Myrsini Zorba, Minister of Culture

Main points of inaugural address, 30 August 2018

I trained as a book publisher, next to writers, poets, translators and librarians. I’ve learned to love libraries and consider the shortage of them to be a grave social injustice. The culture of books has been my unwavering point of reference. The National Book Centre of Greece (EKEVI) was a cultural training ground that worked out the methods and ways by which the best ideas and greatest values are not left on the library shelves but are passed into the hands of young and old, so that culture comes to mean the culture of everyday life.

I have worked alongside statesmen possessed with vision and a broad political view. I learned that politics needs ideas, which, in turn, must be implemented consistently and methodically. My term as a Member of the European Parliament was an opportunity to observe European cultural policy and learn from it the ways through which the creation of the European Union means the creation of a shared culture.

I am unable to see culture as the exclusive privilege of a few, a luxury, a display of refinement, or an arena of competition. Rather, I see it as the cultivation of shared values, a process of working things out, creativity, dialogue with others and as a resource for the improvement of daily life. For me, the concept of a cultural democracy is a steady goal, as is the addressing of old and new inequalities and discrimination, which are noxious for our society. Access to cultural goods is not a prerogative but a citizen’s right.

Moreover, cultural access is most certainly an issue that is relevant to children. The Network for Children’s Rights, which we founded with a group of friends in some of the most underprivileged neighbourhoods of Athens, showed us how to stand in solidarity during the most difficult moments of the crisis. The families of migrants and city residents were brought together, with books and art as the shared language of communication. The function of culture, finally, is not to be reduced to that of an accessory that makes us look attractive.

The crisis has proven that cultural workers are persistent, unrepentant, imaginative, creative and sturdy. That is why the reflection of culture in the mirror of the crisis has much to teach our society about inventiveness, solidarity and the importance of social participation.

We live in a time when new identities are emerging and formidable advances in technology are changing our lives. We need new patterns of participatory cultural practices and novel responses to the emerging terms of production, circulation and consumption of cultural goods and services. Cultural policy has no right to romantic idealism; it needs to create new work positions, to ensure the flourishing of cities, to support creativity and artists so that their vision and works fuel our expectations for the future. These tasks form the outline of our intended contribution to the emerging consciousness of what it means to be Greek, or to live in Greece, in these exciting times.