Security for everybody is Turkey’s policy in the Balkans. With these words Turkish State Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc opened the “Balkan States Media Forum” that was hosted by the city of Bursa in the northwestern part of Turkey at the beginning of this week. “Political dialogue and mutual economic relations are also policies of Turkey in the Balkans,” Mr. Arinc added.
Starting his address by welcoming the media representatives and politicians from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Greece, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that these countries have written history of the Balkans by living together for centuries. “We have built fate of the Balkans altogether.”
Bulent Arinc: the balkans, still the most fragile region of Europe
“Zero problem with neighbors and good relations are important elements of Turkey’s foreign policy. We have determined our foreign policy on this again and took very serious steps to maintain and foster stability”. However, Mr. Arinc said, despite all the positive developments, the Balkans are still the most fragile region of Europe. He stressed that peace can not be built keeping the animosities of the past and that the historical experience of wars in the region should help people learn the lessons of peace.
“Cooperation is crucial for cooperation in our region,” Mr. Bulent Arinc said.
It is for this reason why not only governments in the Balkans, but also the media should cooperate among themselves to built strong ties in order to ensure peace and stability in a region where religion or language have been the two main sources of conflicts in the past.
As a proof of Turkey’s view that media are an effective tool for promoting a lasting peace in the Balkans, Ankara authorities took the initiative to organize this Forum where they brought together 150 representatives from private and public media institutions from Balkan countries to give them opportunity to share opinions and identify new ways of cooperation for defending freedom and stability in the region.
It is not by mere coincidence that Bursa was chosen the venue of this first Balkan Media Forum, which the Turkish authorities would like to turn it in an annual event.
As the Governor of Bursa Sahabettin Harput and the Mayor of Bursa Greater Municipality Recep Altepe have pointed out, Bursa is a symbol city of peaceful coexistence, a city that has the whole color and structure of Balkans.
Under these circumstances, what place with such a rich, diverse social structure and multiethnic and multicultural status should have been more appropriate to host a Balkan Forum to debate the important role that media could have in promoting tolerance, diversity and peaceful coexistence in a region that is very rich in ethnical diversity?
Half of the city’s population is formed of immigrants from Balkans, and that is why the city is considered a sort of “mini-Balkans” and even a mini-Turkey, too, but in the same time, it is the best example of peaceful coexistence despite the large diversity of ethnic and multicultural origins. It is for this reason why a journalist from a local newspaper named the city “a very interesting social laboratory” because of the domestic migration, as the city is populated with people coming from all provinces of Turkey, but also because of the Balkan migration, as immigrants from almost all the respective countries have established in the city where peacefully live and coexist.
150 journalists form 11 countries spoke the same language: determination to defend peaceful coexistence
After two days of debating the very challenging topics on the agenda of the Forum: “Democratic Peace and Media,” “Democratization Process, Multiculturalism and the Media,” “Media within the Framework of EU Membership,” “EU Membership Process and Media,” “Peaceful Coexistence in the Balkans, Shared Values and the Media,” “Role of the Media in Promoting Regional Peace and Stability” and “Media Responsibility in Forging the Future: The Balkan States Media Platform” when it arrived the moment to draw conclusion and to speak about the success of this forum, it can be said that the most important contribution of the Forum was the very fact that it was organized and that it brought together 150 foreign journalists, apart from those of the host country, who made heard their voices, and opinions, who shared experiences from their countries, who learned experiences from colleagues from other countries.
Very often in the two days of the Forum words like tolerance, freedom, freedom of expression, peaceful coexistence have been pronounced among others words showing concern on behalf of the media representatives present in Bursa Forum reflecting their concern for the respect of the fundamental values and rights in democracies, which shows that despite the participants had 11 different native languages, however, in the framework of the Forum they spoke a single language, a single voice: the language of determination to put all their efforts together for a better climate of understanding and stability in this region which is a rich mosaic of cultures, languages, religions or traditions but where interethnic peace is a perfectly reachable goal and horizon, despite the bloody wars in the past, as I pointed myself in my speech delivered during the first panel of the Forum “Democratic Peace and the Media”.
