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Regional cooperation from the viewpoint of the republic of Macedonia.

The Republic of Macedonia has invested enormous efforts to improve matters in the realm of culture nationwide, encourage creation, improve the status of authors, and promote Macedonian culture and art on an international scale. It is particularly important that in this period of global crisis, during which the entire world has faced budgeting difficulties, our Government has paid much attention to investing in capital projects in culture, art, and cultural heritage. Culture, in the true sense of the word, has been put in the service of the entire social development as an industry useful for the social and economic welfare of our country.

Culture has also been one of our priorities in the process of integration of the Republic of Macedonia into the European Union as a factor of cooperation and as the basis for alignment of the matrixes of values of our society with those of the other European countries. In that context, particularly worth mentioning is our contribution to the promotion of regional cooperation in SouthEast Europe in the fields of culture and art, which is constantly growing and turning into an ever more significant quality of our policies. We all recognize culture, art, and cultural heritage as common resources for sustainable growth, active citizens, and social cohesion. Planning our national strategies, we always address the results of our work and the benefits of the projects being the outcome of our regional interconnectivity.

Our region boasts abundant cultural heritage, with a great diversity of expression and unity of differences. These qualities are a great potential for development of relations. However, we also have to cooperate even more efficiently with the key partners in the regional processes. It is very significant for us to rely on the experience of the Council of Europe for the rehabilitation projects in the area of cultural heritage, the guidelines of UNESCO included in the conventions on tangible and intangible heritage, and the financial assistance from the European Union channelled through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). In other words, we need to project together long-term management in the areas of shared interest.

Our long-term mission should also be to elevate the general level of intellectual culture in our environment and raise awareness of how important culture and art are. Also, together with the media, we have to exert influence in the sphere of education in every way possible, thus helping the young become capable of recognizing true values and encouraging their creativity that will in turn have an effect on all the other segments of society.

It depends on us what region we live in and what region we hand down to the future generations, what treatment culture receives in our societies, and how important a factor culture will be in developing regional policies. Therefore, we need to remain committed to promoting regional cooperation and to efficiently manage cultural heritage, accepting new ideas and technologies of cooperation, as well as new solutions that will lead to palpable results. We have to work together to harmonize our interests and set common goals, and to work even harder to attain these goals that will benefit us all. I am deeply convinced that we all share the idea of the European space being indivisible. Therefore, through culture, we need to educate ourselves, identify ourselves, and become united.

Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe

Cooperation among the countries of the region has assumed a tangible form over the years through the formal structures, that is to say, platforms that we agreed to establish at a ministerial level so that we can resolve more efficiently all open issues and promote cultural activities in the region.

The Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe, popularly referred to as CoMoCoSEE, is undoubtedly one of the most significant platforms for cooperation of the countries of the region. It is an idea of our own based on other similar structures in other European regions that proved very efficient and helpful. This forum enables us to conduct a constructive dialogue with the aim of reaching consensus on issues important to the promotion of culture and cultural heritage. Through this platform we also improve our partner relations with such international and regional organizations as UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the Regional Cooperation Council and its Working Group on Culture and Society. The conclusions we passed at the meetings of the CoMoCoSEE that we have so far held have enriched the cultural landscape of Southeast Europe and have introduced a new integrated approach to the protection of cultural and natural heritage on our continent.

I will also mention the ministerial conference titled "The Social Value of Cultural Heritage in Europe" that we organized in 2010 when the Republic of Macedonia chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This conference was a strong impetus to cooperation among countries playing a leading role in the promotion of new and sustainable methods of preserving and using cultural heritage. Together with the representatives of the Council of Europe member states we accomplished several important goals: we adopted the Skopje Agenda project committing to lay stress on the monitoring of the ongoing projects by the Council of Europe, which is indispensable in the evaluation of results; the Republic of Macedonia signed the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society of Faro, thus raising the number of member states having signed the Convention and opening up possibilities for modern and integrated manner of treatment of cultural heritage; and we promoted the principles of regional cooperation establishing the Council of Ministers of Culture of the Black Sea and the South Caucasus Region. The 3-year programme of Skopje Agenda strongly encouraged the implementation of the Faro Convention through tangible, converging activities in developing regional projects in conformity with the objectives of the Macedonian Chairmanship and the European priorities. This group of projects included Ljubljana Process II: Rehabilitating Our Common Heritage, the Pilot Local Development Projects, and the Pilot Project on the Rehabilitation of Cultural Heritage in Historic Towns, carried out in the countries having signed the Kyiv Initiative.

In 2014 the Ministry of Culture hosted the First Ministerial Meeting of the new platform under the common title "Council of Ministers of Culture of SouthEast Europe--Enhancing Culture for Sustainable Development" in Ohrid, at which two highly significant documents were adopted: the Ohrid Declaration and the Regional Cooperation Strategy, whereby we made considerable contribution to the promotion of the common platform, and the financing and management of culture and cultural heritage projects.

