Sunday, 23 April 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen Ministers,
I welcome you to Athens, to the opening session of the Academic Conference being held in the context of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, the proceedings of which are being carried out for the first time, on the initiative of the Greek government and, in particular, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
All of us share the good fortune and the responsibility of a cultural heritage thousands of years old; a cultural heritage that travels the contemporary world in the hopes, principles and values of the citizens of every country represented here today. Countries that are worthy successors to their brilliant past; countries endowed with the added value of millennia-old cultural legacies.
But the contemporary international environment is characterized by instability and, at the same time, a multidimensional array of challenges that are having an ever greater impact on the economic and social life of states and, consequently, the day-to-day lives of citizens. Until recently, traditional policies were the response to these challenges. The current reality, however, indicates that dealing effectively with contemporary global problems requires a combination of initiatives and actions based mainly on soft power.
Culture is the epitome of soft power, as it is an intrinsic part of the historical continuity of states and peoples, and a timeless link between societies with different characteristics.
The use of networks and new tools that will point up the dynamic of our cultural wealth, to the benefit of our peoples, is an opportunity for us to shape our present and future on better terms, with our common values and parallel cultural traditions as our point of departure.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Cultural Diplomacy is based on the policy of broad consensus and helps to create a foundation of trust with other peoples – a foundation of trust that policy-makers can use to achieve political, economic and other agreements.
Cultural Diplomacy also creates relations with nations and peoples that exist beyond changes in government. It provides a positive cooperation agenda in spite of any political differences, and it creates a neutral platform for communication and exchange of ideas, functioning as a flexible, universally acceptable vehicle even for rapprochement between countries with tense or non-existent diplomatic relations.
Moreover, it is the only form of diplomacy that can reach young people and a broad range of the public – people with cultural interests – bringing younger generations and citizens in general into contact with different backgrounds and cultures.
Cultural Diplomacy familiarises us with different traditions, reduces stereotypes and combats prejudice. This is why, now more than ever before, the modern world has urgent need of it.
But to implement it, we need to listen to one another. Academics, scholars, artists and historians from different cultures need to seek common ground.
And that is why we are here today.
In seeking this common ground, each culture has its own way of processing and understanding our common meaning. However, allow me to say that ancient Greek civilization was based on ongoing dialogue with the artistic and cultural wealth of other civilizations.
Thus, Greek Studies were not just the foundation of Humanism and the source of Western Civilization and the Enlightenment, but are today, too, a springboard for our creating a network of cooperation, dynamically promoting the values represented by our ancient civilizations.
So we are being called upon not just to promote the added value of our cultural heritage, but also to capitalise on this heritage to promote solutions to our contemporary problems.
We expect the views expressed and findings made at this two-day academic conference to contribute precisely in this direction.