Ferrero-Waldner: "Culture - the wealth of Europe"
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CULTURE - THE WEALTH OF EUROPE
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs
Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
on the occasion of the
Conference of European Ministers of Culture
Linz, 21 November 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The enlargement of the European Union on 1 May next year represents the most substantial challenge Europe has faced since the changes of the year 1989. The European Union will be 10 new Member States richer and will also get new neighbours on its eastern and south-eastern borders.
It is a pleasure for me to speak to you today in my capacity as Austrian Foreign Minister at the opening of the Conference of European Ministers of Culture. At the same time I would like to take the opportunity to thank State Secretary Franz Morak for organising this conference on the "Challenges of Enlargement" and for asking me to deliver this introductory address - an invitation which I gladly accepted.
Oskar Kokoschka once said that Europe was not a geographic continent but a cultural one. For Austria, Europe has indeed always been and still is a cultural project. For the future of the process of European integration it is therefore of decisive importance that we perceive Europe as such a cultural project and understand that the wealth of Europe is rooted in the cultural diversity of its components.
Since 1992, Article 151 of the TEU, as amended, has represented the legal basis for European cultural policy. In the European Convention it was confirmed that the Member States shall have primary competence over cultural matters and that the future constitution, as has been the case so far, will only allow the European Union to take "supportive measures" aimed at the promotion of cultural diversity.
I regard the provision of unanimity stipulated for all trade-related matters which could represent a threat to cultural diversity as an essential success of European cultural management.
The range of cultural issues which are of decisive importance for Europe also includes the knowledge and awareness of the historic power of its Christian traditions. It is therefore of real concern to me that the future EU constitution should not neglect the Christian traditions of European history.
From the political and economic points of view we have all prepared very well for the forthcoming enlargement of the European Union. But isn't the project of European integration also facing the most comprehensive cultural changes it has seen since its inception, and how do we deal with this issue?
For decades, European integration was characterised by the fact that there were two competing blueprints for Europe. But the first of May 2004 will finally put an end to the East-West post-war order and create new conditions. The Iron Curtain is a thing of the past. Its course no longer marks the external border of the EU. For the first time in its history the EU will also include Slavic Member States, and the entire Central European world will again become an integral part of Europe. Europe will become richer - richer in cultural diversity. This increase in the range and variety of cultural traditions lays the promising groundwork for joint development and definition of common targets for our entire continent.
This cultural dimension of the forthcoming enlargement also opens up an opportunity to those East and South East European states that will not be joining the EU next year. This message sent out by the enlargement of the European Union is at the same time a signal of hope for South East Europe. But we must join forces in order to translate this message of hope into action.
We therefore have to set ourselves the following demanding goals:
- Raising the European public’s awareness of the cultural wealth offered by those countries which used to represent the "other part" of Europe;
- Making cultural exchange with the East and South East a natural and attractive thing to do;
- Opening up opportunities in a common European area of culture to those engaged in the cultural sector all around Europe;
- Understanding culture and business as the engines of change;
- Creating new ways of cooperation to ensure that the future external borders of the EU will not become new cultural dividing lines.
- Preparing the ground for a culture of education, creativity and innovation that helps the Europe of the future to hold its own in the process of globalisation, and in doing so even become the top performer in terms of culture, society and business.
- Developing a culture characterised by the willingness to engage in dialogue, both within the society of one’s own country and in establishing contacts with the European partners, as well as with the new neighbours in the enlarged Union and with other cultures.
It is not only history and geography but also our assessment of future European perspectives that make Austria an ally in the promotion of more culture in Europe. Culture counts and culture is worthwhile. We have to live with our common history. And we can do so by dealing with it openly - but we cannot change history.
However, we can shape the future. Likewise, we cannot change geography. But we can benefit from it and together use it to our best common advantage.
What is important to Austria is not the assertion of individual national standards, but the contribution culture can make to promoting peace and justice in international relations and the competitive advantage a cultural nation can derive by attracting attention on an international market embedded in an increasingly tighter network of international relations. In the part of Europe we live in, culture has often served as a pretext for and cause of conflicts. This must never happen again!
The "soft skills" of culture make up the "soft powers", the soft influence we can exercise via the arts, culture, the media, our way of life and even tourism. We must make common use of the "soft powers", this "soft influence" in the world, so as to prevent the "hard powers", the military conflicts, from being given a chance in the first place. This is an important mission European culture has to accomplish.
At the European foreign policy level, cultural exchange must be used as a method of enhancing and re-establishing, both in concrete terms and symbolically, the mutual affinity and trust between states, regions and cultures. Even during the Cold War period there were opportunities to launch cooperation projects in the fields of sports and culture in Europe.