One of the questions I raised in my address was: “What can help interethnic peace in the Balkans? “
Interethnic peace is not impossible, it’s a perfectly reachable goal
The answer is very simple: freedom and freedom of expression are key factors in building, upholding and enhancing a culture of peace, ethnic tolerance and stability in the Balkans.
Freedom in general is a fundamental human right and a qualitative status of living and it is based, among others, on tolerance.
Freedom of expression is a way of constructing a peaceful environment, and a method of achieving a healthy political and cultural moral at the level of society and by that, a way of being tolerant, which means speaking about, and accepting different opinions.
This is what interethnic peace is about: living with the difference and diversity and learning that difference and diversity in a multicultural world are better safeguarded by communication.
Another question raised in my address to the Forum in the “Democratic Peace and Media” Panel was “What should the media of the neighbouring countries do in order to strengthen the environment of democratic peace? “
My belief is that they should correctly inform the public keeping in mind that being impartial or objective is not enough and that, sometime, such an attitude could actually turn out to be harmful for democratic peace.
On the contrary, the media should openly promote those values, attitudes and urges needed for building robust and lasting democratic institutions and fighting against those dedicated to conflict or to using violence in the pursuit of their egoistic interests.
Democratic peace does not mean neutrality, but a biased attitude towards the forces of good against the evil, stressing the high moral value of democratic forces and the need to annihilate those supporting the solution of war.
Media’s crucial role as a platform of expression for diversity
As a conclusion, I emphasized that the chance of democratic peace is an open communication society, where media are an important platform of expression for all ethnic or cultural groups whose special needs of self-presentation should be met and listened to.
It is the case in Romania, where representatives of an ethnic minority, the Hungarian one, have been in the past years an active force in shaping a democratic society where tolerance and peaceful coexistence are fundamental values and where communication prevails.
Unity and peace through diversity in the balkans, like in Dobrogea
Speaking about democratic peace and media’s role in promoting tolerance in the Balkans, I could not stop myself giving the example of my native province, Dobrogea (lying in the South-Eastern part of Romania), which, at a smaller scale, of course, can be considered a miniature replica of the Balkan region. The comparison stands just from the point of view of the rich mosaic of ethnically diverse groups and populations living there, that have peacefully co-existed for centuries without any conflicts or tensions. There are Greeks, there are Turks, there are Macedonians, there are Tatars, there are Russians, there are Lipovans, there are Ukrainians, there are Bulgarians, there are Italians living in Dobrogea, but they never quarrelled, they never fought with each other. On the contrary – embracing diversity, they have lived united together for centuries.
Unity through diversity. I have no doubts, as a I underlined in my address to the Forum, that this can happen in the Balkans, too where peace and friendship can prevail with the help of press and it huge power.
Embracing multicultural atmosphere of tolerance, common ideal of media in the balkans
As a conclusion of the Balkan Media States Forum drawn at the end of the two days is that a peaceful Balkan region, shaping its future with democratic consciousness, embracing multicultural atmosphere of tolerance and being integrated with Euro-Atlantic structures it is a common ideal shared by media representatives from all 11 participant countries. This is one of the paragraphs included in the Final Declaration adopted Tuesday at the end of the two-day Forum. The Document also suggests launching a joint undertaking to support efforts to organize the media representatives from participating countries under a common platform in order to ensure steady open channels of communication and cooperative efforts to ensure a peaceful region.
Last but not least, the Final Declaration underlines that the present day societies in a system of democracy accepting coexistence as a way of life should adopt multiculturalism within the framework of respect for human rights and freedoms of thoughts and expression.
“This have been a historical event for us, for the city of Bursa”, Governor of Bursa, Mr. Sahabettin Harpot, pointed out during the closing ceremony, while Turkish Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Bulent Arinc emphasized that the Forum was real success and an interesting platform for discussions. He promised that the ideas exposed during the forum will be evaluated in the future by the organizers, probably starting from the premises that they plan to organize from now the such Forums annually extending the participation to other European countries al well.
By offering Certificate of Participation to all Participants at this event they wanted to thank everybody for their participation and contribution to the “Balkan States Media Forum” that was jointly organized by the office of the Prime Minister Directorate General Press and Information and the Center for Strategic Research of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. So every participant journalist returned home not only with gained experience and nice memories about the very beautiful city of Bursa, but also with a Certificate of Participation signed by His Excellence Bulent Arinc.