Opatija declaration adoptedThe Declaration of Opatija was adopted yesterday by six Heads of State from South-East Europe*, during the Summit on Heritage and Communication: A New Vision for South-East Europe. The meeting was organized by the President of Croatia Stjepan Mesić and the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, in collaboration with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis.
“We welcome the intensification of the regional dialogue in South East Europe […] and express our satisfaction that constructive cooperation and solid partnership has developed and is intensifying across a broad range of fields: from political and security issues […] to policies, strategies and programmes in culture, education and the sciences.”
The Heads of State further stated that “Cooperation in South East Europe must build on its rich and diverse tangible and intangible cultural heritage and its history of intense cultural exchange and dialogue.” They also declared that “Well-designed national policies for, and effective cooperation in the areas of culture, education, science and tourism are key foundations for further developing SouthEast Europe as a dynamic European region.”
This is the fourth meeting of South-East European Heads of State under the aegis of UNESCO since the Ohrid Forum of 2003. The Summit, which brought together about 100 international experts and political leaders from the region, highlighted the role of communication in the field of cultural heritage.
“Increased cooperation and communication clearly can enhance conservation practices, establish links between heritage sites across the region, and raise public awareness of the diversity and shared history of this heritage,” declared Mr Matsuura as he opened the conference. “Information and communication technologies obviously play a key role in promoting cultural heritage as they facilitate and enrich the exchange of knowledge on heritage […] these technologies help to keep heritage accessible as a living part of contemporary culture and to maintain cyberspace culturally and linguistically diverse.”
The Director-General said that “heritage can be an important driving force for regional and local development” and stressed that “the significance of heritage education in regions that have recently suffered from conflicts and wars cannot be underestimated.”
President Mesić described the Opatija Summit as “a renewed confirmation of a process that is gaining momentum in South-East Europe,” and that is transforming “closed borders into open borders, self-centredness into respect and understanding of others, mutual suspicion into dialogue.”
“We must recognize that the new forms of cultural cooperation are not yet satisfactory, that they are not systematically set up and that they are largely supported, financially, by the international community and international organizations.” He added: “But progress is increasingly manifest in the transfer of knowledge, networking and artists’ mobility.”
The Secretary-General of the Council of Europe welcomed the durability of the forums organized in the South-East of Europe. “Year after year, the region`s leader reaffirm their commitment to political and cultural renewal through the communication and enjoyment of common heritage,” he said, adding: “Communication is essential for building the dream of a Europe without dividing lines – a continent proud of its heritage and diversity, open to its neighbours and confident in its future.”
In Opatija, the Heads of State also approved the Strategy on Cultural Corridors of South East Europe” an initiative launched at the Varna Summit (Bulgaria, 2005). The Strategy should give rise to shared actions linked to tangible and intangible heritage and reinforce the sense of the shared heritage in the region.
The next Summit of Heads of State of South-East Europe is schedule to be held in Romania next year, in Sibiu, the European Capital of Culture 2007.
* Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Sulejman Tihić (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Gueorgui Paravanov (Bulgaria), Stjepan Mesić (Croatia), Branko Crvenkovski (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Filip Vujanović (Montenegro).