Official opening of the Session by the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Mr Philippos Petsalnikos
The President of the Hellenic Parliament, Mr. Philippos Petsalnikos, officially opened the 9th ECP-session. Mr. Petsalnikos stated how essential the connections between the European culture and the Greek culture are: “We in Greece have the luck to live in the birthplace of democracy and therefore also the birthplace of the western civilization”. The President emphasized the importance of true democracy, where the Freedom of Speech is established and of an environment where the Arts enhance democratic values.
Mr. Petsalnikos also gave the present members of the ECP a short recapture of the history of the Greek legacy. It has influenced the modern civilization of Western Europe in various ways, shaping the notions of justice, common wealth and philosophical ideas.
He stressed the importance of always trying to strengthen the values of justice and that discussions about democracy, quality and social cohesion are meaningful links between different cultures:
“I strongly believe that culture has to play a central role to establish peace worldwide. And of course culture can help us to smooth differences and become very useful for communication. The Hellenic Parliament is a place where democracy is cultivated and we have to contribute to the international discussion about democracy and culture. This is why we publish books, organize exhibitions and promote international dialogues.“
Democracy was born in Greece 2500 years ago and Mr. Petsalnikos expressed his hopes about the future of this Mediterranean country: “We hope that Greece will be very strong and that it can cultivate the quality of democracy. Furthermore it is important to respect our differences and work together for a united EU. With these words it is a great pleasure to open the 9th session of the ECP.”
Welcome address by the Mayor of City of Athens, Mr Nikitas Kaklamanis
The Mayor of the City of Athens, Mr. Nikitas Kaklamanis, expressed his happiness to be able to welcome the members of the ECP.
Kaklamanis spoke about the 25th anniversary of the European Cultural Capital, and how no one could have foreseen the success of this initiative that was founded 1985 in Greece by a former minister of culture – Melina Merkouri.
“Now, 25 years later, we are once again formulating the thought that culture is keeping us open and is helping us to go through this difficult financial crisis.”
The Mayor also said that culture needs to be shared with the world and that it becomes valuable when it is part of the wealth. Culture should be in the centre of social and economical endeavors. The European Cultural Capital has become more and more important; all cities of the EU now want to be nominated because they want to show their contemporary cultural heritage:
“The greater the cultural heritage, the richer is the European continent. The cultural EU is in fact the essence of its society.”
He also took the opportunity to thank the ECP for its continuance of its cultural work and stated that the presence of the European Cultural Parliament was very symbolic since it doesn’t only express an universal culture but also the globalism of the effort that is needed in order to overcome this crisis.
“Culture is for everyday people. Thank you.”
Keynote speech by Mr Mikis Theodorakis (Athens)
The miracle of life, deriving from the Universe and reaching Planet Earth is a constant conflict of Antitheses, the finest expression of which is the one between Harmony and Chaos. Human history is definitely not an exception to this rule as prove the perpetual sequence from Harmony to Chaos, Peace to War, happiness to unhappiness, Civilization to Barbarity of all peoples at all times.
Today Europe holds a key position which enables it to reverse the negative trend and guide Humanity as a whole along the road of Harmony, Peace and Prosperity. But it must first cut the umbilical cord tying Europe to the U.S.
The fact that the banking and financial system has turned into such a powerful force, stands as an obstacle to the process that would mutate Europe into a single entity carrying its own seal and its own strategy, based on the creative contribution of all its Peoples that would stand upon their rich traditions in order to commonly create the true face and content of a new Europe. A Europe that would serve the values of Independence, Freedom, Peace, Democracy, Isonomy, Human Rights, development, prosperity and cultural rebirth.
Greece will be a part of this effort that will prove to be redeeming and regenerative for humanity.
It is finally time we grow up and mature, not only for the sake of humankind but also of planet Earth that is so generously hosting us. Because according to the logic of Time that is counted in centuries, our behaviour towards the essential existence of life has so far been childish. We must fully understand that Man is One and that the gift of life is the same for all of us and that we are meant to experience through every pore of our body, our spirit and soul, the complete blessedness that peaceful co-existence with others and nature may give us, that will enable us to fully develop our creative powers. In both the material and spiritual world.
I am certain that, if Europe chooses this path, it will succeed into turning today’s Hell into Paradise. And I am happy that I am given today the opportunity to reveal this Great Vision of mine.
Keynote speech by
Mrs Erna Hennicot-Schoepges
„Culture can move, provoke and achieve a lot in people“
…Mrs. Erna Hennicot-Schoepges stated during her speech. She gave the audience a short historical recap of how the procedures behind the nomination of a European Capital of Culture have changed since 1985. The Capital of Culture gave Europe visibility. The basic concept was to enforce the development of culture, and the label should help the cities in doing so.
In the meantime however programs are filled up with a long list of major events. The decision-making process has changed since the procedures changed and became a sort of beauty contest between candidate cities. However culture must be more than merely events. Culture has the power to influence decisions, cultural dialogue should be at the forefront of political action in the EU. Up to now there is no real awareness of the importance of the cultural background in peoples’ lives. So many conflicts are bound to cultural differences. Cultural history should make comprehensible why things are like they are, how misunderstanding culture leads to never-ending disputes and clashes.
“Sustainability is what we have to fight for if we want the European Capital of Culture make a real change for culture.“
Introduction to the 9th Session by
Mr Karl-Erik Norrman
The introduction to the 9th ECP-session was made by Secretary General Karl-Erik Norrman. He started by thanking President of the Hellenic Parliament, Filippos Petsalnikos, Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, the City of Athens and the Athens tourism and Economic Development Co.
Mr. Norrman said he thought that many members of the ECP might feel like Odysseus coming back home after travelling to eight different cities in Europe:
“We are back where it all began, where our democracy was born, where European culture and civilization was born and also where the idea of a European Capital of Culture was born.”
He claimed that the present crisis is not only a financial crisis, but also a European crisis where one can hear too many nationalistic statements and it has become a challenge for culture to defend the European idea. He then quoted Paul Valery:
“Will Europe become what it is in reality – that is, a little promontory on the continent of Asia? Or will it remain what it seems – that is, the elect portion of the terrestrial globe, the pearl of the universe, the brain of a vast body?”
A quote as relevant today as in 1919, according to Mr. Norrman.
The theme of this year’s session will open for a rather complex session, including four separate workshops. He stated that it is a challenge to see the bridge between our classical heritage and the future of European Culture and European identity. The ECP is a lobby for a stronger EU and is also promoting common values between the EU and its European neighbours. Mr. Norrman then presented the moderators of plenary sessions and workshops. He finished his speech by encouraging all members of the ECP to bring back the messages from this session to their countries.