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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Opening of EU Film Festival
Black Box Theatre, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
17 November 2013
Ladies and gentleman,
It is both an honour and a pleasure to take part in this celebration of European cinema in Mongolia.
The great Mexican writer, Nobel Prize laureate and diplomat, Octavio Paz wrote that "any culture is born in mixing, in interaction, in confrontation. Conversely it is in isolation that civilization dies."
This is why cultural events, such as this Festival, which enable these direct exchanges and a direct dialogue between different ways of looking at reality, are so important.
Culture is about the meanings we ascribe to the world. And, each culture describes the world in a different way. Thus, it is vital to find ways to engage with each other and to learn from each other.
It is very important that artists and citizens in general can create and express themselves in freedom. One of the films you will see this evening, "Citizen Havel", is about the man who became a leader of the so-called Velvet Revolution in then Czechoslovakia, that was started by student demonstration this very day 24 years ago, on 17 November 1989. This quest for freedom inspired the Mongolian democratic movement which began with the demonstration led by S. Zorig on December 10 of the same year. Since then, Mongolia has chosen the path of democracy and the path of freedom. Its cultural and artistic creation has also greatly benefited.
As President of the European Commission, I also take great pride in the quality and variety of European cinema. The programme of this year's film festival showcases the diversity of cultures in the EU: films from many different countries, in a great variety of languages, yet all distinctly European.
European cinema is the image of Europe – an image worth cherishing, developing and promoting. That is why for the past 20 years the European Union has supported European cinema through the MEDIA programme, helping to bring many inspiring films to the screen, including more than a dozen Oscar and Palme d’Or winners.
With MEDIA Mundus we have gone one step further - to explore the opportunities of global co-operation in the audio-visual sector. We believe that cooperation is the way to go, both for the development of our cultural and creative sectors and for the promotion of cultural exchange.
I am very proud that some of the most successful Mongolian productions by Director Byambasuren Davaa, "The story of the weeping camel" and "The cave of the yellow dog" were co-productions between Mongolia and Germany and have benefitted from support from the Media programme.
With our future "Creative Europe" Programme from 2014 on, we want to continue supporting cultural and audio-visual cooperation with our partners, notably Mongolia. [Cultural operators from third countries will now have easier access to cooperation with Europe in the field of culture up to 30% of eligible costs can be spent in third countries].
Cinema speaks a universal language. It has meaning and relevance for all people, regardless of their national, cultural or social backgrounds. Films bring diversity to the fore, while also underscoring the values, the feelings and the longings that we all share as human beings. I hope that next year, when we celebrate the 25th anniversary of EU-Mongolian relations, a similar event can be organised in Brussels with Mongolian movies for a European public.
I thank you all for being here with us tonight, and I wish you a wonderful screening. Let the magic begin!