25th anniversary of the Way of Saint James – Cultural Route of the Council of Europe
Check against delivery
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege to be here today in Santiago de Compostela, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Declaration of 1987 and the creation of the very first Cultural Route of the Council of Europe. I am most grateful to the Town of Santiago and its Mayor for this invitation.
Twenty-five years ago, my predecessor, Secretary General Marcello Oreja pronounced the Santiago Declaration. It was the starting point of a great adventure which went on to inspire the Council of Europe's cultural routes programme.
A quarter of a century later, I stand before you proud not only to remember – but also renew – the message of that Declaration. And again to stress the importance of our multiple European identities - rich in their diversity, colour, depth and origin.
Today, there are 24 Council of Europe cultural routes criss-crossing Europe, connecting culture and heritage.
They are all rooted in the idea that has been so successfully translated into reality by the Saint James Ways: that Europe's history and culture are our own living heritage.
They are there to be shared, to be valued, and to be preserved.
The Council of Europe chose the Santiago pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James as its first theme because the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers agreed that the route symbolized European unification. And we thought it would pave the way for future projects.
So today, the mapping, marking, research and cultural exchanges outlined in the Santiago Declaration have now become the entry criteria for projects wishing to follow that original, ambitious example in 1987.
The 17 member states that have so far signed the Enlarged Partial Agreement are convinced, as am I, of the value of the programme for international cultural co-operation.
This is a form of co-operation which has served as a stepping stone for relations at all levels of society. I hope that more countries will soon accede to the agreement and increase its outreach and resources.
These cultural routes have become the ambassadors of our Organisation: they communicate to individuals and societies, not just the values of human rights and democracy that we uphold, but also the specific texts and conventions that are our tools in this work.
Knowledge in order to dispel ignorance and fear.
Knowledge to allow democracy to flourish.
What better way to see Europe with different eyes than to discover its culture along scenic, cultural routes? I got a sense of this feeling today, when together with my wife, I walked the final part of the French Way of the Santiago de Compostela route to the Cathedral.
The routes programme is also a powerful tool to ensure access to culture as a fundamental right. The stories the routes tell are a wonderful inspiration to young and old.
The routes seek to develop sustainable, participatory projects which celebrate diversity. They educate us about the need to preserve the environment and offer fresh pockets of tourism in lesser-known regions. As the Galicia Region is well aware, a cultural route has great added value for the places through which it passes.
To end, I would like to remind you of the concluding words of the Santiago Declaration:
"May the faith which has inspired pilgrims throughout history, uniting them in a common aspiration and transcending national differences and interests, inspire us today, and young people in particular, to travel along these routes in order to build a society founded on tolerance, respect for others, freedom and solidarity."
I wish you all an inspiring and enlightening walk!
Thank you. Muchas gracias.