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The question of European unity

European diplomats and experts break down the case for the European Union, and whether unity is truly a part of the continent’s future. Morgan M Davis sums up the debate at a club lunch last November.

The question of European unity, and the power of the European Union (EU), has been greatly debated following Britain’s precipitous exit in 2020. Now the purpose of the EU and its ability to maintain stability in Europe is again in question, as Ukraine fights for its existence.

“The EU is not a state… it is in-between,” says Stefan Auer, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong. “That in-betweenness has worked very well for decades. [But] in times of crisis, the EU has not worked well.”

Auer argues that the EU is not fit for purpose because no one knows what its purpose is, something that leads to cataclysmic results when lives are on the line, such as they are in Ukraine.

But others countered that the EU can offer compromise in the face of conflict.

“Of course the EU is not a nation state. There is no problem with that,” says Stefan Bredohl, deputy consul general for Germany’s Federal Foreign Office in Hong Kong.

“As I grew up and I followed political debates… I knew that all of this was difficult,” says Bredohl. But “we always have to figure out and make a compromise”.

Despite political conflicts, agreements have been reached, says Thomas Gnocchi, head of the EU office to Hong Kong and Macau. Gnocchi believes there has been a high degree of unity in the response to the Ukraine situation. “If there wasn’t unity or a sense of purpose, I don’t think we could have mobilised,” he says, referencing the EU’s support for Ukraine thus far.

Likewise, the EU’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, its first major health crisis, shows its adaptability. “This should be underlined when it comes to talking about if countries achieve more when they come together,” says Gnocchi.

But the EU is often criticised for its cumbersome bureaucracy, which drags out difficult decisions, and highlights the schisms that have long rankled Europeans.

“From where I stand, the EU has not delivered on its many promises, and that is a liability for democracy in Europe,” says Auer. What works well for the EU in times of peace hinders it when conflicts arise.

“The idea that you can accomplish peace through conversation is what led to the disaster that Ukrainians now suffer,” says Auer.

Part of the EU’s value is its ability to hand more power to small or medium-sized states that otherwise could fall by the wayside in international discussion. “We do not play a big part in international relations on a global scale, but as part of the EU we can and do play this role,” says Aleksander Dańda, consul general for the Republic of Poland in Hong Kong and Macau.

Dańda points out that the EU is strongly supported in Poland, citing a study from February 2022 that found 82 percent of Poles were in favour. He has faith in the EU’s ability to come together despite clear differences among member states.

Still, Dańda cautions that the EU must not patronise countries such as his, as there is no true union without central Europe or a voice for smaller nations. Polish resentment toward the EU could easily build “if we only have to sit and listen but are not listened to”, says Dańda.

For the time being, Ukraine and the EU’s approach to dealing with Russian aggression has outweighed most other concerns in the region. But other underlying problems are simmering, with the related energy crisis topping the list. How the EU responds to these problems, and whether it can hold its member states together, is still up for debate.

Rhapsody in Bert’s

Bert’s has hosted many a diverse gathering over the years, but one Saturday last November it was the venue for the first time for two training courses about mental health, led by the charity Mind Hong Kong, write Kuma Chow and Olivia Parker.

A survey by The Correspondent (see the October 2022 issue) found that journalists in Hong Kong are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety and PTSD at significantly higher levels than the rest of the population. Members of the profession made up a large part of the 30-strong audience at these engaging sessions, with some of the personal stories highlighting just how prominent mental health issues are in many people’s lives.

“This is not just an occasional occurrence,” said Dr Hannah Sugarman, a clinical psychologist and a lead clinical advisor for Mind Hong Kong, who ran the English- language session.

It’s completely normal to hover at the “struggling” end of the mental health spectrum for short periods of time, she explained. “Having negative emotions makes you human, not defective.”

Common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, however, are distinguishable from occasional low moods or jitters by the length and severity of symptoms. If you feel that you can’t get on with your life in the way you want to because of these symptoms, that’s when it’s worth seeking help, she said.

