Colloquy on: “European Culture: Identity and Diversity”
8-9 September 2005
Speech by the President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, Mr. Giovanni Di Stasi
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe is Europe wide, a unique tool for flexible cultural policy and encourages cohesion in the field of cultural activities within 48 European states.
Can we imagine “European citizenship” without Culture?
My answer of course can only be no!
For centuries European heritage as been built up and we now have the opportunity to benefit from its richness and its diversity throughout Europe. This has created, in the people’s mind, a growing awareness about the unity and diversity in the field of culture which is mutually complementary.
Not surprisingly, totalitarian regimes tried to use and to abuse culture for the purpose of propaganda, for the glory of their leaders.
The strength of culture is related to shaping people’s mind. This is why we insist on the importance of diversity within the European cultural heritage. Diversity is a guarantor for pluralism in the people’s mind. Cultural pluralism constitutes the basement on which is build our democratic culture is built, democratic pluralism, respecting the opinions and the visions and the cultural background of the other, constitutes a basic achievement of our modern societies.
Culture is a key to understanding and knowledge.
Knowledge is the best from of prevention with respect to intolerance.
Together with other European partners and institutions, the Council of Europe was able to shape cultural policy under the terms of the European Cultural Convention. This gives the Council of Europe the means to organise opportunities to exchange knowledge, the pooling of experience and co-operation on joint projects, in order to build concrete aims to be achieved within members states.
The aim is not to improve Europe’s cultural reputation or to attempt to pretend for some form of superiority, but to help member states, regions and local communities to provide the necessary conditions to enable cultural life to develop and to flourish beyond national border and regional limits.
The concept of inclusion is vital within the Council of Europe’s approach, not only on the level of social and human rights, but also with respect to access to culture and education.
Culture as a from of coherence , a “vehicle of meaning” and tool for understanding, as the agent of individual and collective human development and the embodiment of social values, is vital for education and training in favour active citizenship. Democratic values can only develop where the respect of human rights and the building of confidence must be rooted in the respect of cultural identities.
I would like to thank you all for your valuable contributions and let us use this fascinating opportunity to look into culture diversity as a contribution to increase cohesion among Europeans, from the East and the West and from the North and the South.
Culture was always an asset for Council of Europe’s work in general and for the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in particular and has now become an integral part of our common understanding of cultural heritage, as being part of our democratic roots.
Building and relying on these cultural roots enables us, to shape a pluralist society, which helps us to respect the other as an equal partner and an integral part of our society.
Pluralist democracy constitutes one of the core values the Council of Europe. The Congress is representing more than 2000 000 local and regional communities all over Europe. Within its bodies and structures the Congress is applying, also through the implementation of its major conventions in the member states, the principle of subsidiarity, in order to help the citizen make up his mind, to formulate and express his political will and then to bring it to the appropriated political level for decision.
We all benefit from the achievements realised within the framework of the European Cultural Convention, promoting new forms of cultural interaction and the knowledge of other cultures.
Intercultural dialogue is one of the main commitments made on the occasion of the 3rd Summit in Warsaw, let us all strive to make it happen.