But what can we do today to tackle the problem, which has emerged within Europe as well as elsewhere, that it is no longer the cultural content but communication and the varying degrees of opportunity to use it that have developed into a source of political, economic and cultural imbalance?
In a world in which society is increasingly based on the production and exchange of knowledge and information, it will no longer suffice for a young Austrian or Hungarian film-maker to produce an excellent film; his success will depend on his capability to place this film in the international production and reception networks.
In my view, this means that another central task of European cultural policy consists in establishing or participating in cultural networks, in developing information strategies and thus at the same time opening up opportunities to correct these imbalances in the field of knowledge. I can offer a simple formula for European cultural policy that is precisely targeted at the integration of the future EU Member States and our new neighbours in East and South East Europe: "What is less well-known requires more support".
Europe’s path towards the East and South East is lined with tasks and opportunities for Austria. Let me draw your attention to an example of the new approaches taken by Austrian foreign policy in this context, namely the Austria Libraries initiative. It was launched more than ten years ago and is aimed at establishing such Austria Libraries in the states of Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Only a few weeks ago we invited representatives of all 50 libraries to Vienna for the first time for a conference to discuss what has been achieved so far and the perspectives for the future.
This neighbourhood policy approach at the cultural level creates permanent values, because it establishes bases for a Europe defined by culture in which everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to read the works of Robert Musil, Peter Handke or Thomas Bernhard.
Since 1989 the clear focus of our international cooperation in the field of culture has been on Central Europe, on our efforts to turn the new opportunities of neighbourhood policy into tangible experiences in the field of culture. We have launched the largest number of initiatives in the future EU partner states of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, in order to establish cultural networks strong enough to overcome the after-effects of decades of ideological division in Europe.
These countries also make up the Regional Partnership, a vehicle that has enabled us to make huge headway, not only in the form of well-coordinated pursuit of issues of common importance at the European level, but also in the field of cooperation at the cultural level.
The wide range of activities spans from educational and scientific projects to the activities launched by the KulturKontakt association and the already-mentioned Austria Libraries, and also includes language schools set up in the neighbouring countries by the Österreich-Institut-GmbH - another of which is to be opened in Ljubljana this year - and the close cooperation within the "Platform Culture - Central Europe", thus ensuring the continuity of Central European cultural foreign policy.
In the years to come we also intend to use the positive experiences gained from these intensified efforts at the cultural level to enhance the future of South East Europe.
With respect to the content of cultural cooperation, the focus will certainly have to be on establishing closer ties between South East Europe and the European Union, and, in more concrete terms, on strengthening of the civil structures in these countries. For me, permanent stabilisation of this region means that we jointly succeed in turning art, science and education into a driving force for regional cooperation and a strong argument in favour of full integration into European structures.
In addressing the difficult question of what we understand by a Europe of culture and why there have been some who have repeatedly raised their voices in the last few years and demanded the definition of European borders along cultural lines, I would like to quote an answer given by György Konrád. He calls upon us to test the European dialectic of different experiences between East and West. He invokes a concept of cultural geopolitics which is far removed from the ethnic ownership concepts of former times, stating that "a place where we have once been belongs to us". Europe is growing together - we have already been there and thus it belongs to us.
For Austria, the concept of European culture stands for the best possible friendly cooperation with the current and future EU Member States. The European Union will not jeopardise the preservation of existing national identities. What we do not want is a situation in which the "protection of cultural diversity" is used as an excuse to pursue national policies that neglect the common European consciousness.
A consequence of our self-image as Austrians is that we do not perceive Europe as a mosaic composed of its individual national cultures, but as an interrelated cultural-historical area in which an emphasis on the cultural dimension and values serves to support European integration. I am convinced that cultural memory and cultural dialogues represent our most important tools for promoting more Europe, for strengthening the European identity in the midst of this diversity. Rudolf Bretschneider recently wrote the following on the cultural contribution Austria makes to Europe: "The little present we take to our friends in the shared apartment of Europe is not the focus on our national characteristics but our recognition of the great diversities to be found within the smallest space". Provided that the enlargement of the European Union goes hand in hand with the rediscovery of our cultural interrelations, this could also represent a genuinely European contribution to the cultural and scientific shaping of the world.
In this spirit your consultations here in Linz represent an important means of defining where we stand and exploring how an enlarged Europe can use its cultural wealth for the benefit of all.
Talking about Austria, Stefan Zweig once made a very European statement: he said that he loved Austria because here he could be both a patriot and a citizen of the world. This sentence offers a great deal of scope for the shaping of European cultural cooperation.
Thank you very much for your attention!