European values, the first step in the foundation of Academica Balkanica Europeana

Jordan Plevnes (1953) is the Secretary General of the Academia Balkanica Europeana. He is also founder and Rector of University of audiovisual arts, ESRA Paris-Skopje-New York. He finished high school in Bitola and Faculty of Philology in Skopje. He finished postgraduate studies in Sorbonne University and St. Ciryl and Methodius University in Skopje.
After his moving in Paris in 1988 he had a very rich engagement and his essayistic and scientific research opus amounts to more than 300 editions in different European and World known magazines. He was visiting professor in lot of European and American Universities.
Jordan Plevnes is also a writer with international reputation, author of theatre plyas published and performed in more than 50 countries all over the world. He is author of series of documentary movies about most significant persons of XX century, as Peter Brook, Yves Bonefoi, Nicolas Bouvier, Charles Aznavour, Claudia Cardinale, etc. 
Between 2000 and 2005 Jordan Plevnes is Ambassador of Republic of Macedonia in France, Spain and Portugal. In 2006 he is appointed as vice president of International committee of UNESCO for Dialogue between civilizations.
We are publishing the interview he gave a few days ago, exclusively for our magazine.

You are one of the initiators of Academia Balkanica Europeana . Why this initiative? And why this name for the organization?

Ever since my youth, I’ve practiced an unknown discipline in the Balkans, called “Balkanophilia”. I became an unconditional “Balkanophile”, in reaction to the hatred perpetuated by the political industry in the Balkans, used and abused many times, by the balance of military power, in the past, in the present, and unfortunately in the future.

In this sense, it was a great experience meeting Nicolas Bouvier (1929-1998), who came up with the best definition, “The Balkans is the heart of Europe”, in his book, The Way of the World. The last decade of our friendship was marked by the bloody wars in ex-Yugoslavia, and then, by the documentary that we made together, “The return of Bouvier to the Balkans”. During the filming, we went to many familiar places in the beautiful Balkan Peninsula, and at the same time we read Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s report for the UN, identifying 426 mass graves of ethnic cleansing spread across the battlefields.

I remember his words: “The Balkans is made for Love and Art, not for Wars”.

Shortly after filming ended, his battle with illness began. At the very end of the film, he reads his poem, “La Dernière Douane”, and when the film was over, Bouvier departed for Eternity. After the funeral, in Geneva, the town of his birth, we organized a homage in the Étonnants voyageurs festival, in the spring of 1998, together with Jacques Lacarriere, Michel Le Bris and the Nobel prize laureate Jean-Marie Le Clézio.

Bouvier’s message that the Balkans is the heart of Europe had a considerable international echo. In the period between 1998 and 2002, the French theatre director Patrick Verschueren staged the Balkan Trilogy, which was played on more than 120 stages, in theatres in France and other European countries. The trilogy consisted of three plays: A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kiš, The Punishment of Malvina by Mirko Kovač, and my play: Happiness is a New Idea in Europe, which has only recently been staged in New York and in Yale Drama Theatre. Through this trilogy, the consciousness of Europe was Balkanized, and together with Jacques Lacarriere we started a conspiratorial project: How to put the Balkans in Europe. Consequently, in 2003, on the shores of Lake Prespa, we founded the International Theatre Festival Actor of Europe. Lacarriere, the great Balkanophile, and the man who believed that the world’s history can be changed with Love, here proclaimed his famous manifesto Thousands of yesterdays, but only one tomorrow.

How did this initiative contribute to the creation of Academia Balkanica Europeana?

The festival grew into a symbol in the heart of every citizen on the three sides of the lake, generations that grew up in the spirit of Jean Monnet’s thought, the father of Europe: “Building Europe means building peace.”

When the European Parliament declared the mythical Prespa Lake as a European Transnational Park shared by Greece, Albania and Macedonia, it became a new theatre horizon of the Europeanization of the Balkans. A spiritual ceremony with pearls from the Greek, Macedonian and Albanian intellectual and literary tradition was a symbolic vertical similar to the Archimedes’ “point of support”. Prespa has become a Point of Support aiming to turn the Balkan tragedies of the past and present into theatrical aesthetics which serve as an example of the idea that both the theatre and beauty will save the world.

In these 16 years, 16 theater legends from 16 European countries have placed their names in the European memory of Prespa, starting with Ljuba Tadic, the Balkan theatre bard, through to Peter Brooks’ mythical actor – Bruce Meyers from London, Marcel Bozonnet of Comedie Francaise, Anna Pettersson from the Strindbergs Intima Teater, the legendary Lady of the Slovenian theater Milena Zupančič, the immortal Romanian Hamlet – Ion Caramitru, the Greek muse Chrissa Ioannidou, the prominent Albanian actor Dhimitër Orgocka, and one of the most important actresses of the National Theater of Sofia – Snezhina Petrova…

In the rich chronology of this international festival, more than 150 plays from almost all European countries have been performed, and George Banu, a professor from the Sorbonne, in the theatrical magazine Europe wrote: “As you observe how the classical and modern melt together in Prespa, you are attending the rebirth of Europe.” For example, last year, Selma Alispahic from Bosnia and Herzegovina was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award – Actress of Europe, and the award for the best artistic achievement from the competitive program of the festival, was given to Vasili Laerti for his original  presentation of “Agamemnon’s Inferno” by Ismail Kadare, which he performed in the three languages of the Lake.

What other projects can be mentioned as foundation stones in the cultural bridge between the Balkans and the rest of Europe?

One of the best defining elements of Balkans intellectuals during the “Spring of Nations in Europe” was their mutual understanding of the French language, “La seule Esperanto des Balkanais est le Francais”.

