Conference of the European Ministers of Culture - 20 - 22 October 2003 - Opatija, Croatie 

(To be checked against delivered speech)

Address by Andreja Rihter, Minister of Culture of Slovenia

Opatija, 21 October 2003

Working session 2: Diversity and Dialogue
Cultural policy and culture of minorities

Some theoreticians refer to a possible tension between the individual's human rights and collective cultural rights, and add that this tension can be attributed to the existence of two paradigms: the paradigm of cultural diversity and the paradigm of multiculturalism. The aim of my contribution is to highlight this tension and clarify some details that should be taken into consideration when we speak about modern cultural policies towards minorities.

Human rights are closer to cultural diversity, while cultural rights come nearer to the multicultural paradigm. The development of civilisation is oriented towards the implementation of human rights, which are becoming the moral standard of the modern time, and the question that is being raised is: how to exercise the individual identity and overcome the still present collectivity pressures on the individual's rights. On the other hand, the right to be different is a fundamental human right and the question is also: how to make it possible for an individual member of a minority to feel at ease about being different from the majority in a certain society?

The policy of multiculturalism is based on taking into account collectivities in their co-existence. Slovenia, for example, recognizes that autochthonous minorities, the Hungarian and the Italian, have the character of a collective subject and thereby the status of an autonomous community, similar to local communities. This policy is based on the knowledge that, in the first place, a collectivity has to be recognized, in order for its individual members to feel safe enough to exercise their identity. In this manner, their particular ethics could help them realize universal ethics, meaning human rights. The problem of such protection of collective subjects is that it might result in poorer protection of human rights, as individuals often subject themselves to collective values even at the price of their own individuality. Sometimes collectivities may have coercive power and do not leave the individual enough choice. The danger is that they subdue their members to such an extent that they lose their right of choice. In this sense it is wise to distinguish between the civic and the ethnic identity, whereby the first is chosen, and the latter is, as a rule, given by birth.

In today's society, interculturalism that is typical of open social systems, is becoming ever more topical.

Interculturalism implies the interaction of different cultural patterns, offers a new synthesis, and is thus a superstructuring of multiculturalism and mere coexistence. This new quality encourages creativity. However, due to objective obstacles and problems associated with education costs, lack of human resources, barriers to socialisation, stereotypes etc., such a state cannot easily be achieved through socialisation. Inappropriate circumstances can lead to hermetic cultural subsystems that are not ready to accept each other. This is why the policy of multiculturalism should also entail the search for optimum solutions within realistic possibilities, while taking into consideration the current conditions of cultures.

Most importantly, one also has to take into account the opportunities offered by the new communication technology. In the past, the territorial autonomy of minorities was in the foreground, while today it can be replaced by functional autonomy. If different associations for example the associations of Macedonians or Bosnians in Slovenia have new technologies at their disposal, they can implement the vision of collective autonomy despite dispersion. All this makes it possible for the individuals to exercise their rights wherever they may live. In this way, we are outgrowing the correlation between cultural identity and a certain territory, and thereby autochthonism. In such circumstances, a person can freely choose his/her cultural identity.

In comparison to multiculturalism, the notion of cultural diversity, meaning the diversity of cultural identities, is no longer related to the cultural identity of collectivities, but is associated with the cultural identity of a free, individual human being.

Allow me to sum up: the cornerstone of modern society is the individual with his/her own identity. In the end, however, the individual human being is still above all collectivities. Let us hence proceed from multiculturalism to cultural diversity.

In this sense, the Slovene cultural policy towards minorities is becoming increasingly democratic. It is oriented towards creating conditions for cultural diversity, and equal opportunities for participation in cultural life by all people, regardless of their cultural identity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I have given you quite a few starting points for your reflections and at the same time I would like to thank you very much for your attention.