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Euromed héritage : from experiment to development

Euromed Heritage is one of MEDA’s very first regional programmes. It was launched in 1998 as part of the ‘3rd Chapter’ (social, cultural and human) of the Barcelona Process. From architecture to music, from mosaics to traditional clothing, from local festivals to old manuscripts, the programme has already helped in many ways to list, preserve and better manage Mediterranean heritage. Above all, links between heritage scholars and managers across the Euro-Mediterranean area have been created under the programme, and contacts between cultures have been facilitated in a very concrete manner. Those links and contacts have only begun to bear fruit.

The first full meeting of institutions, organisations and experts involved in all three phases of Euromed Heritage was held from 17 to 19 June in Rome under the title ‘A Tangible Example of Dialogue between Cultures’. The Conference was organised by Italy’s Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation (ICCD), the public body which for a year has been in charge of co-ordinating the programme’s implementation as a Regional Management and Support Unit (RMSU). A total of 21 projects were supported within Euromed Heritage I with MEDA funding of € 17.2 million for 1997-2003; a further 11 projects have received € 30 million within Euromed Heritage II for 2001-2008, and yet 4 others make up Euromed Heritage III, which was awarded € 10 million for 2003-2008.

At the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office, within the Mediterranean-Near and Middle East Directorate, Leonidas Kioussis is responsible for Regional Programmes related to culture, audio-visual, and information, helped in that by Claire Kupper who follows the Euromed Heritage Programme. Euromed Special Feature asked them to elaborate on the Programme’s impact, difficulties, and future.

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Euromed Special Feature: You know the famous words attributed to Jean Monnet that, were he to begin European integration again, he would start with culture. Was it right to start MEDA with a cultural programme (Euromed Heritage) back in 1998?

Claire Kupper : Culture is an adequate vehicle to bring people closer together. If that is what you mean, I will say “yes, it was right to start with culture”. The Programme has to be seen against the background of the Barcelona Process, and the ideas carried by this Process, notably dialogue between cultures, whose main instrument is partnership, and which can contribute to creating an area of peace in the Mediterranean.

How and when can the achievements of a multi-faceted programme such as Euromed Heritage be assessed and measured?

C.K. : It is to be noted that a programme like this is a long term one, as its ambition lies in rapprochement and dialogue between cultures. I believe it is interesting to look at the impact in terms of intangible results as the programme’s main asset lies with the links and synergies created among project partners. Of course those links are not created in a day. In any case there is no way we can provide technical assistance under the programme for solving specific cultural problems in our Mediterranean Partners. We are busy seeking strategic solutions for the whole region instead. We aim at making heritage better known and promoted, and raising awareness among people. In this respect, a lot has been produced, for instance data bases such as the one set up under the PISA project, publications like the guide books on Islamic Art or the inventory of architectural heritage put together as part of the CORPUS project. There are also many web sites, and travelling exhibitions like the PRODECOM project’s “Prints of the Mediterranean”.

How can the Programme facilitate dialogue between cultures, which has been a must for the EU, particularly since September 11?

C.K. : It is worth while to take a closer look at the Mediterranean Basin’s common heritage. The first important thing to do is revisit this shared heritage so that everyone can regain ownership of his/her own heritage. Our heritage is identical in many ways. There has been much movement of people around the Mediterranean Basin. There is now a lack of knowledge of this shared heritage, which has got to be enhanced. A good example of this rediscovered common heritage is provided by the ‘MEDIMUSES’ project which looks into the history of common musical roots, theory, styles and instruments, and brings together artists from both shores of the Mediterranean for dedicated concerts. Within another project, MANUMED, a great job has been done of listing private libraries’ manuscripts, which had remained unknown to this day. But once common heritage has gained recognition, it has to be disseminated and brought outside the circle of project partners and networks set up within the programme. What should be arrived at is links established with the outside world in such a way that shared dialogue can bring fresh results.

A cultural programme can also help create jobs and improve living conditions, especially when part of co-operation activities. What has Euromed Heritage contributed in this respect?

C.K.: Many people see culture as a kind of luxury. Why? Because in many cases it is not accessible to everyone. The programme aims at making culture better known and accessible to more people. Availability and enhancement of heritage are directly linked with tourism. I believe that the link to employment can be made through tourism. It is obvious that demand is on the increase everywhere and that a number of projects within the programme help to create jobs in some respects. Publications are produced within certain projects, like guidebooks for tourist trails such as those made by Museum without Frontiers on Islamic Art. But much remains to be done to create connections with travel agencies for starting up cultural tourism projects. Sometimes, however, things do not go as fast as you could hope for. Jobs are also created indirectly by other projects that help train people in this area. This has been the case with the Maghreb Heritage Training Courses, particularly in Tunisia. It will happen again with the REHABIMED Project. As to improving people’s lives, I believe that if everyone becomes aware of his heritage, he gets some measure of dignity back. Besides, if every individual can realise how valuable his neighbour’s heritage is, there will be more respect overall. And contributing to peace is surely a means of improving people’s lives.

What kind of added value is being provided by the regional dimension?

C.K. : We have to go back on this shared heritage that characterises the regional dimension. We can mention Byzantine music and old manuscripts. We can talk about urban architectural heritage of the 19th and 20th centuries, whose influence has been felt all around the Mediterranean Basin, as demonstrated by the “PATRIMOINES PARTAGES” (“Shared Heritage”) project.
Leonidas Kioussis : If you look at the Mediterranean Basin, you see that 5,000 years ago people were moving, taking their civilisation with them. When you consider religions and the development of various civilisations, the most important feature is that peoples were moving, carrying their civilisation with them and mixing it with that of the land where they settled. MEDIMUSES, for instance, builds on this cross-border tradition which is part of the collective memory of a whole region. Therefore you necessarily get something regional. You don’t get a kind of culture that has developed in one country and stayed there. It is something that is always moving from one shore to another. Arts and crafts and navigation are the fruits of trade in culture.

