Balkanfolk News                                                              

European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008
30 January 2008

European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 was officially launched in Ljubljana, Slovenia, highlighting the start of the first Slovenian EU Presidency.

The festive evening was opened by the speeches of Dr Danilo Tϋrk, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Ján Figel', the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, Dr Hans-Gert Pöttering, the President of the European Parliament, Dr Edvard Kovač, professor of ethics and cultural anthropology and Janez Janša, Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia. The grand opening culminated in a colourful artistic programme featuring poetry reading and musical performances as well as short films and modern dance. At the end of the opening event, hundreds of school children carrying their luggage, as if on a journey, filled the stage accompanied by the musical performance of an 11-year-old violinist.

In his opening speech, Commissioner Ján Figel' stressed that "cultural diversity is Europe's wealth, rather than its problem. The expansion of the EU and migration are only increasing this diversity. We therefore need more dialogue between cultures as a contribution to a higher level of mutual understanding between various nations, ethnicities and religions, in order to overcome nationalism and xenophobia."

Figel' pointed out that "as a result of globalisation, demography, migration, of European enlargement and internal mobility, Europe is becoming more mixed. Our cultures, our languages, ethnic groups and religions are increasingly in daily contact. We know that this tendency will, if anything, continue to grow. It is part of our world and it is our task to make sure it succeeds."

“The European Union has always resided in its ability to respect difference and diversity, based on universal human rights and values”, said the Prime Minister Janez Jansa. In his opinion, the Year of Intercultural Dialogue offers Europe a twofold opportunity – to strengthen its belief in itself, in its vital force and in the mission of European cultures and to intensify dialogue with other cultures and, through contact with them, overcome prejudice, achieve growth, mutual enrichment and magnanimity. “The path of intercultural dialogue is the path of strengthening the most solid foundation for peace and prosperity on our planet”, concluded the Prime Minister.

Prior to the official opening, the representatives of major European arts and cultural festivals signed a “Declaration on Intercultural Dialogue” with EU Commissioner Ján Figel' in Ljubljana Castle. Through the declaration, the aims and messages of the year will be reflected throughout 2008 in dozens of festivals all over the EU and beyond.

The official launch of the Year was preceded by a conference entitled "Intercultural Dialogue as the Fundamental Value of the EU" on 07-08 January, where representatives of civil society from across Europe in the fields of culture and art, science and education, media and sustainable development discussed the challenges presented by a multicultural Europe.