Henry Chan, training manager at Mind Hong Kong, who led the Cantonese-language session, said the long working hours and emphasis on perfectionism in some Asian cultures have contributed to stress levels among Hong Kong’s population. He suggested we try to get more in tune with the different stressors in our lives, which could have a combination of biological, social and psychological roots, and keep an eye on whether our chosen coping strategies are releasing stress or creating new problems.

Getting professional help is not always straightforward in Hong Kong, where shortages of public sector psychiatrists can mean waiting up to 94 weeks to get help. (The wait times for urgent cases are much shorter, Dr Sugarman noted.) Adding to the problem is a lack of awareness about mental health conditions and support, including among GPs, and the fact that mental health support is rarely covered by insurance policies. Other barriers are caused by language; and stigma about mental health conditions, which is still heavily felt in Hong Kong.

Help is available, however, said Dr Sugarman. Mind Hong Kong’s community directory, which lists more than 60 free to low-cost services provided by NGOs in Hong Kong, is a good place to start. And even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing, staying connected with anyone who you suspect might be struggling could help their mental health in very significant ways.

Mind Hong Kong’s training courses:

Members Movements: January 2023

New Members


  • Danai Howard, Digital Production Editor, South China Morning Post
  • Jarrod Watt, Specialist Digital Editor, South China Morning Post
  • Laura Westbrook, Correspondent, South China Morning Post


  • Geoffrey Blowers, Professor (Faculty of Social Sciences), UOW College Hong Kong
  • Chiang Hsin, Executive Director, Goldman Sachs (Asia)
  • Chiu Yeung, Executive Director, L&D Consultants Incorporation
  • David Chou Tse Young, Self-Employed
  • Derryl D’Silva, Head of Resource Management, Bank for International Settlements
  • Ernest Dodoo, Neurosurgeon, Hospital Authority
  • Simon Goddard, Global Deputy Head of Investigation, Prudential PLC
  • Sean Hung, Golf Professional, Pacific Pine Sports
  • Nichola Irwin, Doctor, Optimal Family Health
  • Vincent Li, Valuer, Colliers
  • Liu Ho Yuen, Senior Manager, Pricewaterhouse Cooper
  • Howard Liu, Risk Consulting Associate, The Risk Advisory Group
  • Martin Lo, Associate, Vivien Chan & Co
  • Jonathan Macey, hairman & Founder, Macey & Sons Auctioneers and Valuers
  • Thomas Macey, Partner, Cask Master
  • Fernando Rys, Director, Innoin
  • Nicholas Tam, Legal Manager, Ogier
  • Aldrich Victorino, Business Development Director, Dynasty Enterprise (Asia)


  • Clay Adler, Diplomat, Consulate General of the United States of America
  • David Lie, HM Honorary Consul, The Honorary Consul of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • Laurence Vandewalle, Deputy Head, European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao

Membership Replacements


  • Sapphire Le Sage, Consul (Political & Communications), British Consulate General
  • Alastair Stewart McEachern, Diplomat, Australian Consulate-General Hong Kong
  • Christine Elizabeth Meyer, Diplomat, Consulate General of the United States of America
  • Timo Kantola, Consul General, Consulate General of Finland
  • Zhang Tao, Bank for International Settlements, Chief representative



  • Matthew Brooker, Columnist, Bloomberg
  • Elizabeth Anne Lucy Colback, Freelance
  • Jennifer Huang, Freelance
  • Jennifer Hughes, Asia Columnist, Thomson Reuters
  • Huh Dong Hyuck, Reporter, New Daily Korea
  • Tripti Lahiri, Asia Bureau Chief, Quartz Atlantic Media
  • Joseph Leahy, Asian News Editor, Financial Times
  • Natalie Koh Sui Li, Acting Managing Editor, Haymarket
  • Emiri Yamamoto, Head of Asia TV, Bloomberg


