Dear Mr Mayor,
Dear Commissioner Navracsics,
Dear Award winners,
Dear Friends from all over Europe,

What a joy to be with you tonight in this beautiful church. I performed in Turku twice in the past, but it was always in wintertime. So, I remember only Turku in the Dark. Therefore, I always longed to be back to discover the beauty of this city in the Day Light. And what a Light it is!

Dear Mayor Randell, thank you so much for inviting Europa Nostra to organize this year our annual Congress and this Awards Ceremony in your City! We are grateful for this opportunity to discover the charms of not only the OLDEST but also the BOLDEST city in Finland! And we congratulate to you and to all your countrymen on the centenary of independence of your country! Here in Turku, the Old meets the New, and the New meets the Old! Culture meets Nature, and Nature meets Culture! Heritage meets People, and People meet Heritage! Europa Nostra hopes to cooperate closely with the City of Turku also in the future. With the City of Turku…and with many other historic cities and regions on the cultural map of Europe.

Just as Turku is the OLDEST and the BOLDEST city in Finland, EUROPA NOSTRA takes pride in being one of the OLDEST European organisations that seek to promote Europe of Culture. We certainly have been BOLD when we were among the first organisations to embrace the proposal to organise in 2018 the EUROPEAN YEAR OF CULTURAL HERITAGE. Not many people believed that such a BOLD initiative would get the necessary political support by the European political leaders. We believed! Fortunately, Commissioner Navracsics believed in it as well! But believing in it was not enough. We worked very hard to convince all EU leaders that this was indeed an excellent idea. And we did it! Together! Thank you Commissioner Navracsics, for your vital support and leadership.

The count down has already begun: in 7 months time, we shall indeed all take part in the EUROPEAN YEAR OF CULTURAL HERITAGE. But why this European Year? And why now? Because Europe is today at the crossroads. After 60 years of continuous achievements in terms of peace, solidarity, democracy and prosperity, Europe and we, the citizens in Europe, need to make a crucial effort to continue along this difficult but rewarding journey. Last March, we celebrated 60 years of the Treaty of Rome. When we look at our shared history – which is marked by splendours but also alas by miseries -, our Europe of today is close to a miracle. Much has been accomplished since the signing of that historic Treaty in 1957, only 12 years after the tragedy of World War TWO. But so much more needs to be done to ensure that Europe remains a continent of peace…, a continent of democratic values and full respect of human rights…, a continent of prosperity…, a continent of social justice…, a continent based on togetherness and openness…, a continent of endless beauty and amazing human capital. We therefore applaud the Rome Declaration recently adopted by 27 Heads of State confirming their commitment to these vital goals. And we rejoice that this Declaration also includes a firm commitment to building a Union which “protects our cultural heritage and promotes cultural diversity”. Today, we – the citizens of Europe – , have to live up to our responsibilities. It is our duty as a community of individuals and peoples to be proud of our own culture without offending or degrading the culture of someone else. It is our duty to share our heritage with our neighbours in Europe and with others across the Globe. And it is our shared responsibility not to spread divisions and fear of the other, but to build bridges and respect of the other, even in difficult times. And our leaders have the vital responsibility of showing a positive example.

Dear Award Winners, Warm congratulations to you all! You are the source of our pride. Pride in so much creativity, so much knowledge, so much innovation and so much dedication put in the service of Europe’s amazingly rich and diverse heritage. You are also the source of our hope. Hope that many more heritage sites – with their related intangible heritage – will be saved and transmitted to future generations. May your success and your example inspire so many others across Europe and across the Globe! Dear Award winners, when you return back home, please be our Ambassadors. Be the Champions of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Be the Messengers of the Europe of Culture. Let us work together to demonstrate the value of heritage for the quality of our lives and our societies.

Let us advocate together the power of our shared heritage as a positive and cohesive force for Europe. There is a very important Finnish tradition which is called Talkoot (pronunciation: Tahl kōōt). You can translate it as a form of voluntary community work. Ordinary people coming together to carry out a task which is necessary and beneficial to all. We can indeed achieve so much together. Through full PARTICIPATION as demonstrated during the Forum organised last Saturday by our dedicated members from Finland in cooperation with the Turku University.

Dear Friends from all over Europe, Europa Nostra and I believe that the values of Talkoot, Citizen Participation, Cultural Heritage and Europe are a perfect match. Just like no successful heritage project is possible without TEAMWORK and citizen participation…, the visionary project of the Building of EUROPE can only prosper with TEAMWORK and with due involvement and the engagement of civil society. EUROPE is indeed our Talkoot! Our collective and shared OPERA, both in the sense of music and in the sense of hard work. And each of us must take full responsibility for it.

EUROPA NOSTRA and I strongly believe that in this way OUR EUROPE will have not only an impressive past… but also a promising FUTURE.

Thank you.