It is my great pleasure to welcome our honoured guests, ambassadors, practitioners, academics and graduates of the Asia-Pacific region to this second meeting of the European Union Studies Association - Asia Pacific. The National Centre for Research on Europe is delighted to host this event in conjunction with the European Union Studies Association - New Zealand, and the organisers would like to thank the European Commission for extensive funding to facilitate this meeting. It is opportune that the NCRE is hosting this event as in August 2004 the Centre was designated a "Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence", and it is events such as this regional conference that the Centre of Excellence concept is designed to promote.
The programme is intentionally inclusive while focussing on the conference theme of "Outside Looking In". Often European Integration can look distinctly different when viewed from afar, and it is the hope of this conference that such new perspectives can be generated.
A traditional aspect of EU studies conferences in New Zealand is the organisation of a "diplomatic roundtable". This year's round table on the theme of "the State of the EU in 2004" continues this tradition and is the eighth such round table organised by EUSA-NZ. An innovation in 2004 is the keynote speaker, the former Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald. The blend of practitioner and academic is the hallmark of both EUSA-NZ and the NCRE, and something I would encourage other Asia Pacific EUSAs to emulate in the future.
I wish you a thought-provoking conference and visit to Christchurch and I look forward with you to a stimulating three days.