WEEK 11: Open letter to the European Council

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Open Letter to the European Council – London, 17 February 1999

 The Agenda 2000, which defines the political and financial framework for the enlarged Europe, is the fundamental issue facing the governments of the EU Member States.

They will discuss it at the highest level, informally on the 24th and 25th of February, then on 24th and 25th of March in Berlin and finally in June at the European Council Meeting that will conclude the German Presidency.

As a convinced Europeanist myself, I have read carefully what has appeared in the press on the subjects under debate at this crucial time when the future of Europe is being defined. Having found nothing on the cultural dimension, I asked to see the European Commission’s original proposal on Agenda 2000. Nothing. Surprised, I asked for the European Parliament’s report – currently being debated – on the same text. Still nothing. I asked if at least the new Structural Funds regulations included a cultural component. “No”, they answered me.

The role of European cultures in the quality of European society, the contribution of creators, artists and craftsmen to the happiness of all our citizens have not, so far, been the focus of attention of European political decision-makers.

And yet, it is only the practice of the arts, of our senses (such as “hearing”) and the diversity of European cultures that is capable of creating true respect for others and the desire for peace that allows us to achieve our own achievements as well as the collective achievements of all those who share our responsibility towards this suffering land.

Only with a creative formation that does not remove any gift from the child but on the contrary civilizes him, can we together create a society that dominates and absorbs its violence.

It is what can structure the personalities of young citizens in the sense of open-mindedness, respect for others, the desire for peace.

Culture allows everyone to recharge their batteries in the past and participate in the creation of the future. It is the only thing that, by uniting diversity, will offer us a true European consciousness. For it is the emergence of the cultural diversity that gives Europe its full splendour and has appealed the rest of the world for centuries.

By ignoring culture so blatantly, you are building an ivory tower based on nothing.

I was fortunate to be born into a family that taught me three things: that everyone has something unique to contribute to the progress of the planet, that respect and the desire to understand are the very foundation of our relationship with others, that art is a precious medium to capture the future that cannot be reserved for a few.

At a time when the EU political leaders are about to define the playing rules for entering the third millennium, it is essential to enshrine the role of culture in the framework text and in the Agenda 2000 and the final declaration of the European Council in June.

This is a duty that we owe to future generations.