Cultural and creative sectors as a driving force for regional integration, democracy and economic progress
One minister, one academic, one diplomat, three cultural practitioners and one moderator: The PA Culture Session on Cultural Diversity during the 7th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR in Stockholm intended to discuss the value of the Cultural and Creative Sectors for cooperation, social innovation and inclusion in the Baltic Sea Region. The session was opened by Sweden’s Minister of Culture and Democracy Alice Bah Kuhnke, who first of all expressed her appreciation and gratitude for the work that PA Culture does in the framework of the EUSBSR and second of all pointed out how essential the links between culture and democracy are: “Culture needs to be free, but at the same time it is also obvious that a free and vibrant cultural life is the very basis for a vital and sustainable democratic society.”
The discussion both engaged the participants as well as the audience. Pictures by CBSS
Her introduction allowed the cultural practitioners, Larry Ugwu from the Baltic Sea Cultural Centre, Susanne Reuszner from Cirkus Cirkör and Hania Hakiel from Give Something Back to Berlin, to put their projects and approaches into perspective. While all projects apply different approaches, they are united in the idea to encourage participation and focus on building strong diverse communities integrating people with different backgrounds. Two experts joined the practitioners on stage after their introduction: Tove Malloy, Director of the European Centre for Minority Issues and Bernd Hemingway, Deputy Director of the Council of Baltic Sea States. Tove Malloy, who’s an expert in minority rights, underlined that from a political sociology point of view minorities, because of their culture and cultural activity, create space for politics. Moreover, they “[minorities] draw on extensive human and social capital, and of course human capital of a cultural actor is languages, bilingualism, multilingualism maybe, it’s intercultural understanding and knowledge, it’s hybrid identities, so that they can actually communicate and interact across borders, but it’s also cultural relations, even at the international level.” Bernd Hemingway also referred to the economic value of cultural activity: With regard to making the Baltic Sea Region into a sustainable and prosperous region, he emphasised that culture is a core driver and motivator for tourism in the region. After all 70 mio. people travel to the region on an annual basis and 1.4 mio. People are employed in that sector.
The main idea to discuss cultural diversity and its potential in the BSR from a cross-sectorial perspective, namely the practitioners’, the politician’s, academic’s and diplomat’s perspective, functioned well. It triggered reactions from the audience to bring this kind of discussion to a bigger platform and to highlight cultural activity as a driving force for regional integration, democracy and economic progress. In addition, it was suggested, that these kinds of sessions would also profit from linking them better to other Policy and Horizontal Areas within the Baltic Sea Region.