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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > April 2005 > Speech by Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research of Luxembourg acting President of the Council of Ministers of Culture of the European Union, on the occasion of the launching of the Euromed Anna Lindh Foundation
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Speech by Octavie Modert, Secretary of State for Culture, Higher Education and Research of Luxembourg acting President of the Council of Ministers of Culture of the European Union, on the occasion of the launching of the Euromed Anna Lindh Foundation

Date of Speech : 20-04-2005

Place : Cairo

Speaker : Octavie Modert

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,

Anna Lindh has passed away, but today we live the revival of the ideas she promoted.

It is hence a great honour for me to be with you for the inauguration ceremony of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, representing the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

The Foundation's aim is to bring closer citizens and organisations of the civil society in the whole Euro-Mediterranean Region. No better could the ideals of the former Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, the late Anna Lindh, have been consecrated: no dividing gaps but bridges to be built between people and cultures ! We owe this to her.

The Euromed Foundation that bears her name is a cornerstone in the Barcelona Process. We have come a long way in the dialogue and the cooperation between the countries bordering the southern shores of the Mediterranean and the Member states of the European Union : today we are on the eve of the Tenth Anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration which, in 1995, laid the foundations for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The Anna Lindh Foundation will be an important contribution to it and become an entire part of the process.

One of the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency consists in consolidating the acquis of the Barcelona Process and moving it forward in a spirit of partnership and co-ownership. The Anna Lindh-Foundation will substantially enhance the visibility of the Partnership – not only since it is the first initiative financed by contributions from all countries participating in the Barcelona Process. Indeed, the Luxembourg Presidency considers the creation of the Anna Lindh Foundation to be a decisive step in the implementation of the social, cultural and human dimension of the partnership, which is one of the three main pillars of the Barcelona Process, and thus an important advance towards the realisation of the overall objectives of the Barcelona Declaration. We need to enhance the process by the promotion of human rights, tolerance, mutual respect through culture and intellectual exchanges and a large participation of civil societies.

Luxembourg has always been an eager participant in the Barcelona Process, and, yes, the social, cultural and human partnership is no exception to this. Though Luxembourg is among the top contributors to the Foundation’s budget, our contribution is by no means limited to the mere financial sphere. "Dialogue of Cultures and the Culture of Dialogue": this is the motto we live in a daily manner at the Luxembourgish Centre Culturel de Rencontre de Neumünster, the national contact point for the Foundation’s Network of Networks. Also promoting an active engagement of civil society, perfectly matches the objectives of the Anna Lindh Foundation. In this respect, I might point out that Luxembourg has hosted from the 1st to the 3rd of April this year the Euromed Civil Forum. In their final declaration, representatives from the civil societies from the 35 countries of the Partnership reaffirmed the importance of cultural cooperation and intercultural dialogue.

Notwithstanding the great potential that resides in it, we must remember that it has not been easy to establish the Anna Lindh Foundation. From before the Naples Euromed Ministerial Conference in 2003 until today, a staggering number of administrative, financial and not least political problems have had to be tackled. The Luxembourg Presidency was able to build on the work done by its Italian, Irish and Dutch predecessors in the framework of the Euromed Senior Officials meetings. With the help of all 35 partners, an agreement could be secured on the programme of activities, the budget, and the financial and administrative regulations, that the Foundation needs to function.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Four and a half years ago, on the 3rd of October 2000, Anna Lindh inaugurated the Swedish Institute in Alexandria. She made a powerful statement for the understanding and rapprochement between cultures, be they Egyptian and Swedish, Muslim and Christian or Southern and Northern.

Unlike her friend and successor, Her Excellency Leila Freivalds, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden, I have not known Anna Lindh personally. My colleague-Minister described her to me as having been not only an outstanding diplomat who worked tirelessly for a better world, but being at the same time a very modest person. No one knows therefore whether she would have approved of having her name given to this Foundation during her lifetime.

But I have no doubt that she would agree wholeheartedly with the Foundation’s objective, namely to promote the dialogue between Cultures, through culture.

This dialogue can take many forms. If the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership can make a positive contribution to the stability of the Mediterranean region, I believe that the Anna Lindh Foundation, in line with its calling to promote intercultural dialogue, will be able to support efforts of peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea on the way to a real peace culture.

Intercultural dialogue needs to be constructed and nurtured. Numerous examples from history – not least episodes from the past of the city of Alexandria – show the use and the need of pursuing intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. Let us oppose all extremism, confront and repudiate racism, xenophobia of all kinds, Islamo-phobia or anti-Semitism. Let us refute the fallacy of an alleged "Clash of Civilisations" with the affirmative antithesis of the "Alliance of Civilisations", and reaffirm that dialogue – under any form - is the safest way to prevent conflicts – knowing and understanding each other in full respect of our cultural diversities.

UNESCO’s constitution preamble states this necessity in a beautiful way, declaring that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed," and that "the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man and constitute a sacred duty which all the nations must fulfill in a spirit of mutual assistance and concern."

It is thus not by chance that the Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Dr. Traugott Schoefthaler, has a long-standing experience with UNESCO. Thanks to his tireless efforts and commitment, the Anna Lindh Foundation can be inaugurated today: he has never given up believing in its importance and potential, and therefore deserves to be especially credited and commended today.

Many more hands and minds involved have to be thanked: There is first of all the Government of Egypt, the Swedish Institute in Alexandria, the Dutch Embassy to Egypt, the European Commission, the Executive Director's team, the staff of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, members of the civil society as well as the governments and civil servants of the 35 Euromed member countries, as well as all those who have given a hand to make us live this special momentum. But we need the Foundation's offer to be called upon to achieve its objectives: let me thank right now the artists, writers, musicians, academics and all others, young, and young at heart, who will actively contribute to the realisation of the ideas and ideals the Foundation stands for.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,

Bibliotheca Alexandrina aspires to achieve learning, tolerance, dialogue and understanding. There could have been no better place to host part of the Anna Lindh Foundation. These devices, handled in her spirit and to her memory, shall be the motor of all our activities and of all political action. I am convinced that the Anna Lindh Foundation will become the lighthouse for global intercultural dialogue and understanding.

Thank you very much for your attention.

This page was last modified on : 22-04-2005

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