Cultural diversity

News Releases / Speeches / Declarations

" C ulture is a fundamental cornerstone of European construction and a precondition for its success "

José Manuel Barroso, président de la Commission européenne, Paris, le 3 mai 2005 – 2005/05/03

In his closing speech to the Meetings for Europe and Culture, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso spoke out to dissipate the “sentiment that Europe is perceived too much as an economic concern, and not enough as blueprint for civilization.” Affirming that in the hierarchy of values, culture comes before the economy, he declared that culture is a fundamental cornerstone of European construction and a precondition for its success. Barroso called for “more culture for a more successful Europe,” but also warned that this goal had to be reached “in a manner consistent with the principles of the current treaty—which are upheld in the Constitutional Treaty. European cultural action is, by definition, complementary to national initiatives. It must respect the subsidiary principle. Legislation, even harmonization, at the European level is out of the question […] European culture is diversity—a diversity that is the source of our cultural wealth and must be preserved. Those best positioned to protect it are the representatives and repositories of this diversity in our member states, regions, and communities.” In these conditions, “funding for cultural initiatives cannot be transferred to the European level. However, respect for these principles by no means precludes legitimate action on the part of the European Union.”

For all of these reasons, he argued, “we must foster stronger intercultural dialog and, through it, mutual awareness of cultural diversity while at the same time highlighting the cultural identity we share; encourage mobility among artists and cultural operators, and the dissemination of cultural goods—material and immaterial—including works in translation; prioritize, through these same initiatives, actions that bring old and new member states closer together; and ensure that culture is taken into account in all internal and external EU policies, as required under Article 151 of the Treaty. This aspect is particularly important, especially with regard to ongoing UNESCO negotiations on the protection of cultural diversity […] Together, these elements determine the specificity of European cultural policy.”

In his conclusion, Barroso stressed that in the area of culture, as in many others, the Constitution for Europe innovates while safeguarding past achievements: “The Constitution explicitly includes respect for cultural and linguistic diversity among EU objectives. It stipulates that the EU must ensure the preservation and development (the two words are important) of Europe’s cultural heritage. As for the Charter of Fundamental Rights now enshrined in our founding text, it recognizes freedom of expression and information and freedom of the arts and sciences as values shared by all the peoples of Europe. It also recognizes the right to the protection of intellectual property. Everything we hold dear in cultural terms is thus reinforced by the Constitution.” [05-13]