Claudio Magris receives European Award for Raising Awareness on Heritage in Lisbon
The prestigious Italian writer Claudio Magris received the European Award for Raising Public Awareness on Cultural Heritage, named after the Portuguese journalist, cultural activist and politician Helena Vaz da Silva, from the President of the Portuguese Republic Cavaco Silva at a special ceremony in Lisbon on 21 October. The prize, instituted by Centro Nacional de Cultura in cooperation with the leading European heritage organisation, Europa Nostra, on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary, and Clube Português de Imprensa, was awarded for the first time this year.
“Claudio Magris is not only a great writer but also an engaged citizen. He is a true interpreter of the richness and beauty of our European culture, with its many roots – Latin, Germanic and Slavic, just to mention a few examples – and the Danube as one of its symbols. It is a rare honour to have such a distinguished Ambassador of our cause: the promotion of the European idea and spirit through the safeguard of Europe’s heritage both tangible and intangible”, stated Europa Nostra’s President Plácido Domingo in a congratulations message which was read at the ceremony.
“The building of Europe is not just a matter for politicians, businessmen or public administrations. The building of Europe can only succeed if it is based on the inspiration and energy of men and women who have a European vision and who are committed to communicating it across borders. Men such as Claudio Magris and women such as Helena Vaz da Silva”, stressed Plácido Domingo in his message.
“I didn’t have the pleasure to meet Helena Vaz da Silva, unfortunately. But, from what I have learned about her life and her deep commitment to cultural values in Portugal and in Europe as a whole, I feel that Helena Vaz da Silva was the epitome of the mission and spirit of Europa Nostra! I am delighted that through this award we will honour men and women who share and continue the spirit and passion of Helena”, stated Europa Nostra’s Executive President Denis de Kergorlay.
Europe – as a project of peace and culture but also as an economic and political project – was at the core of the award ceremony and in particular of the acceptance speech made by the Italian writer.
“The European culture is a cohesive unity, a common ground for different national cultures. My literary education has always been European: my ‘classics’ were not only the Italians or the Greeks and the Latins. La Chanson de Roland and the Nibelungenlied were not less important to me than the masterpieces written in my language; the Russian, French or English novels were not less important to me than Nievo, Manzoni or Svevo”, said Claudio Magris.
“I believe that Europe, the true European unity is our only option, our only way. Today our reality is European and this factual reality must be incorporated at a political level, as a formal unity. Today the problems are no longer national, they are European; a political or economic disaster in one or another European countries hit throughout Europe. The global financial market, with its opportunities and dangers, as demonstrated by recent disasters, crosses borders and must be controlled by a supranational state. A European, federal and decentralised state, but with real power to assert control and to protect its citizens”, advocated the Italian writer.
“When many persons question the fairness and feasibility of the European Union project, the work of Claudio Magris has the ability to recover the foundations of this project, taking us to look on it not only as a solution to the current problems, but also as a undeniable destination that the past indicates us. Claudio Magris’ Europe has in its genetic code the diversity of peoples and languages; it is the Europe which has been forming and deepening over the centuries, in the confrontation and dialogue between civilizations and cultures”, stated the President of the Portuguese Republic Cavaco Silva.
European Commission’s President Barroso congratulated Claudio Magris on the award and expressed his “deep admiration for the great Italian writer, European traveller and European heritage advocate”, in a video message especially recorded for the event. President Barroso also paid tribute to Helena Vaz da Silva: “She was a woman of thought and action, strongly engaged in preserving our cultural heritage, and, at the same time, an enthusiastic of change, creativity and innovation. Helena Vaz da Silva was also a humanist, committed to defending the values that underpin the European integration process, such as freedom, democracy and respect for human dignity, as well as to the European project, through her work at the European Parliament and the Centro Nacional de Cultura”.
The Helena Vaz da Silva European Award for Raising Public Awareness on Cultural Heritage acknowledges European citizens, whose careers have been distinguished by activities that disseminate, defend and promote Europe’s cultural heritage. In the first edition of the prize, the jury presided by Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, President of the CNC and Board Member of Europa Nostra decided to grant a special mention to Olivér Kovács from Hungary and Özgen Acar from Trurkey.
The award ceremony was hosted by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon on 21 October, in front of an audience of 160 people. On this occasion, the four Portuguese winners of the 2013 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards – the Chalet of the Countess of Edla (Conservation), the Lyceum Passos Manuel (Conservation), the Foundation Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva (Dedicated Service) and the SOS Azulejo Project (Grand Prix, Education, Training and Awareness-raising) – were also honoured.