28.02.2017 - UNESCO Venice Office

Promoting culture in South-East Europe: a shared driver for integration and sustainable development

The Council of Ministers of Culture of South-East Europe ‘Enhancing Culture for Sustainable Development’ (CoMoCoSEE) held its annual meeting on 22 February 2017 in Tirana, Albania. Ministers and Heads of Delegations fully confirmed their commitment to regional cooperation in the field of culture according to the priorities and action lines defined by the Ohrid Regional Strategy for Cultural cooperation and approved a declaration supporting its further implementation.

Convened within the framework of the Albanian presidency of the CoMoCoSEE, the meeting was opened by the Minister of Culture of Albania, Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi. In representation of UNESCO, Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and in Culture in Europe addressed the participants, following a video message sent by Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO.

“Thankfully, the time when culture was sidelined in strategies for development has ended. We see a complete change of perspective today, recognising culture and creativity as enablers and drivers of jobs, and skills, and green growth. Together, we worked hard - raising awareness, providing evidence - to integrate this power at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development -- and this was taken further in the New Urban Agenda, adopted at the Habitat III Conference in Quito last October.” In her message, UNESCO Director-General conveyed that the countries of South-East Europe have been on the frontline of such transformation. UNESCO is deeply grateful for the leadership and commitment of this region, and it will continue supporting the efforts of CoMoCoSEE.

The Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, also intervened in the opening session. In his address, Mr Rama stressed that “beauty is necessary for establishing a correct relation with the law and it has a positive impact on sustainable development“. He then highlighted the importance of investing in cultural heritage, as cultural heritage is not only a driver for sustainable economic growth but also an enabler for responsible civil behavior. Evidence in this sense is provided by the impact of the government’s programme on Urban Renaissance in Albania.

The EU Ambassador to Albania, Romana Vlahutin, echoed in underlining the chief role of culture and cultural heritage for development, especially with regard to tourism promotion and the improvement of the country image. “Cultural heritage should be preserved as a testimony of cultural identity. Heritage can drive sustainable tourism and local economic growth”, said Ms. Vlahutin. She further stressed that the European Union already provided substantial support for heritage rehabilitation in the region and will continue to do so.

A plenary session followed with speeches by the Ministers and heads of delegations of the CoMoCoSEE Member States: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. Representatives of Observers - among which UNESCO, the European Union, and the Council of Europe also attended the meeting as well as guests Italy and BSEC ( Black Sea Economic Cooperation).

The third ministerial conference in Tirana aimed mainly at strengthening regional cooperation in the field of culture and development, boosting cultural heritage and creativity as drivers for sustainable development and regional integration. On the agenda was the need to pursue the efforts in reinforcing coordination at all levels between cultural and other sectorial policies, in order to achieve the Goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

All Ministers and Heads of delegation of the CoMoCoSEE Member States confirmed their commitment priorities and action lines indicated in the Ohrid Strategy approved by CoMoCoSEE in 2014, and approved a declaration in support of its implementation. The fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property - in, from and through the region – was indicated as a top priority for the protection of cultural heritage, and the need for a reinforced coordination, capacity building and awareness raising was confirmed.

Other priority topics mentioned by the Member States included the enhancement of the role of culture for development and the importance of the Culture for Development Indicators (CDIS) to this end, education through and for the arts and, the necessity to develop inter-sectoral cooperation between culture and other policy areas.

All Member States were very appreciative of the support provided by UNESCO to the regional cooperation on culture and to the CoMoCoSEE, underlining in particular the role of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. Finally, Member States confirmed their commitment to regional cooperation and to CoMoCoSEE as the main regional cooperation platform on culture, and agreed on further reinforcing its activities.

The conference in Tirana allowed for a number of bilateral encounters among Member States. In particular, Albania e Serbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in the field of culture.

The meeting was concluded with the official hand-over of the CoMoCoSEE presidency to Bosnia and Herzegovina, which will host the next meeting in 2018.

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