Cooperation within the Framework of UNESCO

As President of the National Commission for UNESCO of the Republic of Macedonia, I would like to emphasize the excellent cooperation that the Republic of Macedonia maintains with this international organisation. We have carried out with UNESCO numerous projects that broadened our experience in the realms of culture, education, science, information society, natural environment, and other areas. However, we have also carried out projects with which we have made a contribution to the resolution of the problems that mankind faces today.

As a result of our cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the Plan for Management of Natural and Cultural Heritage in the Region of Ohrid was drafted and the Law on Management of the Ohrid Region as World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the Law on the Proclamation of Ohrid's Old Urban Core as Cultural Heritage of Particular Importance were passed. In the spirit of the celebration of the 10 th anniversary of the adoption of one of UNESCO's most important conventions for preservation of the world intangible cultural heritage, last year we organized a concert at which the authentic values of the traditional music and dance of the countries of the South-East European region were presented. Within the framework of its cooperation with UNESCO, the Republic of Macedonia also took part in the joint travelling exhibition titled "Imagining the Balkans--Identities and Memory in the Long 19 th Century" which was staged in Macedonia, too. In addition, we opened two UNESCO departments, one for intercultural studies and research at the Faculty of Philosophy and the other for media, dialogue, and mutual understanding at the Higher School of Media, while the Institute for Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology in Skopje was proclaimed a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO. The Republic of Macedonia was also entered into UNESCO's long-term Man and Biosphere Programme with the naming of the Ohrid-Prespa region as a cross-border biosphere reserve.

Together with UNESCO we also hosted the three conferences on interreligious and inter-civilization dialogue in Ohrid and Skopje in 2007, 2010, and 2013. Via these world gatherings, through particularly fruitful discussions and an exchange of experiences and insights, representatives of all world religions, experts, and eminent members of international organisations once again confirmed that culture and religion are the most monolithic factors of peace, coexistence, prosperity, and welfare. By sharing ideas, experiences, communication, good intentions, and helpful suggestions, we jointly demonstrated strong will to make a contribution to the construction of a civilization model of peace, tolerance, understanding and coexistence, religious spirituality, and intercultural connectedness, for which we all together strive. Three representational publications, being a testimony of our commitments to continuous dialogue and cooperation among various peoples, cultures, and religions in the world, came out of these conferences on inter-religious and inter-civilization dialogue.

With the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy and the UNESCO Venice Office--Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, we also published four very important publications on cultural heritage with which we made a step forward in the presentation of our cultural treasure house both at home and abroad, and before various audiences. These publications, the first of their kind in our country, represent a priceless testimony of the continuity and diversity of Macedonia's tangible and intangible culture.

Only a year ago, the Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Stip, the Republic of Macedonia, was entered into UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This was highly significant for our country, because the Republic of Macedonia once again showed the world the value of its culture, tradition, and identity. A little later, the Macedonian traditional dance 'Kopacka' followed suit.

The election of the Republic of Macedonia as member of the UNESCO Executive Board for the 2011-2015 period and the naming of a deputy chair together with six other countries at the 37th General Conference in 2013 showcase in no uncertain terms the active role that our country is playing in the development of UNESCO, the strengthening of its international role, and the promotion of its traditional cooperation with all member states and its efficiency in encouraging intellectual and material potential.

Cooperation within the Forum of Slavic Cultures

The Forum of Slavic Cultures, thanks to the excellent regional cooperation, is recognized worldwide today as a referential global platform for intercultural dialogue and for preserving the cultural traditions of the Slavic peoples as lasting and universal values on a global scale.

We started the realisation of the idea of creating strong bonds between the Slavic peoples and their cultures ten years ago and today we connect the cultural cores of more than 300 million Slavs from 13 Slavic countries. In 2014 the Republic of Macedonia hosted several events to mark the 10th anniversary of this notable international organisation. We continued with the implementation of the project "100 Slavic Novels", the travelling exhibition "The History of the Slavic Capitals through Archive Records", the projects marking the Day of Slavic Cultures at the UNESCO Headquarters, the seminars on museum activities, and several other activities carried out within the framework of the Forum of Slavic Cultures. I will also mention the seminar titled "Theatre Museology in the 21st Century" which was held last year and which enabled us, in the attendance of numerous eminent experts, to present the underlying concept of our new virtual museum as well as to share experiences concerning the historical reconstructions in the museum, the use of new technologies in the extant museum exhibitions, and the digital content of the museum shows. Within the framework of the 10th anniversary of the Forum of Slavic Cultures, we presented for the first time the ZIVA Award for best Slavic museum, which, I trust, will be a great satisfaction to every museum institution. Also, we staged the exhibition "100 Years of Theatre in Skopje" of the National Museum of Belgrade and completed the celebration of the great jubilee with a concert at which the intangible cultural heritage of the Slavic countries was presented.

