중앙데일리

Laying the foundation for Korea-EU free trade

July 16,2008
Karel Kovanda By Jeong Chi-ho
A senior technocrat from the European Union, Karel Kovanda, made his third visit to Korea last week to promote cooperation between Korea and the EU.

His title, deputy director general of the Directorate for External Relations of the European Commission, reflects the weighty responsibility of coordinating foreign relations for the EU’s extremely diverse and expanding community of nations.

During his three-day visit here on July 11 to 13, the 63-year-old official met with several high-ranking Korean leaders such as Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Mong-joon, Deputy Minister of Trade Ahn Ho-young and former Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, now a lawmaker from the Democratic Party.

Kovanda gave his views on the free trade agreement that Korea is negotiating with the EU in an interview with the JoongAng Daily.

“We have had seven rounds of negotiations so far,” he said. “We hope to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible.”

Kovanda said that harmonizing the two markets is not easy, but that an agreement will be reached because of its importance.

Having witnessed the enormous challenges member states went through in establishing the EU, Kovanda said he looks positively on a Northeast Asian version of the union.

“We like to encourage other countries also to create regional groupings,” he said.

“I really think that leaders of China, Korea and Japan and their citizens will find their own ways of moving their cooperation forward.”

As a speaker of English, Czech, Slovak, Spanish, French, Russian and German, Kovanda stresses the importance of learning foreign languages to students dreaming of working in international organizations.

“The second language is the most difficult, but the third one, the fourth, are not so difficult,” he said.

“I would say to young people who are interested in international relations that it is very important to study languages and very important to study history. The more general and more broad an education they have, the better the chance that they will manage to reach their dreams.”

Kovanda said he expects to meet the next Korean global leader very soon.

“I think [United Nations] Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is a great example of how successful Koreans can be on the world stage,” he said. “His main characteristic is that he is interested in serving.”

Lastly, the EU official did not forget to say Korean tourists and companies will always be welcome in his area of the world.

“We would like Korean people to know more about us. We invite them to come to visit more and more,” Kovanda said.

Born in 1944, the Czech national represents the European Commission at EU Council meetings to decide foreign and security policy directions for the union. He also manages the branch desks dealing with EU relations, including a technical office in North Korea.


By Park Sang-woo Staff Reporter [spark@joongang.co.kr]



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