  • Andrew Shuen Pak Man, Presenter, YouTube SPM Channel
  • Wong Yee Wai, Freelance


  • Carolyn Barwick, Retired
  • Daniel Chinoy, Self-employed
  • Ellen Coetzee, Wine Manager, Dairy Farm Company
  • Neil Donovan, Head of Department, Singapore International School
  • Jonathan Garner, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Asia
  • Vijay Kumar Valiram Harjani, Retired
  • Ashley Howlett, General Counsel and Legal Director, Gammon Construction
  • Catherine Morris, Client Partner/Program Manager, Menrva Group
  • Ivy Ng Wing Yee, Director, DAKA Fine Wines
  • Leon Price, Chairman, Dragon Racing International
  • Jacinta Reddan, Chief Executive, Australian Chamber of Commerce
  • Kaushik Roy, SHEQ Manager, Mitsui OSK Lines
  • Divya Sahney, Founder, Hi Didi
  • Mona Shroff, Director, Mona Shroff Jewellery
  • William Stork, Contributing Editor, Yale International Alliance
  • Tsang Meiling, Economics Teacher and IA Coordinator, Dulwich International High School Suzhou John B Wilson, Director (Technical), SCB Management Consulting Services
  • Bruce Yung Pak Keung, Self-employed



  • Michael Duckworth, Publisher, Hong Kong University Press


  • Enid Tsui, Arts Editor, South China Morning Post
  • Owen Fung Heung Wang, Reporter, TVB Pearl
  • Mark Graham, Proprietor, Mark Graham Associates


  • David Cain, Executive Managing Director, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions
  • Maxwell Cooke, CEO, Lauren Richards HK
  • Philip Eisenbeiss, Partner, Executive Access
  • Antony E Keenan, Retired
  • Justin Li Chun Hin, Self-employed
  • Christopher Morley, Partner, Morley Chow Seto
  • Nigel Raymont, Coaching & Training Consultant, N Consulting
  • Brett Rohrsheim, Self-employed
  • Shalean Sen, Director, Mobius Advice
  • Michael Tomordy, Managing Director, Engage Asia
  • Alexander Williams, Chairman, Wogen Pacific



  • Raymond Barrett, Editor-in-Chief Insurance, Asia News
  • Ryan Brooks, Senior Producer, Thomson Reuters
  • Richard Dowell, Asia Editor, Wall Street Journal
  • Paul Geitner, Editor, Bloomberg
  • Ravi Mattu, Deputy Asia News Editor, Financial Times
  • Filipe De Souza Azambuja Pacheco, Reporter, Bloomberg
  • Catherine Rice, TV News Journalist, Worldwide TV News
  • Matthieu Jean Joseph Verrier, Journalist, Urban Utopia (France)
  • Thomas Walker, Freelance


  • Alberto Aliverti, Director, Sailetto China
  • Colin Bennett, Managing Director, Kaplink
  • John Berry, Business Development Director, Asia Plantation Capital
  • Audrey Campbell-Moffat, Judge, Court of First Instance
  • Jay Chen, Director, Golden Holdings
  • Catherine Cheung Ka Yin, Chief Operating Officer, Tybourne Capital Management
  • Peter Goulston, Vice President, Fox-Pitt Kelton
  • Charles Scheyd, CEO, FJS Consultants

Category Changes

Associate to Silver Associate 

  • Connie Leung Bolland, Chief Economist, Economic Research Analysis

Correspondent to Associate

  • Michael Duckworth, Publisher, Hong Kong University Press

The Correspondent, January – March 2023

The January 2023 issue of the magazine leads with a wide-ranging report on Hong Kong’s environmental state of health, backed up by a dispatch from one of Cambodia’s foremost correspondents, interviews with the trio of new Clare Hollingworth Fellows, and a clutch of book reviews that encompass the pitfalls of the Joint Declaration and the tale of a (fictional) swashbuckling Gurkha officer.

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