Conference of Ministers responsible for Culture "Intercultural dialogue as a basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighbouring regions"

Ministerial panel 1: Cultural policy and initiatives and intercultural dialogue: new approaches and tools for the governance of diversity

(Check against delivery)

Speech by Siim Sukles, Secretary General of Estonian Ministry of Culture

We would like to thank the Government of Azerbaijan and the Council of Europe for organizing such a content-rich conference. We find the subject chosen for the conference – intercultural dialogue – to be very up-to-date. It has become an important issue for discussions in many international forums as well as a tool for people and cultures to communicate better with each other.

The common, human values that derive from the human rights, as well as the wish for understanding other cultures will certainly contribute to the promotion of the idea of world cultural heritage as a whole, while also acknowledging the special importance of its every part within.

The year 2008 has been declared as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, which emphasizes namely the idea that we should get even more acquainted with all of the diversity and multilevelness of the different cultures in Europe. Certainly, Europe is not a closed space but the cultural conversation also takes place with Europe’s neighbouring regions and with more far-off areas.

This mutual communication should be favoured and activated by all means. From the practical side, it is possible to learn much from the mutual exchange of experience on how to find the best solution in organizing the co-operational work. For example, the Mediterranean-region has already arranged a well-structured co-operation; similar practice has been in development and has found already use in other regions as well, for example, in the Baltic Sea region. Of course, we try to notice all suitable possibilities for co-operation with Europe’s neighbouring regions and Islamic countries, which would find its output in cultural co-operation projects.

Estonia supports the co-operation between the Council of Europe, the UNESCO and the European Union in the field of intercultural dialogue. This particularly concerns the UNESCO Convention on Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), which Estonia has started to put into practice.

This convention encourages interstate co-operation in the field of culture and cultural policy by strengthening the international position of culture. For this, the convention pays a great attention to the creative industries, which helps to renew effectively the position of the creative person and culture in the society and to create international co-operation network in the field of culture. This, again, contributes to the development of the intercultural dialogue. We also give our support to all kinds of exchange programmes for creative people.

On internal state level, Estonia underlines the importance of communication with the national minorities living in Estonia. We find it necessary to support their cultural associations, to give them subsidies for organizing events, so that their identity and self-determination would be preserved.

The cultural aspect has also a significant role in the Estonian Integration Strategy for the years 2008-2013 that foresees the integration of the members of national minorities into Estonian society as well as the possibility for everyone to preserve and develop his national language and culture.

The integration itself is a two-sided process that is based on such common values as democracy, personal freedom, and protection of human rights. Thus, the more effective, open and tolerant is the dialogue between different sides, the more successful is also the process of integration. Additionally, the civil society should be involved in the development of this dialogue as well by using also the help and possibilities offered by the media. That applies also to the intercultural dialogue on the international level.