all of the nearly 2,500 spectators and participants at the festival shared the aspirations of hip-hop: “Stay Clean, Stay Consistent, Stay Creative, and HAVE FUN!”
The U.S. Consulate General in Strasbourg is extremely proud to have helped sponsor this great event, and we congratulate l’Association Mistral Est and all the performers and fans for such an incredibly fun and successful production.
Evan G. Reade
Cloudy skies and light rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of nearly 10,000 participants in the annual “Courses de Strasbourg Europe” series of events the morning of Sunday, May 12. Everyone was up bright and early to test their athletic abilities and endurance in one of a number of races: 5 km, 10 km, and semi-marathon. But this year was a bit different from races of years past, because today’s event was dedicated to the City of Boston and the victims of the April 15th terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon.
Why, you ask? Because Boston and Strasbourg are sister cities, and have been for over 50 years, during which time many ties of friendship and cooperation in a number of fields have been developed. When word of the attack in Boston reached France, the city of Strasbourg was the first to react with messages of condolence and support. And with today’s show of solidarity, the people of Strasbourg continue to demonstrate they stand side-by-side with the people of Boston and America.
Many of the runners wore “Honor Boston” tee-shirts or stickers. The city of Boston was represented in the semi-marathon by runner Elisabeth Duclos-Orsello, who thanked the crowd of over 2,400 for their support prior to the race. Mayor of Strasbourg Roland Ries and I both delivered brief remarks, and a minute of silence in honor of the victims was observed just before the starting gun was fired. The City of Strasbourg has committed to contribute one euro to Boston for each person who crosses the finish line, and l’Association Alsace Etats-Unis, led by its President Francis Hirn, was also soliciting contributions for Boston from race participants at the finish line.
I wish to thank the City of Strasbourg, l’Association Alsace Etats-Unis, the race organizers, all the participants, and all the people of Strasbourg for their continued support and friendship. Merci beaucoup!!!!
Consul General’s Remarks at Start of Strasbourg Semi-Marathon, May 12, 2013:
Good morning! On behalf of the Ambassador of the United States of America in Paris, the government and people of the United States, the City and citizens of Boston, and, above all, the victims of the April 15 attack and their families, I’d like to say one thing: thank you very much.
Immediately following the shocking and terrible attack of April 15, in France it was you, the city and people of Strasbourg, who reacted first with messages of condolence and support for the people of your sister city. Today, with this touching and strong gesture of solidarity, you continue to show that you stand side-by-side with the people of Boston and America.
To all the participants in today’s events, and to all the people of Strasbourg, when things become difficult, remember the words of President Obama: together “Yes We Can!” Together, you can finish this race today, and together we can triumph over the forces of violence and intolerance. Thank you again for your support to the victims of Boston and to America. Good luck!!
Evan G. Reade
Deputy Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe
(Photo: Council of Europe)
On April 15, 2013, the United States became the 59th full member of the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law, better known as the Venice Commission. Colombia Law School Professor Sarah Cleveland has been appointed as the U.S. member, and University of Oklahoma College of Law Professor Evelyn Aswad is the substitute member.
The Venice Commission was established in 1990 to assist new democracies in Eastern Europe to draft constitutions in line with European constitutional culture. The United States has been an observer member since 1991. Over the years, the Commission has become a highly respected and trusted independent organization, known for its expertise in identifying, developing, and promoting European legal standards for democratic institutions, human rights, electoral laws, and constitutional justice. Today, its opinions are sought not only in Europe, but also in the emerging democracies of North Africa and elsewhere.
The decision of the United States to seek full membership after many years participating as an observer represents a commitment to the use of rule of law to address all range of constitutional issues, and we look forward to making a positive contribution based on our own legal scholarship, experience, and expertise. The U.S. respects and appreciates the influential work the Commission has accomplished in Europe since its creation in 1990 and notes with satisfaction that in addition to its continued relevance in advancing democracy in Europe, its expertise is now being recognized and sought by countries outside Europe seeking to strengthen the rule of law in their systems of government. For more information on the Venice Commission, visit its web site at http://www.venice.coe.int
Evan G. Reade
U.S. Deputy Permanent Observer at the Council of Europe
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio: Leading the Way for Women’s Rights
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. As such, it is fitting to pay tribute to the many people who spend each day tirelessly working to improve the condition of women all around the world, in both developed and developing countries. One such leading figure is Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the recently retired Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and I’d like to dedicate our blog on this important day to her and all she’s done to advance the interests and rights of women in Europe and throughout the world.
