Réunion informelle des Ministres de la culture: «Le nouveau rôle et les nouvelles responsabilités des ministres de la culture pour initier le dialogue interculturel» - Strasbourg, les 17 et 18 février 2003 

(version anglaise seulement)

Discours de Blagoj Stefanovski, Ministre de la Culture de l’ex-République Yougoslave de Macédoine

Honorable Deputy General Secretary of the Council of Europe,
Honorable Ministers,
Honorable ladies and gentlemen,

Please allow me on behalf of the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Macedonia, and in my personal name to express my pleasure from the participation at this informal meeting of European Ministers of Culture.

Bearing in mind the political reality in Europe and especially in the country I represent, its direct or indirect, greater or more modest reflection on culture as a significant part of society, opposed to the certain necessity for peace and dialogue, as a precondition to developing new, common politics, within which the cultural policies attain evermore significant position, please allow me to welcome the initiative of the Council of Europe for the timely organization of this significant meeting. I also use this opportunity to greet the experts whose efforts represent a significant contribution within the project Intercultural dialogue and Conflict Prevention, as basis and direction, not only for today's meeting, but for the pending activities as well.

Multiculturalism - the democratic pluralism upon which the functionality and aesthetics of global European architecture is most dependant upon, is seen as one of the most complex and most sensitive issues today - within the countries, but also in Europe and wider. On the other hand it represents one of the greatest challenges of the day, especially when taking into account the fact that its integration is directly linked to the democratic principles stressing the political and social dimension of culture. Freedom, which in a democratic environment means individual and collective responsibility, and the new transcendent consciousness originating from the dialectical supervision of the phenomena such as culture, religion, dialogue, conflict, are especially significant aspects in monitoring integrative processes of the cultures in Europe, developing under complex conditions of globalization.

The culture (religion), and the dialogue (conflict), from the aspect of cultural diversity within one such historical continuity are of vital importance to the political reality and cultural life in Macedonia. Macedonia is a small country with a large number of ethnic communities (Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Vlah, Roma, Serbs, etc.) whose cultural, linguistic and religious specifics are the recognizable elements shaping its wealthy cultural mosaic, starting from the cultural heritage, traditional crafts and artisanship, the customs, folklore, religious forms of expression, and on to various forms of contemporary works and cultural life. The right to free expression and development of cultural, linguistic and religious identity of all citizens in Macedonia with different ethnic backgrounds are integrated in the Constitution and the Law on Culture of Republic of Macedonia. The fact that for several decades there are schools and cultural institutions for minorities demonstrates the readiness of official politics to nurture cultural diversity.

The realities of the ethnic mosaic have also made reflection in the latest political framework (the new Constitution of R.Macedonia - The Framework Agreement), according to which all citizens of Republic of Macedonia, regardless of their ethnic and religious identity share the responsibility to develop a democratic state everyone would feel as one's own. The politics of Culture is the one that will undertake the task to articulate the cultural pluralism in the society as a response to the democratic pluralism. However, conducting such democratic politics would be impossible if ethnic communities living on one territory seek territorial affirmation for their cultural, i.e. national identity, which is contradictory to the politics of common European space where cultural diversities would integrate. In this aspect, I welcome the proposal of the Council of Europe in the draft Proposal for Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict Prevention, stressing that definition of the cultural identity of one nation, i.e. ethnic community with its complex underlying structure of culture, religion, and ethnos cannot be brought down to simple arithmetical count (majority and minority).

When discussing integration of cultures in Macedonia, we are aware that the cultural mind map should be altered in such a way that would match the political one. The journey towards such change is not simple, especially when bearing in mind that the overall reality in Macedonia is more than complex. In this last decade, Macedonia, together with the countries of Southeastern Europe has entered the process of transition leading to individual, political, ethnic, cultural, as well as value differentiation - a process touching on all aspects of social living. While struggling to keep its territorial integrity and cultural identity in context of coexistence of different ethnic communities, Macedonia concurrently started developing mechanisms of selection and harmonization with the globalization "trends": development of new technologies, awareness for the economical potential of culture, the European integration, new political reality, the threat of terrorism. As an illustration, it was exactly in 2001, when the Stability Pact and Association Agreement was signed, leading among other things, towards establishing democratic processes and promotion of multiethnic relations, Macedonia was faced with the most critical moment in its recent history - a threat to its territorial integrity and ethnic conflicts, followed also by destruction of cultural and historical monuments.

The conflict leading to non-tolerance and violence in the new, post-conflict situation in Macedonia directs us towards dialogue, as an only alternative leading to stabilization of relations between ethnic communities and creating conditions for permanent constructive dialogue.

Such circumstances compel the need of cultural-educational dialogue among the ethnic communities manifested through various forms of cooperation on institutional, administrative, as well as local regional, national and international level - a dialogue directed towards fundamental introduction to diverse cultures, exchange of positive and negative historical and contemporary experiences. It is a dialogue, which in accordance with the new European politics will mean acclamation, redefinition of the cultural identity of ethnic communities living on the territory of Macedonia, in relation to regaining and trust building as an imperative in the process of multicultural integration. A dialogue that would be directed towards inter-resort cooperation, especially with the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the non-governmental and the private sector, the media, with a goal to raise the levels of education, public consciousness about importance of culture and cultural diversity within a long-term democratic strategy of tolerance, interpersonal respect, trust, understanding and cooperation.

Macedonia with its ethnic diversity and positive experience implanted in the traditional non-written rules of dialogue between different ethnic communities has realistic predispositions of becoming an example of multiethnic living. The path of integration of cultures in Macedonia is not an easy one, but we believe that the integrative processes in Europe, as our only imperative will override the disintegrative processes in Macedonia, the region and wider. In order to successfully implement the policy for integration of the cultural diversity, the support of the Council of Europe is of a great importance to Macedonia.

Finally, I only wish to add that Macedonia as a member state of UNESKO supported the Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity on the 31st Assembly of the General Conference of UNESCO (Paris, November 2, 2001). Being a signatory of UNESCO Convention for Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage, Macedonia took active part in celebrating 2002 as a year of cultural heritage within UN, and celebrating its 30 years anniversary. UN and UNESCO decade of Culture of Peace and Dialogue among Civilizations, will be embodied by a regional forum to be held August 29-30, 2003 in Ohrid, the city of UNESCO under sponsorship of the President of Republic of Macedonia and UNESCO Secretary General.

Thank you.