Cultural diversity – an essential European value
Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, said that cultural diversity was an essential value of the European Union, and explained that failure to accept the differences in histories and perspectives of European nations has always been the cause of the problems which were ruining Europe.
"Respect for cultural diversity is one of the pillars of our Union. I believe this is one of the main reasons why our process of integration has had such a huge power of attraction across the continent and beyond. The process of European integration can be described as a giant experiment in intercultural dialogue; as a successful attempt to turn our diversity into value," Vassiliou said.
The Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth said that she saw her invitation to speak in the 9th UNESCO Regional Summit of Heads of State of South East Europe as a sign of the increasingly recognised role played by culture and the arts in connecting people from different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The connections lead to a gradual, but strong process of reconstruction and reconciliation in different parts of the world and also in this South East European region, Vassiliou said.
"In the history of the European integration, Europe has been a cultural project since its very beginning. Indeed, building Europe has always meant integrating various histories, value systems, and world views," Vassiliou pointed out.
Opening up to diversity and respecting it is the precondition for the future, she said, and reminded that not accepting differences has always been at the root of the disgraces that ruined Europe in the past century.
Vasiliou says that the Creative Europe programme will facilitate the full participation of Western Balkans countries in cultural exchange and cooperation processes, encouraging the mobility of artists and other professionals in the field of culture, and strengthening mutual understanding and respect.
“In this regard, I am happy to announce that the Commission has proposed a budget increase of 37% for the future culture programme. We believe that this is a crucial time and a tremendous opportunity to really unleash the potential of our culture and contemporary creation,” Vassiliou highlighted.
In her words, it will generate jobs and growth, bring intellectual stimulation and fulfilment and reinforce mutual understanding across cultures in the region.
"I hope that we can continue to harness the potential of culture to replace the barriers that separate people with the bridges that unite them, so as to foster peaceful, stable societies in the greater Europe," Vassiliou concluded.
At the Summit in Viminacium the Heads of State of South East Europe adopted a Declaration on Contemporary Art and Reconciliation in the region, declaring that they remain fully committed to the ongoing processes of reconciliation in South-East Europe so as to jointly build a peaceful and prosperous European future of the entire region.
It is stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina will host the UNESCO Regional Heads of State Summit of South-East European countries in 2012, and that Macedonia has extended the invitation to host the 2013 Summit in Ohrid.