The BELA Foundation was launched at a ceremony in Brussels at the Bavarian Representation on 27 November 2007 with the motto "New EUropeans at the Helm - Fresh Ideas for a Better Europe".
It featured speeches by Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament; Danuta Hübner, Member of the European Commission and Michal Hvorecký, a distinguished Slovak writer. Barbara-Maria Monheim explained how she came to set up the Foundation and to what extent hers decision was influenced by her own family history and personal experience. She stressed that the BELA Foundation is about fulfilling a personal dream and contributing to Europe's integration in the areas where it is most needed by encouraging the younger generation to show the leadership and vision that Europe needs to meet the challenges of the future.
The three keynote speeches also addressed the question of the challenges which lie ahead of the European Union and the role of the younger generation in addressing them. President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, said, "The BELA Foundation is not another think-tank; it is about uniting European people. It is time to build stable bridges and to develop new political ties between people from old and new member states". Commissioner Hübner reminded the audience that the young generation is still the most enthusiastic about European integration, "I expect the BELA Foundation to contribute greatly in involving young people to make Europe better prepared to face the future". "Three years after the accession to the EU of a number of Central and Eastern European countries, the NGO scene in that part of Europe is going through diffi cult times" said Michal Hvorecký, a young Slovak writer, author of the East-West novel "Eskorta". "The work of the BELA Foundation offers encouragement to all those who believe in strengthening civil society in that region".
"Our Foundation's goal is to create a strong network of young leaders in order to secure a common future for our continent", commented Barbara-Maria Monheim, who is also the President of the Foundation. They all also stressed that Europe has become more diverse than ever since the latest EU enlargement and therefore needs to establish strong ties to bring it together.
The activities of the Foundation will take place in Berlin and other European capitals.
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