What kind of progress has been recorded from one phase of the Programme to the next? And what are the prospects for Euromed Heritage III?

C.K. : The Heritage Programme is an experimental programme. As Phase I was running, we realised that the regional aspect, though built into the programme, was not as developed as we had wished. Therefore that aspect has been emphasised in Phase II. As regards training, for instance, the focus is on more intermingling of people from various countries and territories. New technologies are also better highlighted, as in the courses provided at a distance within the IKONOS project. Another development in the programme is new interest in intangible heritage such as music with the MEDIMUSES project, oral tradition with MEDITERRANEAN VOICES, and arts and crafts with PRODECOM. I would like to go back on the regional aspect to insist on the fact that it is still a challenge for projects today, especially in its South-South aspect. I think that here also the drive promoted by the Regional Management and Support Unit (RMSU) will have a beneficial, practical impact. As to Heritage III, people often get mixed up. Heritage III is in fact none other than the follow up to Heritage II. Actually 15 projects had been short-listed, but only the first 11 were covered by the available budget. We had to wait for an additional amount to be released under the name of Heritage III. There is thus no difference in the objectives. As for the future, let us make clear that no funds have been earmarked beyond 2006. Nothing is yet determined in the way of a possible Heritage IV, but there is huge demand, and I can’t see how notions like dialogue between cultures and bringing people closer together could be scrapped from the political agenda. Launching a new programme will however depend on the impact of current projects. The recently-created Foundation is also a factor. It is very much hoped that experience gained within Euromed Heritage can be effectively built into the Foundation so as to have a lasting impact.

How can the Mediterranean Partners make the most of the Programme?

C.K. : I believe that for them to make the most of it means rising to the challenge posed in terms of partnership. It is a difficult partnership, there is no hiding it. Therefore the challenge for projects lies as much in the way they develop, with the various partners sitting around a table, as in the results achieved. And when a project’s 10 or 25 partners did manage to carry out a common activity, it is an achievement in itself. Assistance from the RMSU will prove to be very precious in this respect in order to smooth the path for synergies. And you can see the first concrete signs of that as new synergies between projects emerge, such as invitations to exhibitions or seminars.
L.K. : I think that culture-related regional projects do not have a material impact as visible as projects in the economic field. This is why culture plays a crucial part in restoring relations and dialogue.
C.K.: Even though culture makes for dialogue between people, obstacles of a different nature should not be overlooked. If for example you hold a meeting in a given country in the region, you will have great difficulty in getting participants from a neighbouring country if political relations between the two are bad or non-existent.

How is Euromed Heritage linked to the Mediterranean Partners’ cultural needs?

C.K.: This is a very relevant question. The identification of projects did not systematically and sufficiently take into consideration a negotiating process designed to involve all actors and their needs on the basis of specific studies. This is no doubt one of the programme’s weak points, affecting the design of a series of projects. But we are aware of that and we have to look at the way we can change things to ongoing projects. Project leaders are continuously adapting to reality and introducing changes, which allows for taking on board preliminary studies so as to redirect the project as the need arises. The important role of Ministries involved in the projects cannot be overlooked either as they can provide the information and data required to better identify the needs.

Euromed Heritage started out as a mainly experimental programme. How can you ensure its sustainability?

C.K. : As I said before, links between people remain. All the more so that universities are massively involved in the programme (they account for over 50% of all partners), and the synergies put in place go beyond the projects. With certain projects, though, relations should be more institutionalised so that the themes addressed could become political concerns. This was mentioned at the Rome Conference, along with the idea that Culture be made part of the National Indicative Programmes. A moment ago, we discussed practical results and we mentioned publications, web sites, CDs and exhibitions. But a dissemination effort has to be made in the Mediterranean Partners, using the Arabic language. Too few publications are issued in Arabic. And too few are the subject of a promotion and dissemination campaign. I insist that to ensure the programme is sustainable its promoters have to take it out of the specialists’ circle and present it to a wider audience. I guess project partners have a further effort to make there. As for publications, project partners have to identify dedicated publishers with a targeted audience and hence a distribution network. At a wider level, from the moment you regain ownership of your own culture, you also become more aware of the need to defend and protect it. Of course decision-makers have an important role to play there, but sustainability is also ensured by local communities. The TEMPER project has been very successful in involving local communities in the preservation and animation of archaeological sites.

How can more awareness of Euromed Heritage be achieved?

L.K. : It is a question for the whole MEDA Programme. We haven’t so far succeeded in informing MEDA Partners of all that the Programme brings to people. It is not only a matter of information deficit. It is not enough to inform people of all the Euromed Heritage projects. People have got to be made more aware of things. How? Media can be used, TV, radio, more work with journalists, the information multipliers, can be done. Events can be staged, as in the ‘Navigation du Savoir’ project where a ship calls in at various Mediterranean ports. This has to be shown to the people in the region. This is how we are going to get out of this limited circle of projects to go a little bit further through the achievements of Heritage projects that can show us the successes they have registered in the way of dialogue and exchanges between the various peoples of the Mediterranean.

Brussels,08 16 2004
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