Opening Conference for the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention
9-10 December 2004
Awards Ceremony for Five Cultural Routes
9 December 2004
Presentation by Ms Gabriella BATTAINI-DRAGONI
Council of Europe - Director General – Directorate General IV –
Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport
(To be checked against delivered speech)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The European Cultural Convention has given rise to many outstanding projects.
The Council of Europe Secretariat has decided to highlight two of them to provide a tangible example of the excellent work we have done together over the years.
The first example is the series of the Council of Europe Art Exhibitions which dates from the adoption of the Convention. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of this programme, we have reproduced the posters for the twenty-seven major international exhibitions staged to date. They are on display here in this magnificent building of Wroclaw University.
The second focus of our celebrations will be the Cultural Routes programme, which grew from an idea first mooted in the early 1960s.
On behalf of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, it is my great honour this evening to preside over the second ceremony for the award of certifications to five Cultural Routes – the Pyrenean Iron Route, the Hanseatic Routes, the Parks and Gardens Route, the Vikings Route and the Via Francigena.
Each of these five routes has encouraged Europeans to travel and explore real or imaginary routes along which Europe’s identity was formed.
The Hanseatic Routes invite us to journey through the numerous merchant cities of northern Europe, whose intensive trading with each other gave rise to a shared culture and architecture and even their own language.
Through their outstanding navigational skills and insatiable hunger for exploration, the Vikings take us all over Europe and even beyond – for they discovered America 500 years before Christopher Columbus got there.
And the Via Francigena pilgrim route takes us from North to South along the shortest route to Rome, following in the footsteps of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 990.
However, the Cultural Routes programme is not just about identifying the common heritage passed on to us by our ancestors. Another aim is to highlight the intermingling of Europe’s cultures and, in so doing, to draw attention to Europe’s diversity.
For example, the Parks and Gardens Route has served as a methodological exercise, revealing the processes by which skills have been passed on and exchanged between Europe’s regions.
The Pyrenean Iron Route also has an educational aim, that of introducing or re-introducing the public to the history of iron-making and its key role in the development of industrial societies.
Thanks to all its activities, the Council of Europe Cultural Routes programme can boast that, in its seventeen-year existence, it has contributed to the enhancement of a European identity.
We are all aware that there is still much to do in this respect, but I sincerely believe that we are on the right path and ready to take up further challenges, including that of promoting European citizenship as we build a political Europe.
Respect for others and their differences, dialogue, mutual enrichment, participation and the development of a sense of responsibility are examples of civic values that the programme not only promotes through references to history, but also applies in practice in its own operating methods.
In 1980, for example, when they held the first meeting of cities which, like Wroclaw, were former members of the Hanseatic League, the initiators of the project harked back to the spirit of fellow feeling, sharing and a cultural drawing together which had prevailed alongside the commercial interests of these merchant cities.
The implementation and management of a cultural route are themselves subject to a number of criteria, intended to nurture a sense of European citizenship.
Project managers are asked to run their routes by setting up an association or similar body which abides by democratic principles, and to ensure that the project is financially viable.
As we take stock of the last fifty years, we can be proud of what we have already achieved.
This reminds me that I must thank everyone involved in the Cultural Routes, all of whom have contributed in one way or another to the success of the programme.
I would like to reiterate the Council of Europe’s thanks to the Luxembourg authorities, who have very generously made it possible to set up an Institute of Cultural Routes, which plays a technical and information role.
Among us are also representatives of the five Cultural Routes, whom I would like to thank for attending today, and for proving the potential of this programme through their commitment in the field.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Polish authorities for inviting us to meet here in these magnificent surroundings and for organising this second award ceremony.
Ladies and gentlemen, please let us give ourselves the means to continue this co-operation, for it is only by working together that we can advance towards a more united and more democratic Europe that shows more care for its environment.