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

Opatija Declaration encourages “discovery of the Other”

Apart from its content, the “Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict-prevention”, unanimously adopted at the end of the Opatija Conference, reflects the determination of all the Culture Ministers to discharge their new responsibilities in this area fully. Governments everywhere must become aware of the important part which cultural policy can play in preventing conflicts. This was the point made by the Ministers, who see the Council of Europe as the ideal forum for that purpose. They emphasise that the Council is the only international structure with the capacity to co-ordinate these efforts today, and hope that it will develop its partnership with all those active in culture even further.

In addition to its preventive function in areas of tension, the Ministers pointed out that intercultural dialogue helps to encourage understanding and “discovery of the Other”: “learning diversity” opens people’s eyes to the world outside, and implies new ways of seeing. And acquiring a “culture of culture” also helps European countries to affirm their own rich and multi-faceted identities in the world at large.

The Opatija Declaration details the Ministers’ intentions and indicates ways of realising them. Among other things, it proposes the holding of annual “intercultural forums” to assess “good practices” in intercultural co-operation, and propose and develop new initiatives in that area. The first forum will be held in Sarajevo in December, and will focus on ways of eliminating cultural stereotypes. The Conference also decided that other cities and towns involved in intercultural co-operation should be brought together within a “European network of divided towns”. Thus, cities as different as Belfast, Nicosia, Narva/Ivangorod, Uzhgorod and Mitrovica will report on their experience and projects many of which have already helped to remove antagonism between their inhabitants.