Fourth South East Europe Heads of State Summit, to be held in Opatija, Croatia under the aegis of UNESCOOrganized by the Croatian President, Stjepan Mesić, and UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, in cooperation with Terry Davis, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, a Regional Forum entitled “Communication of Heritage: A New Vision for South East Europe” will bring together on 1 and 2 June the Heads of State of seven countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia*. The forum will take place in Opatija, Croatia, at the Hotel Ambassador.
The main objective of the forum, focusing on communication concerning heritage, is to promote a shared vision of the cultural heritage of South-East Europe. A “Strategy on Cultural Corridors of South East Europe” will be presented at the forum so as to determine joint action in favour of heritage shared by the region’s different nations: historical monuments, cultural and natural sites, diverse practices and cultural expressions which are part of the intangible cultural heritage. This initiative was launched at the Varna Summit in Bulgaria in 2005.
Three experts’ meetings will be held on 31 May and 1 June before the meeting of Heads of State. Participants will examine knowledge-sharing and education, as well as digitization of heritage, the creation of archives, protection and enhancement of cultural diversity, cultural tourism, cultural industries and the role of the cultural heritage in sustainable development.
The Forum is expected to adopt a declaration on the development of strategies aimed at reinforcing communication regarding heritage.
It takes place a short time after the entry into force, in April 2006, of UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, ratified to date by seven States of South East Europe: Croatia, Romania, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey and Albania.
The Opatija Summit comes in the wake of the High-Level Conference on Strengthening Cooperation in South-East Europe (UNESCO Headquarters, April 2002), the Ohrid Forum on “Dialogue Among Civilizations” (2003), the Regional Summit on Inter-religious and Inter-ethnic Dialogue (Tirana, 2004) and the Varna Forum on “Cultural Corridors in South-East Europe” (2005).
So as to help strengthen cultural cooperation in South-East Europe, UNESCO also organized meetings of Culture Ministers in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 2004 and in Venice, Italy, in 2005. The next ministerial meeting will be held in the autumn in Ohrid, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
As regards the safeguarding of the region’s cultural heritage, UNESCO contributed to the reconstruction of the Old Bridge of Mostar, inaugurated in July 2004 and inscribed on the World Heritage List the following year. In May 2005, it also organized an International Conference on the Cultural Heritage of Kosovo which raised donations totalling US$10 million for the restoration, protection and enhancement of damaged monuments***.
UNESCO, in cooperation with the Italian Government, is in the process of establishing the first regional centre for the digitization of cultural heritage in Skopje, the Macedonian capital.
The South East Europe region currently numbers 59 cultural and natural sites on the World Heritage List. About a hundred others have been proposed for inscription by national authorities.
* Alfred Moisiu (Albania), Sulejman Tihić (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Georgi Purvanov (Bulgaria), Stjepan Mesić (Croatia), Branko Crvenkovski (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Filip Vujanović (Montenegro) and Boris Tadić (Serbia).