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WOMEN’S CIRCLE FOR EUROPEAN FRIENDSHIP

FRASCATI CONGRESS – 20TH – 24TH SEPTEMBER, 2010

FRASCATI WOMEN’S CIRCLE FOR EUROPEAN FRIENDSHIP

PRESIDENT’S REPORT FOR CONGRESS 2010

Dear Fellow Presidents, Kind Delegates, Dear Friends,

The Maidenhead Congress held in 2004 concluded with the admission of the Salzburg Circle to our twinned Circles Association, with a new timetable for future exchanges and the honour and burden for the Circle of Frascati to organize the Meeting of the Presidents in 2007 and the Congress in 2010.

In 2005 the Frascati Circle celebrated its 40th anniversary and according to custom, offered hospitality (it was Maidenhead’s turn) to a representative of each of the other Circles. Likewise, Bad Godesberg offered Frascati its usual hospitality with generosity and warmth.  2005 was also the end of Mrs. Maria Fausta Roncoroni Chairmanship, a woman that played a strong and meaningful role for a long time.  Taking her place was extremely challenging and demanding: it needed to be inspired by her example and at the same time to uncover new paths.

Organising the exchanges among the twinned Circles was perhaps the easiest problem. The availability of our members, the luck of having an area so culturally rich  and  the famous Italian cuisine have all helped the cause and were all to our advantage. We were able to host members from Kortrijk, Salzburg, Saint Cloud and Bad Godesberg circles.  Sincere self-criticism has revealed that everything was not always perfect but in any case the spirit of friendship prevailed over the eventual shortcomings.  An example of this was the sincere friendship of the other Circles that helped me when, accepting their invitations, we went as guests and I had to act as a guide to my members, trying to represent as best I could the Frascati Circle, facing up to my lack of foreign language capabilities.

We were hosted by the Circles of Saint Cloud, Maidenhead, Kortrijk and Salzburg and each time we gained noticeable cultural and human enrichment. Hospitality, while being the concrete and explicit aim of our Circles, is not the only means to encourage friendship among the women of European countries though, and it doesn’t guarantee that our Circles will grow and endure in the future.

Meanwhile, the leadership of our Circle has recognized the problem, already proposed during the Roncoroni Presidency, of rewriting our Charter, which reveals its inadequacy and the necessity of facing external competition from other cultural associations.  These other groups have arisen in considerable numbers in Frascati in recent years, have proved extremely competitive in organising entertainment, trips and excursions… taking into consideration the limits of our local area and the lack of women with free time and willing to assume obligations.

As part of our own obligations towards the other Circles, there remained the organization of the Presidents’ meeting in 2007 and the Congress for this year 2010. In our renewed Committee many new Counsellors were elected, less tied to routine, who had the ability to see things with a different, innovative approach and perspective.  I must say they were of great help to me and to all of them I can only extend my warmest thanks. I urge everyone never to fear change, rather, appreciate it.

The Charter - Rewriting it meant to redesign the identity of our Circle, in addition to laying down the rules for its functioning and adjusting it to the Italian legislation now in force. The first step was to take advantage of the meeting with the Presidents, to compare our proposed Charter with those of the other Circles.  During this event we discovered that St. Cloud, Maidenhead and Bad Godesberg had also recently taken steps to revise their own Charters, and that the necessity of changing was a “common requirement”. We confess to have worked on this project for almost two years: many drafts have been written and subsequently discarded, but now we are all proud of the final version. You will find a copy of which in your folder.

Competition with Other Cultural Associations - Our first impulse was to face competition by organising trips, excursions, cultural visits and other forms of entertainment. This was an exercise with no guarantee of success, in as much as the area of competition doesn't cover the limited area of the Castelli Romani , but all of Italy. You need only to glance at any specialised newspaper or magazine to find a vast number of inviting offerings, both in quality and economic convenience. Aware of this situation, we therefore decided it would be more worthwhile to concentrate on what made our Circle different from other Associations, something which has already been defined by the name of our organization "'Women's Circle for European Friendship"". It would be sufficient to model our program in harmony with its three components: Women, Friendship and Europe. Therefore we have increased our number of meetings, to include three significant dates: March 8th, the "Women's Day"; May 9th, the "European Day"; and September 23rd , the "Friendship Day".

