The Council of Ministers of Culture of South-East Europe convened its ministerial gathering in Rijeka, Croatia, on 1 February 2020 with the support of UNESCO. The event coincided with the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and with the inauguration of the European Capital of Culture programme “Rijeka 2020 − Port of Diversity”. The Council reaffirmed its commitment to further enhancing and strengthening regional cooperation in the field of culture on multilateral and bilateral level, considering the culture and its diversity as an essential factor in achieving dialogue, improved neighbourly relations and better cohesion in the region, in the spirit of mutual understanding, respect, peace and stability.
The Council of Ministers of Culture of South-East Europe – Enhancing Culture for Sustainable Development (CoMoCoSEE) – of which UNESCO together with the EU, the Council of Europe, Austria and Italy is an observer – is the unified platform for cultural cooperation in the region. Since its inception, UNESCO, through its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, has been committed to supporting this regional cooperation process on culture.
During the Sixth Ministerial Conference held in Rijeka, special attention was given to mobility of artists and cooperation on mutual projects in South-East Europe (SEE), especially referring to exchanging projects and works in the field of performing arts, visual arts, traditional arts, music, theatre, cinema and literature.
“I believe that the mobility of artists and experts is one of the preconditions for a balanced growth of culture and arts, for the boost in the cultural and creative sectors, for audience development and the starting point for a stronger participation of citizens in cultural life.”, declared Nina Obuljen Koržinek, Minister of Culture of Croatia at the opening of the Ministerial Conference. By strengthening programmes that support the mobility of artists and cultural professionals in South-East Europe, each member country of the Council can contribute to a greater visibility of their respective national culture within South-East Europe and across the European Union.
The Council acknowledged the need to continue and further strengthen the cooperation among the Council Member countries, with the aim of sharing knowledge and information in the cultural and creative sector, especially best practices and experiences in interweaving culture with other sectors, such as regional and territorial development, tourism, education, environmental policies and health sectors, as well as sectoral policies in order to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Ministers agreed on the importance of applying new technologies in the digitization and inventorying of cultural heritage in accordance with relevant international standards, to advance protection, safeguard and promotion of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. They also committed to further consolidating cooperation in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural goods in the SEE region, and other offences linked to them by exchanging information and strengthening existing capacities.
The Ministers approved to encourage collaboration and mutual work on capacity-building programmes, seminars and expert meetings, with emphasis on sharing knowledge and best practices. “The intention is to promote cultural diversity, contemporary creation, increase mobility and exchange of artists and professionals, thereby to increase mutual understanding, knowledge and diversity of cultural expression among the Member Countries of the Council of Ministers of Culture and the European Union”, noted Edouard Planche, Head of Culture unit, UNESCO Regional Bureau.
“Cultural diversity relies upon the free flow of ideas, and is nurtured by constant exchanges and interaction between cultures. These flows and exchanges are impossible without mobility”, underlined Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, in his speech. Artistic life and the practice of the arts have an inherently international dimension. While new technologies have profoundly changed the way that artistic works are circulated today, technology cannot substitute for real exchanges between artists, which often impacts their creativity in unexpected ways. That is why integrating the mobility of artists and cultural professionals into national and regional cultural policies is so important.
The Council finally reaffirmed its commitment expressed in the Declaration adopted in Sofia on 17 May 2019 to develop the Cultural Cooperation Fund, in cooperation with UNESCO. The CoMoCoSEE Member States include 12 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Republic of North Macedonia and Turkey. The CoMoCoSEE has a rotating annual presidency. With this meeting, Croatia ended its presidency and has turned it over to Greece.