In that sense, in Paris, the supporters of the idea of a Balkan Federation were very active in the period between the two World Wars. The thought of Nicolas Bouvier, in his “The Way of The World,” that the Balkans is the Heart of Europe, while the Mind is between Paris and Berlin, inspired Balkanophiles to create the “SEE a Paris” festival in 2011, and then “SEE a Berlin” in 2015. These two festivals have become European windows for Balkan cinematography, and a basis for post-war reconciliation, as well as establishing a new platform for better understanding and cooperation with European values.    

What are, in your opinion, the European values that the Academia is supposed to promote?

It was European values which were the first step in the foundation of Academia Balkanica Europeana! The international symposium, organized by the University of Audio-visual Arts from Skopje, Hamlet and Europe – To be or not to be was the defining moment in the creation of this idea. All the Hamlets from the Balkan countries arrived in the same space, and the most famous among them – Ion Caramitru, was the true symbol of the expected liberation of the Balkans in Europe. With the participation of Jean-Patrick Connerade, the president of The European Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, from Imperial College London, and a number of distinguished artists and intellectuals from the Balkans, The Skopje Declaration was announced, marking the initiative for the formation of Academia Balkanica Europeana.

[Këtu duhet shënimi përkatës për fragmentin e mëposhtëm të një artikulli nga Jordan Plevnes]

With considerable engagement by the initiative committee, the Founding assembly of Academia Balkanica Europeana was held in the National Theatre in Bucharest, on 20th October 2017, and so, the only institution uniting European visionaries from the Balkans in the domain of Art, and later, with the formation of the Scientific Committee, in the domain of Science, embarked on its mission. Ion Caramitru was elected as the first President, and I became General Secretary. 

How do you think our organization should reach its objectives? What kind of activities should we organize?

The first decision was to create the website of the organization (www.ab-europeana.org), and next, to establish the official review of the ABE, The Bridge in Tirana. This year, we’re planning a presentation of ABE in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the European Capital of Culture 2019. Also, during the Actor of Europe festival in Prespa in July 2019, we’re planning a symposium on the European integration of the Balkans. With RYCO (Regional Youth Cooperation Office) from Tirana, and the University of Audio-visual Arts from Skopje, we’re planning several activities involving young artists from the region, entitled Young Europe in the Balkans

You are the head of important institutions, such as the University of Audio-visual Arts, European Film, Theatre and Dance Academy, Skopje-Paris-Essen-Rotterdam, and the Southeast European film festivals in Paris and Berlin. Do you think they could collaborate with the Academia Balkanica Europeana? And do you think we should try to have a network partnership with other organizations, in the Balkans and in other parts of Europe, with similar goals?

ABE will be partner of the SEE FF in Paris and Berlin, and it will present the SEE Legend and SEE Actor awards for lifetime achievements, which were previously given to legendary names from Balkan countries, such as Dušan Makavejev, Veljko Bulajić, Lucian Pintilie, Tzvetana Maneva, Meto Jovanovski, Miki Manojlović, and Abdulah Sidran… Also, the Balkan- Heart of Europe award will be presented in collaboration with ABE at the International Theatre festival Actor of Europe in Prespa. In 2019, we’ll sign a number of memorandums for collaboration with important European Foundations and Balkan institutions, ensuring the visibility of ABE.

Last question: Are you writing something now? What are your creative plans for the future?    

I’ve been working for several years on my new novel Mount Everest doesn’t exist, and I hope that I’ll be able to reach this famous mountain top… One never knows…In the meantime, I’ve completed my new play The Global Comedy, which refers to the Divine Comedy of Dante, and The Human Comedy of Balzac, and especially Beckett’s words: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” The premiere is scheduled for this autumn in the Satiric Theatre in Sofia, and I hope I can invite all my friends from the Balkans and Europe for the opening…You never know…

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EUROPEANIZATION OF THE BALKANS, OR BALKANIZATION OF EUROPE?

By Jordan Plevnes

This is the fragment of an article published in Le Monde on May 13th 2017.

Rather than the Europeanization of the Balkans, a Balkanization of Europe is underway. The occult powers embodied by far right extremist movements demonstrably threaten to bury the concept of universal love which Paul – Saul of Tarsus – preached as he journeyed from Asia Minor to Europe some 2000 years ago. “If I have not love, I am nothing”: his words have apparently fallen into oblivion.

Such is the message conveyed by many of the film-makers and artists whose work will be presented to the European public. The director Dusan Makavejev is the recipient of SEE’s 2017 Legend Award: his transgressive oeuvre defined the Yugoslav Black Wave movement. Ion Caramitru is a great actor who lit up screens both before and after Ceausescu. Paris and Berlin will discover movies by young auteurs. To see these films is like listening to the heartbeat of a continent: as the Swiss explorer Nicolas Bouvier often repeated: “the heart of Europe is in the Balkans, and the mind of Europe between Paris and Berlin.”

Another manifestation of this cultural dynamic, radiating from Ljubljana to Belgrade and from Zagreb to Sarajevo, was the recent symposium – “Hamlet and Europe, to be or not to be” – held in Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia. A distinguished group of Balkan authors took part in the founding assembly of the Academia Balkanica Europeana.

Fittingly, their commitment to freedom of spirit and expression came on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, whose signatories resolved “to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe” and “to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty… calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts”. Yet today the guiding principles of our humanistic and inclusive culture – of our millenary civilisation – have come under attack from anti-European powers acting under the influence of racist and negationist ideologies.

As different initiatives testify to the cultural vitality of these states claiming their place at the very “heart of Europe”, I am reminded of the words of the noted archeologist and historian of Balkan arts, Branko Gavela: “Chained within the body, the human spirit grows out of matter, like a flower from the stone.”