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  • 4 March 2009

    During the 16th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 3-5 March 2009) a Round Table on cultural diversity in local communities was held. Mayors of European cities participating in the Council of Europe Programme "Intercultural Cities" took part in the debate.  


    Mr Adam Wasilewski, Mayor of Lublin contributed to the discussion. His speech delivered during the Round Table is reproduced below.

    In addition, Mayors of Berlin-Neukölln (Germany), Lyon (France), Melitopol (Ukraine), Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and Reggio Emilia (Italy) presented programmes of their respective cities to promote cultural identities, diversity and exchange between different ethnic, religious and social groups.


    The Congress adopted Recommendation to the Committee of Minister concerning the „Intercultural Cities Programme", the joint initiative of the Council of Europe and the European Union launched in 2008.  


    link to Congress internet site concerning the debate

    link to Intercultural Cities Programme internet site

    Intercultural city Lublin


    Speech of Mr.Adam Wasilewski, Mayor of Lublin


    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Lublin is an exceptional site on the map of Poland. There is no other town in Poland that has been so much influenced by the many religions, cultures and traditions throughout the centuries. This social, religious and moral diversity distinctively shaped the nature of our town and affected its cosmopolitan character. I would like to refer to an event which determined the history of Poland and Europe for nearly 200 years and in which Lublin played a major part. This event is the real union of the Polish Kingdom and the Great Duchy of Lithuania signed in Lublin in the 16th century. The union established a new state, the Commonwealth of Two Nations for almost two centuries. One can say that it was already at that time when Lublin reaped the benefits of tolerance, multiculturalism and European integration.


    It was only the Second World War and the totalitarian regime that followed which caused the multicultural tradition to suffer from censorship or perish entirely, just as the Lublin Jewish district with its inhabitants. The authorities of the time neglected and denied multiculturalism in favour of social uniformity, and anything falling outside the standard was considered suspicious.

    Yet, the traditions were not entirely eradicated. We still remember the multicultural foundations that were laid at the establishment of our town. We believe it is our wealth. We wish to be the town of tolerance and hospitability. Developing the framework of the new cultural policy, we take account of the fact that without restoring the most crucial components of our cultural heritage in the Lubliners' awareness, we will not be in a position to build our future identity.


    We believe that culture may be one of the main factors in town's development. Bearing that in mind, we decided to run for the title of European Capital of Culture for the year 2016. The strategy that we are currently working on emphasizes and promotes multiculturalism and the idea of intercultural dialogue. We do realize that in order to for such a cultural policy to materialize we need to be secure in terms of finance. In the years 2007-2009, we were able to double our cultural expenditure.


    The initiatives promoting multiculturalism have a considerable share in the overall undertakings sponsored by the city of Lublin. The year 2008 saw 20 such initiatives, including our flagship project, Multicultural Lublin, prepared in collaboration with religious and ethnic minorities and presenting the Lubliners their cultural and historical heritage.


    Besides the projects initiated by the local minorities, there are also other cultural events concentrating on multiculturalism. These include the International Festival - Theatre Confrontations, each year being led by a different motif (2007 was a Russian edition and 2008 Jewish); International Days of Documentary Cinema - Crossroads of Europe focusing on the issues of identity, multiculturalism and the borderland; the Central Europe Theatre Festival "The Neighbours" a project funded under the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue in 2008; or finally, the Jagiellonian Fairs referring to the 16th century tradition and the meeting of East and West.


    After the Polish entrance into the European Union, Lublin became one of the largest, easternmost urban centres of the Union. Owing to its location and traditionally positive relations with the East, Lublin has led the country when it comes to the size and quality of cultural, economic and tourist cooperation with the eastern neighbours. We take advantage of the domestic and European neighbourhood programmes to foster cooperation with Ukraine and Belarus, for example, the programme of foreign assistance sponsored by the Polish Foreign Ministry. We maintain partnership with 6 Ukrainian towns as well as with Brest in Belarus and Tver in Russia. Regrettably, Polish entry into the Schengen Zone largely impeded mutual contacts.


    We would sincerely desire that the eastern border of the European Union did not develop new dividing lines in Europe. We concentrate our efforts on developing the best relations with our eastern neighbours and by amicable attitude cherish the ideas of tolerance and intercultural dialogue as well as favour the growth of civil society on both sides of the border. For the many years, we completed a number of transborder projects with our eastern partners.


    On the other hand, Lublin is often just a „stopover" for the persons whose utmost destination is the European Union. We are fully aware of what a threat such a condition poses. Hence, our role will be to find such solutions for Lublin as to make it the final destination and a place to settle, work and live. Lublin's capital not to be overlooked is the growing number of students - foreigners from outside the Union. They should also be offered the possibility of integration, comprehensive development, acquaintance with our culture, life style, and simply a chance to like us.


    Lublin wants and should learn that the presence in the city of individuals of different cultural background is a chance and not a menace. We look for good practices in how to manage conflict situations, overcome prejudices and stereotypes in our inhabitants.

    We have already taken such steps to implement assistance and integration programmes as well as cultural and educational programmes conducted in cooperation with non-governmental organisations and other municipal institutions. We want our inhabitants to be increasingly involved and appropriate this process to a larger extent.


    The participation in the  Intercultural Cities programme we perceive as the appreciation by the Council of Europe of our achievements in the field of intercultural dialogue, the quality of cultural events of intercultural character and our natural openness and hospitality towards others. This is an opportunity of exchanging experiences with other towns and of sharing our cultural accomplishments in the area of  interculturalism. Yet, we realize that we have just begun our journey and there is a large distance to cover before we can honestly say that Lublin has become a  intercultural city.

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