Speech – Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović – “Civil Society for rEUnaissance” in Brussels

21 February 2019, Brussels

Event organised by the European Economic and Social Committee
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Mister President,
Honorable members of the European Union Institutions,
Dear Colleagues & Friends,

I wish to thank the EESC President, Luca Jahier for challenging both civil society and the EU Institutions to dream together a new renaissance of Europe.

Is this a utopian or realistic dream?

Europa Nostra and I firmly share this dream. We think that we can make this dream come true provided that we have confidence in Europe’s creative talents and energy and in Europe’s capacity for renewal. And provided that we engage and “do our homework”.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

* Only four months after we commemorated the end of the First World War, we must never forget that Europe is first and foremost a peace project!

* Only three months after we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must remember that Europe has always been a value-driven project! 

* And only two months after the end of the historic European Year of Cultural Heritage, it is important to recall that the European project is also a cultural project!

But the success of this European Year is just an “ouverture”. We must do much more in the future. Today, a little bit less than 100 days ahead of the new European Elections, at the time when we are confronted with so many challenges, and so many serious threats to our core values, to our Europe and to our Planet.., we must “change the tone”, change the narrative about Europe. The question is not whether we should have less or more Europe. The question is how we can join forces to make Europe a better, a fairer, a more inclusive, a more beautiful and more meaningful place to live for present and future generations.

Indeed we must change the tone! And we must take action! Mille Grazie to the artists of EUPHONIA for your beautiful interpretation of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, as your contribution to the Ode to Joy challenge launched at the start of the European Year of Cultural Heritage by Europa Nostra and our President with a legendary voice – Maestro Plácido Domingo.

Today, we are renewing our call to all citizens across Europe and beyond to make their own interpretation of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and to record it – like EUPHONIA already did – at the heritage site which matter to them, and to post this on this year’s Europe Day – the 9 of May when the EU leaders will be gathered in Sibiu. Please help us spread the news and make this Ode2Joy Challenge go viral! And please contribute to the Challenge! Let us show the world that Our Europe is an enchanting “Theme with variations”…that Europe stands for joy and not for fear.

Dear Colleagues & Friends,

Last year, we have applauded the fact the new President of EESC made history when he decided to make culture one of the four priorities of his presidency. And today, inspired and encouraged by Greta Thunberg – and so many of her new friends from all over Europe and beyond – with their forceful plea for Europe’s more resolute climate action, I wish to launch my own strong appeal to Europe’s political leaders, decision makers and civil society: let us put culture and education, and especially our shared cultural heritage where they belong – at the heart of the entire European project.

Culture and cultural heritage are not only a source of beauty, inspiration and creativity; they are also a positive and cohesive force for the future of Europe and its citizens. Our heritage matters to our communities and citizens and it reflects our multiple identities, not only local, regional and national but also European! They also must be recognised as vital drivers of Europe’s sustainable development agenda.

This is a beautiful pledge which we can make all together in this year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of the European genius called Leonardo da Vinci, and also next year when we shall celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of another European genius called Ludwig van Beethoven.

I feel confident that you, Mr President, will be prepared to transmit this appeal to the EU Leaders who will be gathered on 9 May in Sibiu to discuss the key priorities for the future of Europe. And I also want to believe that the new European Parliament and the new European Commission will listen to our voices and place cultural and education very high on the list of horizontal value-driven priorities of the European Union. Because investment in culture and education is investment in SDGs, investment in social cohesion, investment in climate action, investment in the most important resource of Europe – its human capital! Only in this way shall we indeed increase the chances for Europe’s true renaissance.

Earlier today President Jean-Claude Juncker stressed that the European Union should “do big on big things” and “small on small things”. Let me leave you with a fundamental question to which I would kindly ask you to give an answer: should the European Union treat culture and education as a matter with a big or small importance for the renaissance of Europe?

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