Conférence «Heritage for the Culture», sur la culture et le patrimoine

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Conférence «Heritage for the Culture», sur la culture et le patrimoine

Conférence «Heritage for the Culture», sur la culture et le patrimoine

Budapest, 25 novembre 2010

Ministers,

Mr Speaker, 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today in these inspiring surroundings. 

Inspiring, because we share this space with a set of magnificent statues representing the interplay of the forces that shape our world – Science, Power, Truth, Criticism, Faith and Charity.

Today, a century after these statues were made – a century of dramatic change and renewal – these forces inspire us as we shape Europe together.

We continue to face challenges. We are suffering the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. And this crisis is not only financial – it has left scars of unemployment, poverty and exclusion.

I am confident that we will overcome the challenge. But we need to work together in solidarity; share our resources, knowledge and cultures; and ensure that those on the margins of society are included, not abandoned.

The Commission's Europe 2020 strategy sets out a vision for the 21st century. It marks a path out of the crisis, through concerted action. We want a Europe driven by creativity and innovation, with high employment and inclusive communities, and drawing strength from its resources.

Your conference examines one of these resources: our cultural diversity.

Europe's mosaic of cultures and languages is one of its signature features – and one of its most precious assets.

Today, I would like to focus on why cultural diversity is such a powerful resource for the European Union. I also want to outline how the Commission helps Member States ensure that our cultural wealth continues to flourish.

As the Treaty says, our role is to support Member States, and through Community action, to bring our common cultural heritage to the fore. Our heritage is a Europe that is culturally rich and open, the sum of many parts, drawing on our different histories, traditions and languages. We are united in diversity, not in spite of our variety of cultures and languages, but because of it.

European integration is not merely a political construct. It is a collective – of institutions, ideas, customs, languages, memories and projects for the future – which draws Europeans together.

These are the foundations on which to build the shared European project. By respecting diversity, we acknowledge that we belong to a common space, where people meet as equals.

But cultural diversity may also be a cause of tension and social conflict. Especially at times of crisis, there is a temptation to withdraw one's trust. We must develop policies to manage diversity, as part of our responsibility to promote an open and inclusive society.

This is why intercultural dialogue is one of the long-term priorities of EU policy: to counter any tendency to retreat; to encourage positive contact between people; to strengthen fragile communities and individuals.

Europe's strong stand on anti-discrimination, enshrined in the Amsterdam Treaty, has helped us put in place many policies that aim to break cycles of disadvantage, to assert human dignity and to mount anti-discrimination campaigns.

The European institutions also contribute by creating platforms for mutual learning on how to deal with conflict, on how to negotiate differences while grasping the benefits of diversity.

We dedicated 2008 as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. Along with civil society and the Member States, we focused on raising people's awareness of developing an active European citizenship open to the world, respecting cultural diversity based on EU common values.

This year, we mark the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. It focuses on solidarity, giving a voice to people who are excluded, and helping remove stereotypes and stigmas attached to poverty. Including minorities and migrants in society is a central theme.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me spend a few moments on an issue that is crucial for Europe today – the inclusion of the Roma minority. Around 10 to 12 million Roma are EU citizens, and yet they live in poverty and marginalisation.

We must act together – Member States, regional and local authorities, the European Commission – and on many fronts at the same time. Education, employment and housing are just some of our priorities.

But success also needs trust between the Roma and the broader communities they live in. The wider community is often unaware of who the Roma really are, and how they see the majority population in turn.

We need to listen, to overcome stereotypes, and develop respect and dialogue. We should promote Roma culture as an integral part of Europe’s cultural mosaic: this is the best way to understand the way of life and perceptions of a community.

For this reason, the Commission and the Council of Europe will next year create an academic network on Romani studies, to underpin our policies with a firm knowledge basis.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have made intercultural dialogue a permanent priority in many Community programmes. Educating young people in the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect is the basis for any future dialogue among cultures.

The Lifelong Learning, Culture and Youth in Action programmes all help to bring people with different backgrounds together, to learn from and about each other.

We will continue to strengthen these initiatives, because it is these personal interactions that lead to mutual understanding.

As well as people-to-people exchanges, we fund many initiatives that help to create a European cultural space, so people can learn more about and appreciate the vibrancy and richness of Europe's cultures.

The Culture programme brings European values, culture and citizenship right down to the level of the individual citizen. Only the best projects are chosen – about 250 per year – which demonstrate a significant level of real European added value.

We also award some high-visibility European prizes for excellence in the arts, to keep the light of our cultural diversity shining – in architecture, for example; in cultural heritage; in music; and in literature.

Last year the Hungarian author, Szécsi Noémi, received the EU Prize for Literature for her novel 'Communist Monte Cristo'. We also helped fund its translation. In fact, the Culture Programme is probably one of the world's largest supporters of translation, bringing the wealth of Europe's literature, especially in less well-known languages, beyond national and linguistic borders.

We also, of course, provide funding support to all Europe's languages through our Lifelong Learning Programme, with a special emphasis on the less-used languages.

I am delighted that next year, under the Hungarian Presidency, we will be awarding prizes at a conference here in Budapest for a special project encouraging students to learn the languages of neighbouring countries.

Finally, the European Capital of Culture, which for 25 years has been rejuvenating many of our cities.

I don't need to tell you that this year, Pécs is a European Capital of Culture. Over time, the Capitals have become synonymous with regeneration: revitalising communities, restoring the social fabric of our cities, and renewing our cultural heritage.

Pécs is no exception, with plans to revive more than 70 public spaces in the city. I am pleased that all this has been underpinned by financial support from the EU Structural Funds for infrastructure measures such as the new highway connecting Pécs and Budapest.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Looking ahead to the coming six months of the Hungarian Presidency, I am delighted that last week the Council agreed the next work plan for Culture.

I look forward to working with the Member States on making further progress on cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and accessible and inclusive culture.

Allow me to finish by mentioning one initiative where we have already been working very closely with Hungary: creating a European Heritage Label. I believe this new label will soon enjoy the same renown and "brand" value as the European Capitals of Culture.

The European Heritage Label will highlight places that celebrate and symbolize European integration, ideals and history. The concept includes our intangible heritage: not only buildings or monuments but also places and ideas that have marked our journey.

The Label will give our citizens, especially our young people, the chance to learn about our common yet diverse cultural heritage; about the history and building of the European Union; and about the democratic values and human rights that underpin the process of European integration.

Hungary has played a leading role in turning the original heritage label concept from an intergovernmental into a European Union initiative. During its Presidency in 2011, Hungary will continue to play a decisive role, finalising the negotiations between the Member States, the European Parliament and the European Commission.

 

And on that note, I look forward very much to continuing our excellent cooperation.

 

Thank you.

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