The Eastern Dimension of Mobility conference ended. It was the first event devoted to the Eastern Partnership under the Polish Presidency. We asked Monika Smoleń, Ph.D., Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, about the title ‘mobility’ and what it really means.
Artur Kacprzak: We’re at the conference entitled Eastern Dimension of Mobility, but we’re all asking ourselves a question: What is this mobility?
Monika Smoleń: Mobility is an attitude to life consisting in openness to new ideas, cultures, exchange of thoughts and views. It is a guarantee of democratic stability and balanced social-economic development of the European regions. Mobility is not just a catchword, but a need for the actual actions which would give a chance for the flow of ideas, knowledge and experience, both from the West to the East and from the East to the West. Mobility is also about breaking down various barriers, fighting against prejudices and stereotypes. It is a mutual fascination and inspiration with cultural diversity of the European societies. If we are to speak of common Europe without borders, we must speak of mobility in various fields. This is why the Eastern Partnership initiative presented by Poland and Sweden in 2009 does not concern only free trade, civic society and strengthening the collaboration in the field of energy safety, but also the need for interpersonal relations improvement, strengthening the organisation of civic society, supporting cultural, educational and scientific projects as well as sharing the knowledge with our Eastern partners. Obviously, culture is especially close to my heart. I think that culture is the most complete way of building bridges of agreement, understanding and dialogue as well as of overcoming stereotypes. I would like cultural diversity not to be associated with hostility, but to be considered the greatest value of Europe. I’m glad, that when it comes to culture, we don’t need to talk about mobility as a need, because there are already many actions taking place in this field. One of the key projects of the Polish Presidency, I, Culture Orchestra, is a proof of how we understand mobility and cooperation. The orchestra is formed by young people – musicians from all the Eastern Partnership countries, who initially work together to learn how to play together, and then go on a concert tour and perform in the most prestigious concert halls in the world to promote music from their countries. In my view, Europe is our common heritage, regardless of what country we live in.
Who was the initiator of making the mobility a broader motto of the Polish Presidency and Eastern Partnership? It came as a surprise. After today’s conference, it is visible that it was not chosen on an ad hoc basis and that the motto of ‘mobility’ was well thought out.
In the Ministry of Culture, we have worked on the Polish Presidency programme for almost two years. We knew that the Presidency is the time that we must use for the promotion of Polish culture abroad, but also for discussion on the important issues of the future of culture. We also knew that in order to achieve success we must propose such a subject that will be attractive not only to Poland, but also to our partners from the EU member states. Such a subject, we thought, was mobility, the role of cultural competence in building intellectual and social capital of Europe. This is where the ‘cultural’ motto of our presidency – ‘Art for social change‘ – comes from. During the Presidency we want to show that culture matters. That it is not only value in itself but also one of the most important factors in social-economic development of Europe. Like I mentioned, the Eastern Partnership will be one of the priorities of the Polish Presidency. Poland, which is a place of meeting of cultures, nations and different historical experience, became the initiator of the Eastern Partnership not by accident. It is a country that has been involved in building multilevel cultural dialogue planes for a long time. For many years Poland has developed tools for stimulating and facilitating this dialogue, as well as the cultural exchange through special grant programmes e.g. Gaude Polonia funded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. This programme enables young artists from Eastern Europe to improve their technique in the most important culture centres in Poland under the tutelage of outstanding masters and institutions. From the moment of launching the programme in 2003, a few hundred artists from Armenia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine took part in it. For a long time we have seeked for the Eastern Partnership development to be permanently included in the European agenda, and to be mirrored in the future culture programmes of the European Union. The third countries, especially the Eastern Partnership countries, should be the beneficiaries of these programmes. Without meeting this condition, the West-East cooperation will not reach the appropriate dimension and will be peripheral to the key projects engaging culture operators on both sides of the EU border. Thus, I count on joint effort and intensified work of member states, EU institutions, culture institutions and non-governmental organisations. I’m convinced that the Eastern Partnership, slowly but consistently, takes more and more visible position on the map of the West-East cooperation. It still needs new strong impulses, so that it could become a recognisable brand also among the European culture projects.
Thank you very much.