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In an exclusive interview on the eve of the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention in Wroclaw, Polish Culture Minister Waldemar Dabrowski speaks about the major cultural challenges in Europe and the role which the Council of Europe can play in facing them.
Question : The Wroclaw Conference is the first of three major meetings organised by Poland during its Presidency of the Council of Europe. Does the meeting have special significance for Poland?
Waldemar Dabrowski : In my view, cultural policy should play a particularly important role, because culture will constitute an increasingly significant factor in the social development of Europe and the rest of the world. We cannot permit cultural development to be regulated solely by market forces.
We therefore support initiatives that integrate the people of Europe and help shape its new image in today’s world through culture, science and education.
Question: In your opinion, what have been the greatest successes of the Council of Europe’s cultural policies over the last 50 years?
Waldemar Dabrowski : The most important achievements have been the elimination of obstacles barring access to education, cultural assets and the advances of science and information. I call that ‘the creative development of the European area’. Many Council of Europe programmes, especially those involving heritage education (such as the European cultural routes, ‘heritage classes’, or the ‘From one street to the next’ programme) have helped strengthen social cohesion, have unleashed energy at the local level and have deepened a sense of identity and dignity at the national level.
But no less important is the fact that the creation of new areas of co-operation with one’s neighbours has awakened mutual curiosity about their accomplishments in the area of civilisation and culture. It has made it possible to view history from a ‘different’ perspective, and has allowed people to reject stereotypes that have existed for generations. Those means of co-operation have proved capable of activating local entrepreneurship in the field of tourism and the protection of the natural and cultural environment.
The Council of Europe deserves credit for patiently and effectively creating the framework for multilateral co-operation between government administration and institutions, academic centres, local governments and creative arts associations as well as entrepreneurs, that is to say -- the market.
Question: What future role should the Council of Europe play with regard to culture, and what priorities should be developed in the coming years?
Waldemar Dabrowski : The Council of Europe should play a considerable role in shaping security and development policy on the basis of culture and education. It should support initiatives emerging in the European Union countries which strive to support education, science and culture as a pillar of European integration.
The Council of Europe should initiate efforts leading to legislative, legal and institutional solutions fostering European heritage education and creating a culture- and civilisation-based community.
Acknowledging heritage education and all cultural and educational initiatives enhancing respect for common values, whilst simultaneously protecting cultural diversity, should be regarded as a priority for European policy. That is a condition for its social effectiveness.
It is therefore necessary to develop methodological tools for effective action in that field, co-ordinate them with the efforts of other international organisations and promote them in member countries.
It is necessary to jointly develop new systemic solutions in the field of heritage education, respecting every country’s legislative and cultural conditions. We should strive to guarantee financial support for heritage education programmes and treat them as strategic tasks equivalent to the European Union’s security policy efforts.