The head of the European Union delegation to UNESCO, Maria Francesca Satolisano, says cultural heritage is a way to promote the development of a society because the people belong to that common heritage.
The Paris-based EU Ambassador took time last week to talk about the importance of cultural heritage and her own dedication to the European Union as a secular organisation that she predicted would stand the test of time.
“Thepurpose of the World Heritage Committee is to promote the preservation of sites which are considered of outstanding universal value and therefore are heritage of all humanity,” Satolisano said. “These sites also have particular meanings for countries of their identity. Preserving cultural heritage is a way to promote the development of a society and the ability of the people there to live together, because they all relate to a common heritage.”
Satolisano said the connectivity between cultural heritage and society was particularly relevant in post-conflict environments like Cambodia.
“Particularly where conflict has occurred, preserving cultural heritage is a great way to re-connect the society.” She cited the UNESCO effort in post-conflict Mali as an example.
“UNESCO is there to help Mali with the local community to preserve its patrimony and to be aware of where they come from to be together and respect their own past and preserve it for the future generations.”
She predicted Cambodia would do well in the future connecting with Europe.
“Cambodia is growing fast and can benefit by becoming integrated in global value chains which is the way the world does business nowadays and can export to Europe and other countries,” she said.
As EU Ambassador to UNESCO, Satolisano praised the work of UNSECO Director General Irina Bokova.
“UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova is doing a great job in pushing for reforms for a more efficient UNESCO and we support her work very much,” she said. “My job is to represent the European Union at UNESCO and to promote the views of EU and defend its interest.”
Satolisano has been working for the European Union since 1985.
She studied constitutional law at the State University of Florence, Italy, and was a law professor there for seven years before joining what was then called the European Community and since the Treaty of Lisbon has been known as the European Union.
She explained that the basis for the EU idea was to promote peace and coordinate the views of Europeans to create prosperity for all the people of Europe.
“I believe in the EU. It brings benefits to the citizensof Europe as well as cooperation and integration among the European member states.”
The EU makes the traditional border of Europe less relevant, which creates a free movement zone she says is beneficial for all.
“The benefits are that there is more exchange of ideas, business, and knowledge, cultural and economic exchanges. There is an increased ability to seek opportunities and we preserve the cultural identity of every state. The documents of the EU are translated to all 28 members, but we are not about suppressing the cultures. There are great advantagesin multiple entities working for the same objectives: democratic values the rule of law, the well-being of the citizens, the market economy and exchanges,” Satolisano said.
She said the Euro unit of currency was a creation of the European Union and has been a good and stable currency.
“If we did not have a good currency we couldnot have rescued the banks.”
She said the original main purpose for the European Union had been to construct a peaceful Europe among nations that had been involved in wars against each other for a thousand years.
“We achieved that. The new generation may not feel this as vividly, but it is there for everyone to enjoy. Young Europeans now expect to be able to go study anywhere, to have a university accepting them. There are programs that allow students to do curricula at different universities,” she said.
Satolisano compared the EU with ASEAN: “The parallel you can make is ASEAN is trying to open up their borders and coordinate their policies, but there is a big difference. The EU has a political agenda to transfer the decision making level to the institutions which is not what the ASEAN is about.”
She said there remained tension in the EU between local residents and people from new member states like Romania and Bulgaria.
She thinks Turkey ought to be admitted into the EU, an opinion not shared by every other European.
“Turkey has a chance to be a member of EU, and there is an attempt at re-launching a process that was stalled for many years. I am in favour of it. I think Turkey is a very dynamic big neighbouring country, and if possible to bring it closer and to adopt the values and the rules of EU they would be a great addition,” she said. “Turkey is already in the EU customs union.”
Satolisano says organisations like the EU are increasingly important because so many of the world’s problems are global in nature.
“The world is changing and you cannot solve problems of a global nature nation state. The role of international cooperation, through multi-national organisations is crucial,” she said. “The EU is committed to use these regional forums to promote these values inscribed in our treaty which include the rule of law and respect for human rights. We do so working together with themember states of EU and representing these views.”
Her experience in Cambodia is something she won’t forget.
“I found a very booming, dynamic and young country. We are very happy to be here. Cambodia has a particular attachment to be in World Heritage Committee because of the Angkor site which preservation has been a high point of the World Heritage Committee and there has been a close link with Cambodia which is honoured by the fact that the WHC came to Cambodia,” she said.
Originally from Florence, Italy, Satolisano is a career lawyer and diplomat who articulates a strong sense of purpose for the European Union.
“All European states are functioning democracies and they keep national political interaction alive with their own constitutional systems. The European Union is informed by the democratic system including the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers elected by citizens and made up of member states which are they democratic,” she said.
She said the EU system is perfectly transparent and based on law. As of July, it will consist of 28 member states. She says in spite of laborious procedures and sometimes less than optimal outcomes, the EU stands for peace and prosperity and a high standard of living for citizens.
“The EU constitutes a political partner on the global scene which has been recognised and acts with other actors. We promote all the highest values and that’s an element of stability for global community: human rights, fair and transparent elections and we do engage in development and our development assistance is the first in the world if you consider EU plus member states,” she said.
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