The Ministers of Culture and Ministers of Sports of the South-Eastern European countries, who participated in the informal meeting held in Thessaloniki, on the 22nd and 23rd February 2002, following the invitation of the Hellenic Republic's Minister of Culture Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, in a positive and cooperative atmosphere discussed a number of issues regarding Culture and Sports and agreed as follows:

I. The South-Eastern European countries know fairly well, due to their past and recent experience that Culture constitutes the favorable field for cooperation between countries and societies. Nevertheless, cultural phenomena function, very often, as causes for misunderstandings, frictions and armed conflicts.

Consequently, it is absolutely necessary to promote the continuous quest for "A Culture of Civilizations" based on the principle of cultural equity and sincere dialogue. This "Culture of Civilizations" cannot be anything else but a culture of peace between peoples and a culture of social cohesion within every state. A culture that respects tradition and remains open to the modern trends of the digital era.

The necessity for the quest and the moulding of "A Culture of Civilizations" has become politically urgent after the armed conflicts in the region and especially after the tragedy on the 11th September 2001 and the display of different theories that considered the t'clash of Civilizations" as a given, fatal or inevitable fact.

To the above-mentioned concept of the conflict of cultures must be opposed the logic of the equal dialogue of cultures that overcomes rigidity, superstitions and stereotypes. It is a dialogue of cultures, which highlights the universal elements of mankind existing in dignity, sensitivity, inspiration and creativity.

In this context, Culture is not only cultural heritage and fine arts. Culture represents the level of technology arid aesthetics of everyday life, the quality of life, the sustainable development, the collective memory and the consciousness of societies.

II. The aforementioned concept of Culture is, by definition, in harmony with the Olympic idea and the Olympic movement expressed as the finest athletic and cultural activity.

The return of the Olympic Games to Greece gives Athens the possibility to organize the Olympic Games of human measure and promote the authenticity of the sides, landscapes and ideas. From that point of view, the Olympic Games of 2004 constitute an opportunity not only for Greece, but also for all European and SouthEastern European countries. it is an opportunity for closer athletic cooperation and development of a regional network of Olympic and pre-olyrnpic infrastructure that are useful not only for the Olympic Games, but also for all big international and regional athletic venues.

The passage of the Olympic flame from all the South-Eastern European countries constitutes a unique chance of promoting the messages of the Cultural Olympiad, the Olympic truce, the spirit of the "fair play" and peace.

III. Within this political framework, the participant's Ministers have decided to undertake, organize, reinforce and apply the following initiatives:

  1. The active participation of their countries in the Cultural Olympiad (2002-2004) organized by Greece in cooperation with UNESCO, IOC and the International Foundation of Cultural Olympiad. The events relating to it will be held in Greece, as well as in all other participating countries, according to the program of Cultural Olympiad.
  2. The participation of their countries in the Olympic flame's journey from Ancient Olympia to Athens, through all the continents. This participation will be organizational, athletic and cultural. Al] the participating countries will facilitate, in every possible way, the Olympic flam~'s passage with all the messages that the latter includes and represents. The Olympic Torch will become an axis of cooperation between youth people all over the region.
  3. The active bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of Cultural Heritage and particularly in the field of joint excavation and training programs, as well as of conservation and restoration of monuments that have suffered from military interventions. In this framework, the participating Ministers take note of the existence of the European Center of Byzantine and Postbyzantine Monuments that has its headquarters in Thessaloniki and which can coordinate relevant programs in cooperation with the European Union, Council of Europe, UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICROM and other similar international organisms or international NGOs. The participating Ministers outline the importance of UNESCO's rules and procedures for the protection of cultural goods especially against their illegal traffic.
  4. The support of their cooperation at the bilateral or multilateral level in the fields of modern culture:

In this framework , the following, will be supported by the appropriate means.

  1. The organized cooperation between the National Theatres, the Lyric Theatres and the networks of their Directors.
  2. The cinematographers' network of the South-Eastern European countries (SEECN) that has already been established and operates.
  3. The South-Eastern European Network of Contemporary Art (SEENCA), the Forum of Cultural Exchanges of South-Eastern Europe, the Balkan Music Forum. In this respect it would be particularly interesting to establish a Great South-Eastern European Symphonic Orchestra.
  4. The Balkan Translation Center (Greek National Book's Center's activity) which undertakes and finances, every year, the translation of 15 books (particularly literary, historical and political) from the different languages of the region into Greek and vice-versa.
  5. The Book Exhibition of South-Eastern Europe, which will start in 2003 and will be held every year in Thesaloniki. In its framework cultural events will be organized and prizes will be awarded to writers and translators.
  6. Issues relating to the point(d) and (e) in the other countries of the region.
  7. The creation of a regional web site of information about cultural events, multicultural cooperation and joint projects especially in the framework of the Cultural Olympiad.
  8. Joint programs in the field of cultural, Olympic and athletic education.

The support of the cooperation on bilateral and multilateral levels in the field of Sports.

In this framework, will be supported, by any appropriate means, the following:

  1. Athletic venues or teams or athlete's competitions from the countries of the region in cooperation with the relevant federations-unions giving more emphasis on permanent sporting events like the Balkan Track Games.
  2. The transfer of teams or athletes from one country of the region to another, for training.
  3. The transfer of know-how, the research, as well as the joint actions undertaken in order to fight violence during athletic venues as well as doping arid genetic doping.
  4. Cooperation in the field of Special athletic events particularly of people with special needs with a view to the importance of Athens' Paralympic Games in 2004.
  5. The creation of a network of contact points between the appropriate authorities of the countries of the region in order to facilitate the circulation of athletes and athletic officials.
  6. The preparation of a regional guide of training camps in digital and printed form.

The participating Ministers consider the return of Parthenon Marbles to Athens an obligation of the part of contemporary universal society to the supreme monument of classical antiquities. The Olympic Games of 2004 should find the Marbles restored in their proper position in Athens.

The participating Ministers have decided to meet regularly and have accepted the Greek Minister's invitation to participate in the Informal meeting of the EU Ministers of Culture, which will be held in Thessaloniki during the first semester of 2003, in the framework of the Hellenic Presidency.

The present joint declaration was drafted in English.