Conférence des Ministres européens responsables des Affaires culturelles - 20 - 22 octobre 2003 - Opatija, Croatie 

(Version anglaise)

(Seul le texte prononcé fait foi)

Discours du Prof. Dr. Safet Halilović, Ministre des Affaires civiles, Gouvernement de la Bosnie Herzégovine

Minister Theodorescu,
Your Excellencies,
Participants in the Ministerial Conference,

On behalf of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I would like to extend a profound gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Croatia, Minister Vujić and his collaborators, the Council of Europe and the Committee of Directors of the Council of Europe, for the outstanding organization of this Conference and their hospitality here in Opatija, the centre of Mediterranean culture and dialogue.

I would like to express my firm support to the creation of the new role of European Ministers responsible for cultural affairs, in initiating intercultural dialogue and supporting cultural diversity. Bosnia and Herzgovina has its roots in the culture of diversity and open intercultural dialogue, which is evident even in this post-conflict period and the period of transition.

Its existence during the recent and current conflicts in the country has been assured thanks to the specific features of Bosnian culture and the way of living based on intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Bosnia and Herzegovina shares the ideas of the Council of Europe expressed in the Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention, acknowledging the importance of the (de)construction of stereotypes and the reconstruction of Europe’s basic values, upon which the reintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Europe should be built.

On behalf of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I would like to point out the importance of cultural policy in our country, especially bearing in mind the role of civil society and European citizenship in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention of the Council of Europe opens up new possibilities for the cooperation of scientists, cultural institutions and artists working together on intercultural dialogue.

For that reason, we are particularly interested in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention in Sarajevo, through the “European Intercultural City of the Council of Europe” project titled “Europe in Dialogue”. Through this project, we wish to make our contribution to tolerance, democracy and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. After all, we are bound by our cultural and historical heritage, as well as by the richness of cultural diversity which makes both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Europe a challenge in the modern world.

What makes Sarajevo, the host of the First Intercultural Forum to be held in December this year titled ”(De)constructing Stereotypes and Reconstructing Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue”, recognizable, is the coexistence of culture and religions of the world? On behalf of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as on behalf of co-organizers, we invite you to take part in this forum and the projects which will be realized during the “Europe in Dialogue” year in Sarajevo and BH. Acknowledging diversity, differences and otherness is in direct correlation with the authentic intercultural, interreligious dialogue, as a part of which Bosnia and Herzegovina goes through different processes of political, economic, social and cultural conflicts.

However, different identities and the crossroads of cultures, civilizations and religions of the world, of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, make the cooperation with Europe and the world possible and provides for solutions relevant for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the world.

The history of dialogue in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Europe can be understood through the history of conflicts and wars. On European territory, especially the territory of South-East Europe, there is a tradition of dialogue which opposes the deconstruction, the process in which social and cultural actors play a crucial role. The experience of the previous years, especially in the last decade, testify about the need to establish the intercultural dialogue, thus opposing to deconstruction, as well as to establish the function of conflict prevention.

In the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Europe experienced the lack of dialogue, and, at the same time, politics and the stereotypes about the history of the Balkans, have not only failed to provide solutions, but they have created new conflicts and misunderstandings.

Bosnia and Herzegovina particularly supports the Council of Europe’s Declaration on Cultural Diversity, as the result of a need to continue the processes of rapprochement and understanding between European citizens and cultures initiated by the Council of Europe’s European Cultural Convention, in order to find solutions and prevent xenophobia, claustrophobia, as well as all forms of conflicts between different societies, but also as a result of a need of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the besieged Sarajevo and other BH towns to experience the real power of democratic and civil society, with respect to inalienable right to define and choose one’s identity. In our experience, cultural diversity is a basic tool for conflict prevention, as well as for the prevention of hatred and complete deconstruction of relations between people and nations. The freedom of expression which respects basic European cultural values creates conditions for placing dialogue and cultural diversity in the function of social cohesion in different countries, regions, Europe and the world, under worst conditions. The issue of sustainability of cultural diversity is in the centre of every dialogue in the society which is faced with the problems of violence and deconstruction.

The proof for this is a current process of the reconstruction of cultural, historical and religious buildings which have been destroyed as a consequence of nationalism, exclusion, hatred, and failure to recognize differences and otherness. Cultural policy must be oriented towards understanding, mutual recognition, protection and development of civil society, as well as full equality and respect for cultural identities in the process of the construction of the new Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is based on the culture of diversity and permanent dialogue, so that diversity cannot be the reason for the exclusion and the limitation to cultural identities of the majority and the minority, but it encourages individuals and societies to take part in the processes of the exchange and recognition of different cultural identities and values. Promoting democracy and new cultural policy, intercultural and interreligious dialogue play a particularly important role in promoting the interests of the European Community.