Regarding March 8th "Women's Day" it should be remembered that the European Union, ever since its inception, has focused upon issues regarding the plight of women, such as the promotion of equal opportunities as one of its highest political priorities. In 2007, we visited in the nearby town of Ariccia “Palazzo Chigi”, the home of an historic noble Italian family and we focused our attention on the portraits and the role played  in ancient times by the Chigi women. In 2008 we went on a trip to Arpino, to admire an exhibition of portraits dedicated to the "Women of Ciociaria", who for their noted beauty were often requested as models by artists who came from all over Europe to Lazio for the "Grand Tour". In 2009 we met with a group of women in nearby Zagarolo who had founded a laboratory where, in order to revive the antique methods of weaving, sewing and embroidering, they are trying to maintain the local ancient traditions.  Furthermore, this year we have visited an exhibition of clothing created by Roberto Capucci, a great Italian designer, held in Orsini castle in Bracciano. It was explicit in pointing out how fashion, so capable of seducing women while expressing that fleeting moment which creates and then destroys itself, can become art and therefore renders itself eternal.  The title of one of the creations was: " The Fall of the Berlin Wall"!!!

"Friendship Day" was organized in order to draw attention to many foreign women (mostly European) who live in Frascati and in the surrounding area, some of whom are employed directly or through their husbands in the many international Research Institutions existing in the area. Since this year date of the festival falls during the Congress, we shall celebrate it all together, and being recent event (it was first organised 4 years ago) and open to improvement, your suggestions to make it better will be most welcome.

"European Day" I shall leave this point for discussion last, as it deserves deeper examination on form and aims, having given us the directions to our annual programs.  When in 2006 we were hosted by Saint Cloud, the then President Juliane Boccali asked us how we had celebrated "European Day" on May 9th.  Embarrassed and surprised we had to admit that no celebrations had occurred.  This question clearly pointed out an oversight on our part.  Among the documents of the Maidenhead Congress there is a note by Juliane in this regard that complains about the lack of attention given to this day. As a consequence of this, in 2007, we organized together with the local Administration the 1st edition of the "European Day". Every Circle should ponder on this question: "Our Association of Twinned Circles" was born when the European Community    was comprised of only 6 Member States; today there are 27. How can we extend ourselves to the other European Nations?  Attempts to twin with Circles from other Countries have been tried, but so far this aim has been far from our possibilities.

Meanwhile, the Frascati Circle has dedicated itself to increase its knowledge of these other Nations through cultural approaches and visits. October 2006 was the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Hungary by the Russian army, one of the painful pages in our history.  Hungary recently entered the European Union so we could dedicate the  "European Day" to Hungary, with a recital of Hungarian poetry and music and a visit to that country. As a consequence of the enthusiastic approval we met, our Committee has decided to continue on this guide line for the future, dedicating each year to acquaint ourselves with a new European nation, chosen to coincide with an historic anniversary or following the indication of the European Council which nominates the "European Capitals of Culture".

Following Hungary (2007), we programmed in 2008 Norway (Stavanger, European Capital of Culture), in 2009 Berlin (Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall), and this year Istanbul, the European Capital of Culture for 2010. In order to heighten our knowledge of these areas, we contacted their respected Cultural Academies located in Rome, organized conferences, and, in the last two years we also projected numerous films of pertinent significance.  For example, about Berlin we saw "Goodbye Lenin", ""Das Leben der Anderen", and  "Der Himmel über Berlin". This year we watched a total of six films, produced by Turkish directors and/or offering a portrait of Turkey.  These films, preceded by an introductory comment of our Vice President for Internal Affairs, Mrs. Luisa Mastrofrancesco, allowed us to share vivid emotions and impressions. On the celebration of ” European Day “ we saw the film "Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul", which permitted our Vice President for International Affairs, Mrs. Agnese Nobiloni, to hold a discussion on walls to demolish and bridges to build...between people and nations.

We did not, however, abandon the usual meetings held in previous years (4 events per month). There were guided visits to Rome, short trips in Italy, visits to art exhibitions, participation in theatrical events, searching always the contact points between culture and the desire to be there, where "the heart of Europe beats". This year the City of Florence organised "Blue Night", to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the declaration of Robert Schuman, and several of our members participated in the events held in that city. Among the many art exhibitions displayed in Italy, we preferred the one entitled "Diffusion of Impressionism in Eastern European Countries", organized at Villa Manin, Udine.  With the same spirit, we visited Trieste, because, being a border city, three distinct cultures flourished within its boundaries: Italian, Austro-Hungarian and Slavic.

There exists a widespread opinion, favored by the media, that the European Union runs hand in hand with the European Economy, that it is limited therefore by its economic wealth. Instead, we feel that the objectives of the European Union are much more significant: Moving towards unity by protecting differences, because in no place in the world exists such a variety of cultures, so concentrated in such a small area as we have in Europe. This is the challenge to be met by the European Union, for itself, and for all humanity. As members of the various twinned Circles for European Friendship we can and must feel involved in this challenge.

Vincenza Reali Rufo, President

Translation by CFAE Frascati

 


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