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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
Tirana Summit commits to foster inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue
Editorial Contact: Jasmina Sopova, Bureau of Public Information, Press Relations Section. Tel. + 33 (0)1 45 68 17 17 - Email

10-12-2004 6:00 pm Tirana (Albania) - The regional Summit of Tirana1, organized at the initiative of the President of Albania, Alfred Moisiu, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, ended today with the adoption, by some 150 participants, including six Heads of State, of the Tirana Summit Declaration on Inter-Religious and Inter-Ethnic Dialogue in South-East Europe, in which the participants pledge to release themselves “from the disputes of the past […] by practicing a culture of dialogue”, within and among their countries.

“Everywhere, inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue represents a significant feature of social cohesion and stability,” said Mr Matsuura in his opening address. “In South-East Europe, such dialogue carries particular importance both historically and in current political contexts,” he added.

Mr Matsuura stressed that “the presence of several Heads of State and Government from the region and beyond, as well as many government representatives, is a clear sign that the theme of this Regional Summit attract interest at the highest level.” The Director-General highlighted the special responsibility of political leaders and the potential of religious leaders to exercise a positive influence on society.

“Our challenge is the education of a new European generation that does not follow old approaches based on exclusion and hostility but that are capable of developing a new spirit that accepts and respects others and their differences,” declared the President of Albania in his welcome address to the participants.

In the Declaration, the participants “reaffirm that mutual respect, rooted in open dialogue and nourished by multi-ethnicity, multi-culturality and multi-religiosity is indispensable for the preservation of peace” and that “religion must not be part of the problem, but part of the solution.” The text adopted at the Summit further states that “minorities can constitute bridges of connection, friendship and understanding between peoples and countries.”

The Regional Summit of Tirana was held in the wake of the High-Level Conference on Strengthening Co-operation in South-East Europe3 (Paris, April 2002) and the European regional Forum on Dialogue Among Civilizations (Ohrid, August 2003)4.

A conference on the Cultural Routes in Southeast Europe is scheduled to take place in Varna (Bulgaria), in May 2005, and a youth dialogue forum should be held in the autumn in Ohrid (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

During the Summit of Tirana, the third volume of the series of reports on Cultural Heritage in Southeast Europe, devoted to Albania, was presented. The volume follows two reports, on Kosovo, which will be presented at a donors’ conference scheduled for the spring of 2005 at UNESCO Headquarters. Reports on the Macedonian and Bulgarian cultural heritage are being prepared.

1. For more on the Regional Summit on The Development of Inter-ethnic and Inter-religious Dialogue - Important Factor for the Stability and Progress of South-East Europe see: www.unesco.org/dialogue/tirana
2. The following Heads of State and Government were among participants at the Summit: Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Borislav Paravac (Bosnia-and Herzegovina), Georgi Parvanov (Bulgaria), Stjepan Mesić (Croatia), Branko Crvenkovski (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Svetozar Marović (Serbia and Montenegro) and the Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik.
3. http://erc.unesco.org/SEEConference/
4. http://www.unesco.org/dialogue2001/ohrid/index.htm

Jasmina Sopova, Bureau of Public Information, Press Relations Section. Tel. + 33 (0)1 45 68 17 17; email : j.sopova@unesco.org

Source Press Release No 2004 - 119

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