The 25th Anniversary of the European Japan Experts Association (EJEA)
When 25 years ago, on November 4, 1995 some 40 experts and scholars from 11 countries met in the old building of the Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB) for a workshop on enhancing EU-Japan relations and to launch an association to foster this endeavor, none of them expected that the association, the EJEA, would still be active after a quarter of a century.
In 1995 the Special Exchange Program (SEP) expired, a program initiated 1989 and funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to foster academic and cultural relations between Japan and then (1989) Western European countries. SEP was administered by the JDZB. Amongst other activities the SEP funded research stays and projects in Japan, of roughly 280 European scholars from all faculties. The alumni of the program were the core group of the new association, other experts could join to promote „cooperation between European academics with experience in Japan or persons with an academic interest in Japan“ (EJEA Standing Rules). Roughly 120 people joined EJEA as members in the early years.
EJEA served as a tool for networking amongst European and Japanese experts and building ties with local academic, policy and business communities and European decision makers. The JDZB – where the association was managed – appreciated the expertise of the SEP alumni and the new members and involved them in its activities.
In the first years the association focused on the interrelation of ecology and economy under the auspices of Prof. Dr. Gesine Foljanty-Jost (Halle –Wittenberg University). After preparatory meetings in Brussels in 1996 a summer school for European and Japanese students was hold in Wittenberg with the support of the European Commission. In the following years EJEA hold conferences organised by a local partner and members of the association and funded by various supporting organisations in many European cities: Athens, Berlin, Graz, Milan, Naples, Pavia, Rhodes Island, Stockholm. EJEA also participated with a workshop in an international conference in Washington D.C.
Other purposes like a database of Japanese researchers in Europe, though approached twice did not meet with success, partly because of a lack of response and also because data and some technical means simply were not available when the issue was tackled.
Being an association with alumni of SEP at its root and not specialised on an academic field, naturally, the number of members declined over the years. Thus, EJEAs vision has been updated – see https://ejea.eu/.
EJEA still organises conferences and brings together experts; in the recent years, under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Dietrich Albert (Graz) in the context of the commemoration of bilateral diplomatic relations between European countries (Sweden in 2019, Austria in 2020) and Japan.
This year the Covid19 virus prevented an anniversary event and an envisaged first EJEA-conference in Japan.
EJEA still serves as a platform for networking!
May there always be committed people in the executive committee of the EJEA that find new or strengthen established ways to promote European-Japanese cooperation in the academic field. May they always be lucky in their decision making. And may other people join them in their endeavor.
Happy Birthday EJEA!