Jacques Chirac, président de la République française, Paris, le 2 mai 2005 – 2005/05/02
In his speech at the opening of the "Rencontres pour l'Europe de la culture", French president Jacques Chirac drew attention to the challenges of “cultural Europe,” declaring “Today, we face the challenges of a complex and often confusing and turbulent world. A world where technical advances open new horizons. A world where the threat of uniformity awakens identities, and civilizations must state their case through dialog to avoid confrontation. A world that must find unity in its own diversity.
The president defended the European Constitutional Treaty, which would mark a major step forward for cultural Europe. He affirmed that the European Constitution would make it possible to “build a European future based not only on economic interests, but also on a community of values, principles, and ideals.” He also argued that the treaty would enable France and the EU to better protect their cultural industries against U.S. hegemony while also stressing that for the first time, the cultural vocation of European construction would be elevated to the rank of a fundamental EU objective: ‘While false prophets of a ‘clash of civilizations’ predict a cultural collision we oppose with every fiber of our being, we cannot live in isolation behind national borders. Walling ourselves in would be fatal to our cultures, which aspire to dialog in a spirit of mutual recognition and respect. More than ever, we must ensure that Europe continues to welcome other cultures, that it continues to serve as a beacon of influence and openness for artists, intellectuals, and creative talents from every nation on earth. In a world increasingly driven by the chase for profits, cultures must also stand as a barrier to the tidal wave of standardization. We must resolutely defend the diversity of the world’s cultures, because the risk of homogenization is at our doorstep. The vitality of our cultural industries is one of our greatest assets in this fight […] We also recognize that culture cannot be left to the play of market forces, no more than it should become a ward of the state. Concentration is as much a threat to diversity as cut-throat competition. It is therefore necessary and legitimate for public powers—i.e., our states, and Europe—to intervene to guarantee freedom of expression and cultural diversity.”
The French president also referred to six-country initiative to establish a “virtual European library,” affirming that projects like this put Europe in the forefront of the fight for cultural diversity. “This is what the combat for the cultural exception is all about.” Led by France and Europe, the campaign draws its strength from the conviction that the WTO and international trade talks are not the appropriate forum for tackling cultural trade. “It is a tough battle that we must wage without tiring because the economic stakes are high,” said Mr. Chirac. “Thanks to the European Constitution, the cultural exception principle we are so strongly attached to will be permanently entrenched. This same ambition must inspire the efforts underway at UNESCO to develop an international convention on cultural diversity,” he added. “The convention should be devoted to the specificity of cultural goods. It must reinforce the legitimacy of cultural diversity policies and serve as a frame of reference for states and international organizations. These are major steps forward. France will use all of its powers of persuasion to ensure the convention is signed next fall. And we are counting on broad support to achieve this goal.” [05-13]