Through all these projects we jointly made a noteworthy contribution to the nurturing of the Slavic identity and to the promotion of the rich culture of the Slavic countries, which supplements the concept of multicultural diversity that typifies Europe as well as every nation and state as a separate whole.

The Regional Cooperation Council as Part of the South-East European Cooperation Process

The Regional Cooperation Council in Sarajevo is the most recent example of regional cooperation in South-East Europe, which, as the successor of the Stability Pact for South-East Europe, promotes reconciliation in South-East Europe and especially the Western Balkans following the turbulent 1990s. We insist that the cooperation among the Regional Cooperation Council member states develops by the principles of the CoMoCoSEE--with full equality, in mutual interest and with full respect of the social and economic circumstances in the region.

Support for IPA Projects

The care for cultural heritage is a strategic priority of the EU, and, of course, of the Republic of Macedonia, which boasts truly remarkable cultural heritage from various periods. Therefore, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and the Ministry of Culture identified the conservation and presentation of cultural heritage as a long-term priority of highest national relevance. We also try to become actively involved in all the programmes of the EU that promote regional cooperation to a great extent. The Ministry of Culture organized a great many conferences attended by ministers from the region and experts who shared their experiences and knowhow on cultural heritage revitalisation. Worth mentioning are the two IPA projects in which the Ministry of Culture was a partner institution to leading European experts: CULTEMA--Cultural Values for Sustainable Territorial Governance and Marketing, and CHERPLAN--Enhancement of Cultural Heritage through Environmental Planning and Management. The projects have been completely implemented, resulting in fully documented, precise, and applicable strategic management plans for the old urban cores of Bitola and the village of Gari.

Our country also took active part in the Programme of the European Union "Culture 2007-2013", which we recognized as an outstanding opportunity for Macedonian cultural operators to become involved in the creation of the common European cultural mosaic. The success of this programme and the supported 58 projects proved that the cultural sector in our country keeps pace with the European trends and is able of developing top-quality concepts to be then offered to the Macedonian audience. Within the framework of this programme, the Republic of Macedonia, together with the Republic of Slovenia and the Republic of Croatia, became a leader in using funds for literary translations.

The Republic of Macedonia has recently become an official participant in the Culture sub-programme of Creative Europe 2014-2020. With the signing of this agreement, the Republic of Macedonia and the Ministry of Culture, as an institute in charge of the programme, have reconfirmed their commitment to being equal partners to the EU in the execution of its cultural agenda and in supporting the projects being part of its programmes. I am confident that our country, as a full beneficiary of the programme, will make a notable contribution to the development of international cooperation and networking, and to the promotion of cultural institutions, culture professionals, artists, non-governmental organisations, and all the creative forces of Europe. The programme will be highly beneficial to Macedonian operators by stimulating circulation of art products and enhancing institutional, financial, and professional capacities in the creative sectors.

Cooperation within the Framework of the Council of Europe

The Regional Programme on Cultural and Natural Heritage in South East Europe of the Council of Europe, financially backed by the European Commission, is one more vivid example of regional cooperation in areas of common interest. The successful implementation of such projects as the Pilot Local Development Project, Integrated Regional Approach to Architectural and Archaeological Heritage, and Ljubljana Process were a motivation to us to intensify through such activities regional cooperation in rehabilitation of cultural and natural heritage.

The methodology used in these projects proved remarkably efficient and confirmed that we should use these experiences in the future for the purpose of attracting more investments in the area of cultural heritage. It is particularly important that the expertise of the Council of Europe was also used as a methodological frame for projects in other areas and activities undertaken at a national level that rely today on the knowhow of our home experts who accomplish outstanding results. As if to illustrate the point, experts from the Cultural Heritage Protection Office of the Republic of Macedonia were included, through the Council of Europe, in the implementation of a cultural heritage project in Abkhazia and Georgia.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that regional cooperation has been proven to add value to our separate national efforts in carrying out quality projects and in taking strategic decisions, which will bring us benefits in the long run in a number of areas of society.

Experience has confirmed that the Republic of Macedonia has efficient human potential, which gives a strong impetus to cooperation in various sectors of culture, including cultural heritage, performing and visual arts, and design, among all the countries of South-East Europe.

With its fundamental political goals and principles, Europe is still a comprehensive frame for regional cooperation, encouraging close cooperation with other regional initiatives and with international organisations. The role of the ministries of culture in the region is essential in the creation and maintenance of a hospitable environment for putting social and political reforms, democracy, and European values into practice. I would like to underline that the Republic of Macedonia remains dedicated to the process of European integration and close regional cooperation as a long-term political commitment. From the point of view of culture, I am convinced that in the future, too, we are going to contribute actively to the promotion of European values and to bringing European cultures closer to one another.

Mrs. Elizabeta Kanceska--Milevska, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Macedonia.
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Author:Kanceska-Milevska, Elizabeta
Publication:Crossroads Foreign Policy Journal
Geographic Code:4EXMA
Date:Mar 1, 2015
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