EU Commissioner Vassiliou in Tbilisi
04 July, 2013
EU Commissioner Vassiliou in Tbilisi
First Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture

On June 27-28, the first Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on culture took place in Tbilisi, Georgia. The venue was the Radisson Iveria Blu Hotel. The Ministerial was hosted by the Ministry of Culture of Georgia and the EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Ms. Androulla Vassiliou, who visited Georgia for the first time.
The event was very representative. All culture ministers as well as other ministers from the Eastern Partnership countries,
representatives of EU members states, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, and of civil society (cultural and creative sectors) were present.
“Thanks to our joint endeavours, we are moving forward within the framework of cultural dimension of the Eastern Partnership. I’m proud that culture is the first area we are addressing at a high level Ministerial Conference on the Eastern Partnership Platform of People to People Contacts. For me, this is highly symbolic,” Ms. Vassiliou said. “It shows how important culture is for intensifying our relations with our Eastern Partners, who share our commitment to fundamental values such as democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.
“Culture can be of great social benefit to our countries. Culture can help build democracy by engaging citizens in dialogue, by carrying forth shared fundamental values, by encouraging cooperation between civil society organisations”, the EU Commissioner added. She continued that from the economic point of view, culture, and the creativity it generates, can contribute to the creation of high-quality jobs and welfare growth. “In the European Union, +cultural and creative sectors engage millions of people; they serve as an engine of innovation and a stimulus for different sectors; like tourism, ICTs, high end industries, vocational training and education.”
Oliver Reisner, project manager for cultural programs of the European Union Delegation to Georgia, confided with us that before the conference, Commissioner Ms. Vassiliou met with Prime Minister Ivanishvili and Minister of Educaton and Science Giorgi Margvelashvili to discuss the prospects for the development of culture, education and youth. The Commissioner also visited the Betlemi district in Old Tbilisi and the Office of ICOMOS Georgia to get acquainted with current problems of monuments’ protection in Georgia. In the afternoon she visited the Tbilisi State University, to discuss the EU-funded TEMPUS and ERASMUS MUNDUS projects with the Rector of the University Aleksandre Kvitashvil and the project teams and ERASMUS MUNDUS alumni.
“Georgia is doing well In the field of education. This year, 180 Georgian students are leaving for taking up their studies at the EU higher education institutions under the Erasmus Mundus program in different countries,“ Mr. Reisner noted.
“European regions and cities have boosted their development and visibility beyond national borders by investing in their cultural assets”, - this was one of the main messages from Commissioner Vassiliou. Ms. Vassiliou also mentioned that cooperation with civil society is equally important. In her words, another important pillar of developing sound policy in support of culture is the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
The EU is currently providing some 9 million Euros to fund 15 projects in the cultural sector in the Eastern Partnership region. “We will continue our support for capacity building activities with the second phase of the program after 2015 with an additional budget of 5 million Euros,” Commissioner Vassiliou said. 12 out of the 15 projects within the Eastern Partnership culture program are implemented in Georgia. Thus Georgia is the second most active participant country after Ukraine.
It is a common practice that the Eastern Partnership ministers convene once a year with the aim to strengthen the cooperation. This event was important for Georgia in two ways: for the first time Georgia hosted the event of this kind and secondly, the Eastern Partnership Ministerial convened for the first time to discuss the role of culture in their respective societies.
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