17 April, 2006
Culture Minister George Voulgarakis welcomed the culture ministers representing the countries of the Southeast European Stability Pact convening in Patra on Friday.
"It is a great pleasure and honor for Greece to be hosting the first meeting of cultural ministers from our countries. The venue of the summit is particularly symbolic, since Patra - a Southeast European city - is Europe's Cultural Capital for 2006," Voulgarakis said.
He referred to the role culture plays in helping peoples communicate, saying that "Predicting the future cannot be done through the short-sighted glasses of the past. History, reality itself, shows us the way towards understanding (...) and reminds us that civilizations that became extinct where those which chose isolation and non-communication."
According to Voulgarakis, culture is the only steadfast factor for communication, understanding and progress.
He also referred to the geographical position of the countries belonging to the stability pact and their individual civilizations.
"Our region, as an international cross-roads, has all the elements of a meeting point of civilizations and the melding of messages from both East and West. Our countries are recipients but also bridges of various influences and perspectives in art, politics, economy and religion," he said.
Referring to Greece and its role, as a southeast European country and an EU member, Voulgarakis said: "We are absolutely confident that cooperation in the region will benefit all of us."
According to Voulgarakis, Greece is building its future based on the concept that "culture is the appropriate medium for developing the broader region's comparative advantages - both on an economic and social level - towards prosperity, stability and peace."
As for policy objectives, Voulgarakis said they should include: promoting dialogue among peoples, strengthening inter-cultural dialogue, protecting and promoting cultural diversity, promoting artistic creativity, and recognizing the importance of culture as a factor in economic development, social integration and cohesion, among others.
Joint statement issued: After the conference, which focused on bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the cultural sector, existing networks, and future prospects, Voulgarakis read a joint statement adopted by the participating ministers.
According to the statement, the ministers recognize the region's enormous cultural potential and agree to establish a broad-reaching cooperation including institutional partners, non-government organizations, and representatives from the art and academic communities.
In the statement, the ministers also underscored their interest in helping EU candidate countries participate in EU cultural programs.
Source: Athens News Agency