Andreas Broeckmann on Wed, 9 Jun 1999 14:13:29 +0100

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Syndicate: a regional cultural strategy for Balkan

Dear collegues:

Please find enclosed a short discussion paper on
developing a regional cultural strategy for Balkan.
Please feel free to circulate it further.
Your comments are most welcome to  or fax 3120 551

Kind regards

Dragan Klaic


Long Range Regional Cultural Strategy for Balkan

A discussion paper for the EFAH meting in Bonn, 12-14 June 1999

By Dragan Klaic

Even before the recent Finnish-Russian diplomatic initiative lead to the
agreement about the stopping of the NATO bombing in return for the Yugoslav
military withdrawal from Kosovo, the post-war future of the region has been
considered by several think tanks and government agencies. Besides
political stability and security measures, a major economic recovery has
been advocated by some, leading to the talk of a new Marshall plan for the
Balkan. There is a German government document, already called the Schroeder
Plan, which focuses on the political issues of the region's stability. A
comprehensive document by the Center for European Policy Studies (EPS) in
Brussels, "A System for Post-War South East Europe", developed with the
backing of the new EU Commission Chairman Prodi, contains a comprehensive
and radical blueprint: a prospect of an associate EU membership for
Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania in
the very near future in return for significant legislative and political
changes; a plan of speeded up monetary and fiscal reforms, opening space
for dynamic economic recovery and infrastructure modernization; support for
the civic society structures, independent media and educational reform.
Significantly, even this very broad minded and inspiring document
completely forgets to mention - culture.

It is important in my opinion to make sure culture is included in various
plans for Balkan's consolidation and development.

In all Balkan countries culture has been the dominant source of nationalist
ideology. The mass-disseminated spirit of intolerance, hate and ethnic
purity was developed from cultural traditions, icons and images, and it has
been sustained with steady cultural production of nationalist inspiration.

Culture has been nurturing a self-centered idea of the past from which
nationalist extrapolations for the future were elaborated.

Despite this role in the making of ideology, culture is today a neglected
and impoverished sector: cultural budgets have been reduced and diminished
by inflation and irregular payments, making many cultural institutions
function only formally or with a minimum output. In the whole region,
cultural institutions tend to be large, inflexible, rigid,
anachronistically set up and run, incapable to adjust and reform. At the
other side, a wild market has emerged in popular cultural items, a
demand-driven cultural industry of cheep reproduction and serialization,
often of pirated origin.

There is little dynamic in the tiny independent and non-institutional
cultural scene, curtailed by state interference, excessive regulation and
arbitrary taxation. There is little mobility within the countries and even
regions for cultural creators and their products and especially among the
countries of the region and with the rest of Europe.

There is a crying need for the development of the intercultural competence,
in the first instance among the professionals engaged in the culture: this
includes a sensibility, attitudes, skills and a strategy of communication
with other cultures without a sense of endangerment and menace, with
curiosity, respect and expectation to be enriched by these contacts and

Despite all nationalism-inspired litanies on the importance of the cultural
heritage, its objects have been systematically neglected and destroyed in
war operations and peace plunder. Besides physical protection from further
damage, there is a strategy needed how to integrate cultural heritage in
the contemporary cultural production and in the economy.

Culture and education have drifted apart as two sectors, while their
synergy is more important than ever. Both culture and education need to be
liberated from their ideological layers in order to contribute to the
creation of the future European citizens.

In the first instance, the urgent needs are in the systematic and
structured flow of information, especially about the sources of assistance,
support, development, then on the inspiring positive practice. Intensive
short-term training, inclusive stages, internships and on-job training are

On a more macro level, a redefinition of cultural policy objectives and
mechanisms is due. Modernization of the essential cultural infrastructure
and appropriate regulation should rely on a strong regional and local input
and competence. Further measures would include initiation of innovative,
non-conventional pilot projects, encouragement of smaller, flexible and
dynamic organizations in place of cultural giants, development of cultural
industry and cultural economy, providing jobs and sustaining non-for-profit

There are in Europe outstanding resources to respond to these needs. In the
last ten years, ever since the end of the Cold War, a large number of
organizations and networks have developed contacts and connections in
South-Eastern Europe, have built up experience and expertise how to operate
in the region, have articulated a sense of priorities or have lined up
partners who can sort things out with precision and astuteness.

These are, among others, the network of G. Soros' Open Society Institutes
in all the countries of the region and with several clustered regional
programs in particular fields; large and professional cultural networks
such as EFAH and IETM and others; informal networks such as Gulliver and
its Gulliver Clearing House facilitating individual mobility; intensive
know-how transfer operations such as Amsterdam-Maastricht Summer
University, Ecume/Ecumest, M. Hicter European Diploma, the
Transeuropeennes'' summer school of South-East Europe good neighborhood and
spin offs; some QUANGOs  such as KulturKontakt; European Cultural
Foundation and other private foundation of international outreach; and a
large number of individual cultural organizations that have international
work as part of their daily practice.

Among them, all these players have all what is necessary to establish
alliances and partnerships in the region, collaborate in designing and
implementing a long range culture development strategy for the entire
Balkan. They have to work with the national, regional and municipal
governments in Europe, with the European Union and the Council of Europe,
with universities and their networks, with professional associations and
some UN agencies. Not too much coordination and not too directive approach.
Some extra money to be spent wisely. Firm belief in the grass root
projects. And in the synergy of initiatives involved. By changing the
functioning of culture in Balkan all the players would in fact be working
towards the enforcement of the notion of European citizenship and its
benefits that in the EU Europe tend to be taken for granted. Now is the
moment to plan how to share these values, standards and practices with our
colleagues on the Balkan.

Dr Dragan Klaic is Professor of University of Amsterdam and Director of
Theater Instituut Nederland.       E mail: Fax 31 20 551

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