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Stefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood

Opening Remarks: Slovak Naïve Art in Serbia – The BABKA-KOVAČICA ART GALLERY COLLECTION

Opening of the exhibition in the Berlaymont building

Brussels, 15 May 2012

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests,

First of all, I would like to thank Pavel Babka for bringing the BABKA-KOVAČICA ART GALLERY exhibition to Brussels and introducing Naïve art and its tradition in Kovačica and Padina to us.

I would also like to welcome the Serbian Ambassador, Her Excellency Roksanda Nincic.

The close ties between the Slovak and the Serbian cultures that will be presented in the exhibition are fully emblematic of the wider and rapidly strengthening ties between Serbia and the European Union.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the people of Serbia for taking the first step towards joining the European Union by securing candidate status in March. I am hopeful that the European agenda will remain the driving force of the work of the future government.

This exhibition of cultural artifacts of the Slovak community living in Serbia highights the important role that national minorities play and the extensive rights they enjoy in Serbia in general, and in the region of Vojvodina in particular.

Let me also emphasize that the specific satisfaction of the Slovak community living in Serbia was actually quoted as a positive example at the 29 March debate in the European Parliament on Serbia's European integration process.

When Naïve art was brought to Serbia from Slovakia, instead of dying out, it thrived and it is currently enriching many more people than just Serbs and Slovaks.

In fact, Kovačica is such a unique artistic phenomenon that, among other visitors, it has attracted international celebrities, such as Francois Mitterrand, Gerald Ford, the Rolling Stones, football player Pele, the famous "Apollo" astronauts and actors Alain Delon and Franco Nero.

I am sure that this success has a lot to do with the multi-cultural environment in Vojvodina. In the Europe of the regions, it is such diverse cultural and artistic activities that make regions unique. In general, vibrant cultural life brings people together.

Let's look at this from the enlargement perspective: While it is true that enlargement is generally seen as advantageous and profitable for acceding countries, that is certainly not the whole picture: the diverse cultures and peoples' artistic heritage within the acceding countries also make "old" Europe a richer place.

That is why I am happy that this very unique exhibition of Naïve art has been brought here. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now let me pass the floor to the Serbian Ambassador, Her Excellency Roksanda Nincic.

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