For over 40 years, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio has been a committed and leading figure in the struggle to advance the rights of women and children. Following the completion of her university education (where her thesis was about equality between women and men) Maud launched her career in 1969 at the Council of Europe (COE), accepting a position as a staff lawyer at the COE’s European Court of Human Rights. She never looked back and eventually was elected to become the COE’s first female Deputy Secretary General, a position she was subsequently reelected to and served in for ten years. Throughout her career in a male-dominated legal and political environment, from her own workplace to the offices of senior politicians around the world she tirelessly reminded everyone that inequality and discrimination against women is the result of ignorance and arrogance, and that women have a key role to play in building peace and security. As Deputy Secretary General, she used her political power to help construct an architecture of international conventions to protect the rights of women and children. Through leadership, commitment and moral authority, she fought hard to make equality not merely a political statement, but a reality for women throughout Europe and beyond. And as the first female Deputy Registrar at the Court and as the first female Deputy Secretary General of the COE she has been a trailblazer and role model for women everywhere.
From the very beginning of her career, Maud’s focus has been on protecting the rights of those without a voice. As a young lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights she immediately became involved in the “interstate Greek case” fighting for the rights of traumatized women and others suffering under the rule of a military dictatorship. Her experience representing a pregnant woman who had been kicked down a police station staircase, losing her unborn child, seared into Maud what would become a lifelong commitment to challenging and eradicating all forms of violence against women and children. For the next twenty years she labored unceasingly for the rights of individuals who brought their cases, and their last hopes for redress, to the Court. In 1998, the Court underwent a major structural change, and Maud was elected by the Court to be its first female Deputy Registrar, a position which allowed her to help shape the priorities and operations of the Court as it moved into its modern era.
In 2002, recognizing her leadership skills and unshakeable commitment to the COE’s core values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, the COE’s Parliamentary Assembly (comprised of elected legislators from all the COE’s member states) elected Maud to become the COE’s first female Deputy Secretary General, the second highest position in the organization. It was at this point that Maud was able to begin to fully wield the political influence of the organization on behalf of the underrepresented. She dedicated her new political mandate to the service of the COE in general and to a number of carefully chosen causes, the protection of the rights of women and children being foremost among these.
Maud is profoundly convinced that empowering women is the best way to address the basic inequalities that lead to domestic violence, trafficking, and other human rights violations committed against women. But she also believes in making states bear their responsibilities to take positive action to protect people from these scourges, and set out to help construct a system of international conventions that would institutionalize and codify these responsibilities in a legally binding and enforceable manner.
According to COE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland (a former Prime Minister of Norway and current Chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee), Maud was a driving force behind the adoption of three major European treaties: the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, and, most recently, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. She played a crucial role in the negotiation processes and succeeded in securing key protection provisions in all three texts. She subsequently initiated intensive campaigns to promote signatures and ratifications by countries, which led to the speedy entry into force of the first two, while the third is well along.
In addition to spearheading these ground-breaking treaties, Maud has also launched a number of other campaigns on behalf of children’s rights, such as her creation and promotion of the program “Building a Europe for and with Children” and “One in Five.” She has also thrown her energy and influence into advancing the rights of Roma, actively supporting the creation of the first European Roma and Travellers Forum and the launching of Dosta!, an awareness-raising campaign which aims at stopping prejudices and stereotypes against Roma. She has played a leading role in shaping the COE’s views on Internet security and privacy rights, and is an active advocate on behalf of the rights of LGBT people. The Parliamentary Assembly reelected her for a second five year mandate as Deputy Secretary General in 2007.
For over forty years, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio has been a tireless champion for women, for children, and for others who have no voice, no power, or who have suffered oppression due to their gender, their ethnicity, their age, or their beliefs. Her term in office as Deputy Secretary General ended last year but we are certain she will continue to be a leading figure long into the future on behalf of women, children, and the underrepresented.
And so today, International Women’s Day, the U.S. Permanent Observer Mission to the Council of Europe would like to say “thank you” and “keep it up” to Maud de-Boer Buquicchio!
Evan G. Reade
U.S. Deputy Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe
When one thinks of Strasbourg, one thinks of international and European institutions: the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the European Court of Human Rights, and many other COE-related institutions that are based in this beautiful city. But did you know there is also an international/European military organization here, too? Eurocorps was established by the Rapport de La Rochelle 20 years ago in May 1992, as a “Force for the European Union and a Force for NATO”. Several months later it established its headquarters in Strasbourg. It is comprised of five framework nations: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Spain. In addition, it has four associated nations:
Greece, Italy, Poland, and Turkey. Plans are under discussion for the United States to join as an associated nation.
On January 31, 2013, Eurocorps celebrated the successful completion of its latest mission, a one year deployment to Afghanistan. During the past twelve months, over 300 Eurocorps officers and soldiers have served in Afghanistan helping to stabilize the country and train its security forces. And the Eurocorps Commander, French General Olivier de Bavinchove, for the past fifteen months has been the Chief of Staff of ISAF, which made him the third highest ranking officer in the coalition’s military forces in Afghanistan.
General de Bavinchove and his multi-national troops were welcomed home to Strasbourg in a solemn ceremony at the city’s famed Place Broglie by the French Minister for Veterans Affairs, the Mayor of Strasbourg, the Chiefs of Defense of many of the participating nations, the Afghan Ambassador to France, and numerous other military, diplomatic and civilian dignitaries. The ceremony was followed by a reception hosted by the Mayor at the Hotel d’Ville and a serenade performed by French and German military bands.