It is beyond doubt that the equality of cultures, heterogeneity, as well as the reconstruction of dialogue provide the solution for every closed society and mutually isolated cultural identities. We need to point out the immense importance of local communities and media in this process.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is building new relations and new approaches in a time when the function of the state power is being strengthened. At the same time, Bosnia and Herzegovina is being decentralized, which is especially evident in the fields of education and culture. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country which is facing huge economic and post-conflict problems in social sphere, together with unemployment and poverty.

At the same time, there is a process of the reintegration of the country in the framework of European standards. Bosnia and Herzegovina is especially interested in developing European cultural cooperation, as well as the cooperation with other cultures and civilizations, since this is the way to preserve the authentic dialogue between the cultures and religions of the world.All changes in international political, economic and global processes are directly reflected on Bosnia and Herzegovina, since it belongs with all its being to European and Mediterranean heritage, but also to the heritage of the world, where the recognition of the Different and the Other is the basic principle of our existence. For Bosnia and Herzegovina, to think Europe means to think the Europe free of stereotypes, one such stereotype being the division West Europe West Balkans.

It is therefore our belief that the active role of the Governments, especially the ministries of culture is of crucial importance for the reorganization of European society and the building of permanent peace in Europe. Building the relations in modern Europe, Bosnia and Herzegovina recognizes and identifies the problems related to conflicts not as the religions of the world, but as the result of a policy oriented against the recognition of the culture of diversity and dialogue. The violence over the culture of the Other and otherness results in a violence over one’s own cultural identity as well. It is therefore extremely important not to build the society which will all be together without the essence, subdued to cultural models, but the society which will celebrate the diversity of cultures, identities and civilizations, and the society which recognized multiple identities.

I would like to draw a special attention to the importance of obtaining the knowledge about cultures, civilisations and religions, which makes the way of living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recently, this has penetrated even the educational system. Learning about the Other means preparing oneself for the new European constitution and for the challenges of the new area. The educational system and the art represent two fundamental structures upon which every modern society builds free and democratic community, a community where culture and civil society would be not only recognised, but also a part of good social practice and social behaviour where new scientific and technical inventions would provide the culture of diversities and intercultural dialogue with new meanings and the new strength for imagination and creativity, as well as for the realisation of cultural rights of individuals and communities.

Today, we may speak from the example of cultures and education, trans-border cooperation and connection, Europe opening towards the cultures of the world and the time of the development of new cultural industries which directly influence economic development and shape our reality. The pluralistic content of cultural diversities and dialogue formulates new principles of cooperation between different levels of authority and different parts of society.

The sensibility for joint life and social cohesion, creation and the right for cultural in public sphere can be recognized by the ministers of culture as the challenge for opening the dialogue in their own governments and between European governments, the dialogue on cultural cooperation which will not lose but attract new actors in the process of globalisation, professionals and different cultural groups which will significantly change the quality of our every day life. The society, ready to meet, to be open, united, intercultural and universal.

The society that would be open, through the recognition of cultural diversities, to the construction of the new cultural policy, where the reality is marked by constant migration processes in Europe and the countries of the world, which constantly produces productive conflicts between different identities, in which centre there is always the City, the society open to its citizens and not culturally closed and self-sufficient. This is the reason we strongly support the “European Intercultural City” project, since we believe that only through the construction of space where a constant interaction of different cultural identities is developed, and stable factors of development and future may be realised on best European traditions.

With the adoption of the Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention, we establish the mechanisms of mutual cooperation, which is why I consider it important to strongly support the proposals suggesting concrete forms of our future work: Round Table, Intercultural Forum, European Intercultural City and all other possibilities that shall be recognised as important for supporting and strengthening the dialogue in our countries, Europe and the world.

We invite you, in the spirit of the philosophy of a city, democracy, civil society, state institutions and rights, universal human rights and freedoms, to meet in Sarajevo next year, contributing to dialogue among cultures and religions of the modern world. Besides, in 2004,Sarajevo is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the XIV Winter Olympic Games, and the 20th Anniversary of the “Sarajevo Winter” festival. I welcome you on behalf of the BH Council of Ministers, as well as on my own, on this artistic and cultural event, in the Olympic spirit.