February 27-28, 2014
Russia and Italy: Together Under the Sign of the Byzantine Heritage
Rome hosted the first Assembly of the Cities – Heirs of Byzantium Association (ACEB)

The first Assembly of the Cities Heirs of Byzantium Association (ACEB) took place in Palazzo Della Rovere in Rome on February 27. The Assembly brought together representatives of Russian and Italian cities with Byzantine heritage, to adopt the Association’s Charter and make a plan of action for the future.

The Assembly and the research forum were opened by President of the Association Igor Danilov. He emphasized that studying Byzantine culture provides a basis for enhancing the economic and tourism ties between Russia and Italy. Rediscovering the Byzantine culture which unites Russia and Italy is a step towards creating and strengthening long-term international relations. According to the Russian World Foundation’s Director for European Programs Alexey Gromyko, “Pieces, fragments and traces of the Byzantine civilization are currently spread throughout the vast expanses of Eurasia. The Cities – Heirs of Byzantium Association is one of the most vivid examples of how the past continues to live in the present, how the past can unite us rather than divide, how deep the roots of kinship, proximity and interconnectivity of European nations are, and how ignorant and pernicious myths about the advanced and the backward, the progressive and the conservative are. Our common Byzantine heritage is a strong argument in favor of the continuity in history and in favor of the multifaceted and diverse nature of European civilization, as well as against the division of Europe into insiders and outsiders and against the relativism of values and oblivion of our common origins.”

The Assembly voiced the main goal of the Association: to strengthen the ties between Russia and Italy by understanding their common historical and cultural heritage and promoting the ideas of kinship between European cultures and nations. The Association has enabled the cities to tell the world about the rich culture and traditions of their regions.

The protagonists of the first part of the Assembly were the delegations of the member cities of the ACEB Association. These are Otranto, Cefalu, Milazzo, Castiglione di Sicilia, Montone and Mondolfo in Italy and Rostov Veliky, Torzhok and the Yaroslavl Region in Russia. Everyone had the opportunity to introduce themselves and to formalize their membership within the Association.

The Assembly was attended by many Italian and Russian public officials, including Valentina Grippo, Chairperson of the Commission on Tourism, Fashion and International Relations at the Mayor’s Office of Rome; Franco Marino, Senior Vice President of the Capitoline Assembly; Luca Giansanti, Chairman of the Capitoline Group Lista Civica Marino Sindaco and Gianluigi De Palo, Chairman of the Capitoline Group CittadiniXRoma.

“The commitment to integrating cultures and consolidating international relations is one of the major activities to be undertaken by the Association”, President Grippo said. “A great challenge I am trying to make as Chairman of the Commission on Tourism and International Relations is to translate into action the great desire to contribute to civic issues ranging from urban development to sustainable mobility and health policy. Members of the international community demonstrate this at every opportunity, but these efforts often remain as dissipated energy for bureaucratic reasons or due to the lack of stakeholders in public administration. I am sure that this is the only correct path which can enable us to look back to the future of our city and help it get out of the current crisis.”

The event was also attended by Riccardo Valentini, Advisor of the Committee for European and International Affairs of the Lazio Region; Eleonora Berti , Program Coordinator of the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe; Alessio Ferrari Angelo-Comneno, President of the Angelico Costantiniana Academy and an honorary member of the ACEB Association; Roberto Romano, Professor of the University of Federico II in Naples; Giuseppe Chiaravallotti , a former Governor of the Calabria Region; and Luigi Fedele, Minister for Transport Programs, Internationalization, Special EU Programs, and Mediterranean Policies of Calabria Region. The Russian side was represented by Alexey Gromyko, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Vladimir Gusev, Director of the State Russian Museum and an honorary member of the ACEB Association; and Sergei Ivanov, Professor of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

The Assembly highlighted the latest projects undertaken by the ACEB Association: the second edition of the photo album “The Cities – Heirs of Byzantium 2014”; the Association’s website (www.aceb.pro); and the ACEB Guide application for tablets and smartphones, providing useful information for those interested in visiting Byzantine cities both in Italy and Russia.

On February 28, the Russian delegation met representatives of the Lazio Region, and those of the Unioncamere, the National Union of the Italian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which was the first step towards cooperation in economics and tourism.

From the Russian side, the meeting was attended by the Mayors of Rostov Veliky and Torzhok, and a representative of the Yaroslavl Region. The delegation was welcomed by the Deputy Minister for Economic Development and Industrial Activities of the Lazio Region Guido Fabiani; the Regional Director for Tourism Gianni Bastianelli, and the Regional Advisor of the Commission for European and International Affairs Riccardo Valentini. At Unioncamere, the participants met the Deputy Secretary General Sandro Pettinato.

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