The meeting is set within the context of the "2008 European Year of Intercultural Dialogue" and that of the “2008 Euro-Mediterranean year of dialogue between cultures”. It follows the recent policy recommendations by the Commission for the upgrading of relations with Mediterranean partners in its Communication ‘Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean’.
Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "The Barcelona Process is about being more than a political and economic partnership. The social and cultural dimension helps put people at the centre of our relations. Increasing contacts between people of all walks of life in the Mediterranean is an important part of strengthening our ties through mutual understanding and wider knowledge of each other."
European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Ján Figel', explained further: “The Commission values greatly the contribution that culture and intercultural dialogue can make in efforts to bring peace, prosperity and stability to the region. That is one of the reasons why we established the Anna Lindh Foundation. That is also why we have regional programmes on heritage, audiovisual, youth, information and media. This meeting of cultural ministers will now pave the way to a deepening of our relations, with plans for a joint cultural strategy that will have benefits for all in the partnership”.
The Athens conference will constitute an opportunity to further implement the strategic vision of the role of culture in external relations, as outlined in the May 2007 ‘European agenda for culture’ proposed by the European Commission and subsequently endorsed by the Council.
Ministers will take stock of the progress already made and the results achieved in the cultural dimension of the Partnership, and launch the necessary political processes and follow-up mechanisms for the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Cultural Strategy. They will endeavour to build this strategy around two distinct, but interlinking strands: intercultural dialogue and cultural policy.
The new strategy will be consistent with the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expression, and will strive to take the major concerns of the cultural sector in the region into account. During their meeting the Ministers will hear those concerns raised by representatives of civil society; media, intellectual and audiovisual sectors, and will give particular attention to capacity-building in partner countries and the establishment of more balanced cultural exchanges.
Since its launch in 1995, the Barcelona Process has been the central instrument for Euro-Mediterranean relations, representing a partnership of 39 governments and over 750 million people. It has been the engine for movement towards peace, security and shared prosperity in a region where long-running conflicts and tenuous reform efforts have often impeded progress. Against this background, the Partnership provides a framework for continued dialogue, engagement and development. The European Commission has supported the Barcelona Process with the provision of over €16 billion from the Community budget since 1995. The initiative "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" will increase the political level of attention and the degree of co-ownership of cooperation in the Mediterranean. The Commission has just presented a proposal in this regard to be discussed and adopted by EU Member States before the first Summit of the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" on 13 July in Paris.
More information at:
- Anna Lindh Foundation: http://www.euromedalex.org/Home/En/Home.aspx