At a conference on 4 September 2018 the S&D Group in the European Parliament together with Culture Action Europe and Freemuse presented a report on the state of artistic freedom around the world. President Festim Lato attended the conference to be the voice of Cham culture that still clings on and is vital among the Cham community, but is deliberately oppressed and neglected by the Greek government.
Artistic expressions are essential to a humane society and are one of the core values of the EU. According to the president of the European Economic and Social Council in his presentation there are a number of major challenges that effect artistic freedom in Europe. Firstly, populism, because it promotes a version of monoculturalism that goes against core European values. Secondly, the economic crisis which means that less funds are available. Thirdly,the aging population. Europe is gradually aging and thereby loses part of its dynamism needed for a vibrant culture. Fourth is the digital revolution which means that the intermediaries that used to be the carrier of culture are often no longer needed because people can have direct interactions with the specific exponent of culture. Fifth is the shrinking civil space in Europe with decrease in funding and more regulations that are aimed at limiting certain artistic expressions.
The Executive Director of Freemuse presented the report on The State of Artistisc Freedom in 2018. The elaborate report provides an overview of the many violations aganst artists. Many of the prison sentences of artists were due to them opposing governments. Especially the charges of hate-speech are rising. The report also shows that the West is increasingly cracking down on artistic oppressions similar to what nonwestern countries have been doing for a long time.
The debate in the second part of the conference focussed on the trends and how NGO’s, governments and international institutions can promote a safe and conducive civic space that can ensure that Europe’s vibrant culture is kept alive and promoted.
A topic of main concern for the Republic of Chameria President Festim Lato is the combination of oppression of new cultural expressions and the neglect of the Cham-Albanian age-old cultural heritage. The Greek government deliberately ignores the major cultural role that the Cham-Albanians played in Chameria. For example, the castle of Ali Pasha in the mountains near Parga could be a major tourist attraction but instead suffers from a lack of maintenance and is ignored by most touristic organisations. Furthermore, its historical importance is deliberately downplayed by the Greek authorities.
President Festim Lato aims to cooperate with the many NGO’s and other organisations who support the promotion of cultural expression in making sure that the Cham-ALbanian culture is kept alive in Chameria as it still is in Albania where many of the Cham currently reside.