Varna Declaration on Cultural Corridors in South-East EuropeThe Summit of heads of state of South-East Europe*, which took place in Bulgaria on May 20 and 21, closed with the adoption of the Varna Declaration pledging to “contribute to the promotion of cultural heritage and cultural corridors within the region.” It also pledges to “promote urgent measures for the protection of cultural heritage at risk within the region, including continuing action to counter the illicit traffic in cultural property.”
The Forum was organized by the President of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koďchiro Matsuura, and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis.
“This is a moment of historic significance for UNESCO which has always argued that culture had a pivotal role in international relations, since, today, it is heads of state who are declaring before the world their support for this approach,” declared Mr Matsuura as he opened the conference. Speaking of the different cultural routes that developed over the centuries, the Director-General added that they represent an opportunity “to open up new horizons for mutual understanding, thanks to a broader vision of cultural heritage.”
“I have no doubt,” the Director-General added, “that the Summit of Varna is set to transform the corridors of yesteryear into the primary axes of tomorrow’s intercultural communication.”
Welcoming the participants to the Forum, President Parvanov recalled past attempts to deviate the concept of “cultural corridors” to nationalist ends. “I believe that today, at this high-level Forum, we will succeed in erasing the ideological and nationalist connotations of this concept [and] showing, thanks to our joint efforts, the other face, which is in fact the true face, of South-East Eruope,” he declared. The President added: “The Forum shows that the region can think and speak with its own voice, that it can defend its own vision of its internal cultural interaction, and of the region’s interaction with its partners in Europe and in the rest of the world.”
Terry Davis declared he believed that the Forum will “endorse cultural dialogue based on the recognition of common cultural roots.” He expressed gratitude to the countries of South-East Europe for their “innovative and dynamic approach to cultural heritage as a set of resources inherited from the past, serving to promote a sense of regional identity and pride, [which] paves the way for sustainable economic and social development.”
In their joint Declaration, the Heads of State of South-East Europe pledge to “encourage concerted action for the balanced sustainable development of cultural heritage, including cultural tourism […], promote intercultural education as a means of fostering mutual understanding […], encourage cooperation concerning ways and means of promoting and protecting intangible cultural heritage.”
A network of regional experts will be established to develop a strategy and plan of action for the cultural corridors both of which will be submitted to the new Summit of heads of state of South-East Europe, scheduled to take place in Croation in 2006.
* Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Borislav Paravac (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Georgi Paravanov (Bulgaria), Stjepan Mesic (Croatia), Branko Crvenkovski (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Karolos Papoulias (Greece) and Ahmet Necdet Sezer (Turkey) met to discuss the “Cultural Corridors in South-East Europe: Common Past and Shared Heritage - a Key to a Future Partnership”. Filip Vujanovic, the President of Montenegro a also attended the Forum.