The Summit of Heads of States of South-East Europe was organized by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, and Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, in collaboration with the Council of Europe. It was attended by high-level political leaders and experts from the region, who focussed their discussions on the importance of maritime, river and lake routes as networks of intercultural communication, and their impact on the region’s values, knowledge systems and life styles.
The Athens Declaration emphasizes the role that cultural routes, itineraries and corridors can play as platforms for regional cooperation, and stresses that “no civilization and no culture is monolithic as both are the result of millenia of contacts and exchanges”.
The signatories of the Athens Declaration resolved to develop a pool of joint projects on Cultural Water Routes as a means to deepen “understanding the past, acknowledging the present and building up the future, contributing to stability and peace in the region”.
Projects to be considered include: mapping water-related tangible and intangible heritage in the region; safeguarding cultural landscapes, archaelogical sites, historic cities, monuments, as well as cultural and natural sites; preserving maritime archaeological sites and promoting underwater archaeological research; protecting marine, river and lake biospheres; developing joint research, training and capacity-building opportunities in the areas of conservation and safeguarding of tangible and intangible cultural heritage; raising young people’s awareness of the importance of this heritage; and promoting artistic and cultual activities.
“In South-East Europe, the moment has come to draw up a more comprehensive and shared history,” said Mr Matsuura in his opening remarks at the Summit. “Through these high level encounters, the region’s leaders have firmly and repeatedly demonstrated their will to cooperate on cultural issues, reflecting culture’s critical role in replacing strife with mutual understanding.”
This is the sixth Summit of South-East European Heads of State under the aegis of UNESCO. Previous summits were held in Ohrid (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 2003), Tirana (Albania, 2004), Varna (Bulgaria, 2005), Opatija (Croatia, 2006), and Bucharest and Sibiu (Romania, 2007).
The next Summit of Heads of State of South-East Europe will be held in Montenegro in 2009 on the theme “Management of heritage diversity and its promotion for tourism”. Turkey has announced its intention to host the 2010 Summit in Istambul.
* Stjepan Mesic (Croatia), Georgi Parvanov (Bulgaria), Filip Vujanovic (Montenegro), Bamir Topi (Albania), Boris Tadic (Serbia), Haris Silajdzic (Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Karolos Papoulias (Hellenic Republic).
** Mehmet Aydin, Minister of State (Republic of Turkey), Andras Istvan Demeter, Secretary of State, Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs (Romania).
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