Eurocorps’ deployment to Afghanistan was its second to that country, and its sixth deployment overall, including missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. To where and when will it next deploy? That’s uncertain at this point, but what is for sure is that when it is next called upon, Eurocorps and its highly trained, experienced, and professional men and women will be up to the task.
Congratulations, Eurocorps, on a job well done! And welcome home!!
Evan G. Reade
Deputy Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe
For more information on the ceremony, please consult the website of Eurocorps: http://www.eurocorps.org/news_isaf.php?id_news=1641
The Christmas markets in Strasbourg and Alsace are over and gone; the ornaments are all packed away; and the house seems empty following the departure of family and friends. Another holiday season has come to an end, as has another year.
2012 was a big year for both France and the United States. Both countries held presidential elections, with France electing a new government and the United States reelecting President Obama. Both had great showings at the Summer Olympic games. And the world did not end in December, as predicted by some. But sadly, the year also saw its share of tragedy and loss, and ended on a very low note with the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut. France, too, experienced a similar outrage in Toulouse in 2012. We are sincerely grateful to all our friends and contacts for their heartfelt notes of sympathy and condolences. And while most of us around the world enjoyed peace and stability in our lives during 2012, many others continue to suffer economic hardship, any number of institutionalized injustices, hunger, disease and famine, and the terrible, irrational violence of war and ethnic conflict.
It sometimes seems as if the world is spinning out of control, and that solutions to our economic, political, and social problems seem farther away and harder to achieve than ever. It is all too easy to give up hope and say: “I’m just one, small person; what can I do to solve the world’s problems?” But lots of “one, small persons” working together CAN, perhaps, make a difference. Just ask those who have participated in and precipitated great change in several Middle Eastern and North African countries during the past two years. While the tumult continues, change HAS come, and it was made possible by many, raising their voices and acting as one.
So as you think about your New Year’s resolutions for 2013, how about choosing a cause that is important to you and taking some action? Write letters; pick up the phone; volunteer your time; talk to your friends; make a contribution; GET INVOLVED! It needn’t take much time, but many individuals, working together, to promote a cause they believe in can make a difference. This is, indeed, what democracy is all about. As is inscribed on the Great Seal of the United States: “E Pluribus Unum”.Don’t get me wrong! Personal resolutions are also great. So go ahead and resolve to quit smoking, lose weight, improve your French (or English!), or to spend more time with the family. But resolve, as well, to do something, just one little thing every day that will help make our world a better place for all.
Happy New Year. Let’s all work together to make it a great one!
Evan G. Reade
Deputy Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe
About the Author: Evan G. Reade is the U.S. Consul General in Strasbourg and the Deputy U.S. Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe.
In December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. As in years past, the Department of State, Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and U.S. Embassies around the world will be hosting events to commemorate this day and the accompanying 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. For more information on the State Department’s role and activities in protecting women and girls from violence, visit http://www.state.gov/s/gwi/index.htm. In August 2012, the U.S. released the first ever Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, accompanied by a Presidential Executive Order to implement the strategy.
But the U.S. is not alone in working to combat this scourge. Violence against women and girls is a serious violation of human rights that is widespread everywhere in the world, including in all Council of Europe member states. What has the Council of Europe been doing to counter this? It has been stridently addressing this phenomenon through various cooperation projects, action plans, and recommendations, which have culminated in the adoption of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, which was opened for signature in May 2011.
The Istanbul Convention is the first legally-binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women and domestic violence, and it terms of scope, the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights. It aims at zero tolerance for such violence and is a major step forward in making Europe – and beyond – a safer place. The Convention places a great importance on the role of national human rights institutions and civil society organizations, and requires states to offer a holistic response to violence against women and girls by involving all relevant actors, including national and regional parliaments, national human rights institutions, NGOs and civil society organizations, including faith-based organizations, when implementing comprehensive policies and conducting awareness-raising campaigns.
By accepting the Istanbul Convention, governments are obliged to change their laws, introduce practical measures, and allocate resources to effectively prevent and respond to violence against women and domestic violence. The Istanbul Convention makes it clear that any and all forms of violence against women and girls is unacceptable. Domestic violence can no longer be considered as a private matter to be hidden in homes or workplaces; states have an obligation to prevent violence, protect victims, and punish perpetrators.
The Istanbul Convention is currently being signed and ratified by Council of Europe members states, and is also open to accession by non-member states. It will enter into force once ten countries have ratified it, eight of which must be Council of Europe member states.
For more information on what the Council of Europe is doing to prevent violence against women, visit their web site at http://www.coe.int/conventionviolence. Together — with commitments and action from governments, regional bodies, civil society, the private sector, and communities — we can do more to end violence against women and girls.
Evan G. Reade