Dear Chair of NEMO,

Dear Minister Obuljen,

Dear Mayor of the City of Rijeka,

Dear CEO of Rijeka 2020,

Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure for me to be with you today to open this annual conference and allow me to thank NEMO for their kind invitation, engagement and commitment.

Museums have an essential role in our societies: they preserve history and culture; they educate, entertain, and inspire. They are a source of unity, since they act as spaces for social interaction and reflection.

This has always been my conviction.

And thanks to NEMO, I recently had a unique experience which has reinforced it.

Participating in a political internship at the Muzeiko’s children museum in Sofia, allowed me to discover a new, hidden face of Museums. To have a first-hand experience of the behind the scenes operation of this museum.

It makes you realize how complex and at the same time comprehensive a Museum is. Through well-planned exhibitions and education programmes, museums address and raise awareness on key societal issues. They help visitors build their knowledge and understanding of complex matters.

So yes, I believe Museums make sense. And maybe this title that you have chosen for this conference is more timely than ever.  

We know that museums are facing unprecedented difficulties.

And I would like to congratulate NEMO for their report on the impact of COVID-19 on museums, and for maintaining a constant dialogue with the sector during the pandemic.

We see throughout Europe that many museums are forced to close again following a resurgence of the virus.

This conference is therefore very timely as it brings together European museum professionals to exchange information and good practices.

I would like to thank the organisers of the conference and the team of Rijeka 2020.

Rijeka 2020 is doing its best and showing its true strong spirit.

As you know before the summer we proposed that two ECOC 2020 are given the possibility to prolong their cultural programmes until April 2021

Despite the difficulties, Museums have also been part of the solution.

The NEMO survey shows how museums strengthened and increased their online activities, offering virtual tours and exhibitions and expanding their online collections, increasing their use of social media to maintain a connection with their audience.

By doing so, they contributed to the mental health and well-being of all of us.

Because the pandemic showed once more how relevant culture and cultural heritage are in our lives.

For all these great services to society, museums need and deserve our support.

On our side, this will continue notably via our instruments such as Erasmus+, Creative Europe and Horizon Europe.

You certainly heard the good news of last week. Thanks to the European Parliament, an additional financial support will come for these three programmes on top of their financial envelope.

For me it will be very important to create synergies among these three instruments.

And Museums – more than any other sector - are at the centre of the three: culture; education and research; contributing to the knowledge square.

I therefore count also on you to help us in creating synergies.

Beyond these instruments, museums will continue to benefit from funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

On the later, I would like to inform you of my current work with the Committee of the Regions.

Following a meeting with its President, we decided to establish a joint Action Plan for the next two years that will establish a list of 26 actions in four priority areas including specific actions on culture.

We will present it at the end of the month and I invite you to follow this closely especially because I see the potential of local and regional museums.

I would also invite you to work with us to turn our European Green Deal into a societal and cultural project, using this unique power that you have reaching everyone and engaging our citizens.

This will link perfectly with our New European Bauhaus initiative.  

There are still many uncertainties linked to the impact of the pandemic, but allow me to finish with an inspirational quote from the famous Irish Nobel prize-winning poet, Seamus Heaney:

“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere”.

Thank you.