Speech given at the opening ceremony of the exhibition “QATAR: The past and the present”, European Parliament, 31st of May, 2016.
I want, first of all, to express my gratitude to HE Sheikh Ali bin Jassim Al-Thani, Head of Qatar’s Mission to the European Union, for the effort he invested together with us in putting up this event.
I also want to express my warm welcome to His Excellency Dr. Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari, the Cultural Advisor of HH the Emir of the State of Qatar and Qatar’s candidate for the UNESCO’s Director General position, who is honoring with his presence this exhibition.
When we define ourselves, culture and heritage are the corner stones, but also they are the cipher through which we understand other countries, their people, their path through history, their present and future.
The exhibition we are opening now, dedicated to the culture of one of the most iconic countries of the Middle East, comes in a moment when those, that understand the profound unifying and bridge building role heritage has, must stand together and find the proper answers to an unprecedented aggression towards the cultural and historic heritage of a whole region.
The Middle East has an unmatched historical and cultural global significance. Tigris and Euphrates rivers’ basin is the cradle where the first civilizations emerged and evolved. This space shelters a continuous history that dates back for more than 10.000 years, offering a unique richness of cultural and historic heritage.
Terrorist groups took advantage of this richness and its importance at world level, using UNESCO heritage sites as a background for their sick propaganda and for practicing a twisted mix of distorted ideology and barbarism. But more importantly, the terrorist groups use this richness to finance their activities through a vast historic sites loitering combined with a well-organized network of cultural and historic artefacts trafficking.
In my discussions with Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, I encountered a profound and genuine concern regarding the implications of the illegal trafficking with patrimonial objects as well as an articulated vision for the future UNESCO projects that are so much needed.
This is what I expect from those with power of decision in these times of need.
Apart from the immediate financial implications, there are long term effects on the chances for a return to peace and normality of the whole region that today is devastated by war.
When the violence will end, the people of Iraq and Syria will need to reconnect with symbols that, before this conflict, were the bind offering unity, beyond the religious and political differences. The many thousands of years of history, which we witness today in the shape of cultural and historic heritage, are a key element for the process of returning to normality. Protection and preservation of this legacy counts a lot in any plan of offering a future for this region.
Having this situation, I consider Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari’s candidature for the UNESCO General-Director position as a unique chance in pushing through effective solutions for these problems.
To have a person in that lead position, who is very experienced and familiar to the most difficult issues that the world cultural heritage have seen in the last 70 years, could be in the advantage of all.
Looking at the beautiful and so full of meaning examples of Qatari cultural heritage, that we have here today, knowing the ones that are offering them to us to enjoy, deeply understand the profound role culture has in setting a solid foundation for a nation I see a better future, a stronger UNESCO organization and a more involved European Union in preserving and promoting world heritage!
At the end of my intervention, on behalf of the EU – Qatar Parliamentary Friendship Group, I want to announce that today we also inaugurate the web site: WWW.EU-QATAR.EU which will be part of Group’s online presence, alongside its Facebook page. I invite you to give a visit to these online presences and stay in touch with our activities.