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15. 1. 2009 14:01

Speech of Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs;Launch of Entropa, 15 January 2009, Brussels

Ladies and gentlemen, Art is freedom. Freedom of expression is a founding principle of democracy. Art knows no boundaries. The Czech Presidency motto is a Europe without Barriers. This is a place where decorations change every six months. Since the very beginning we wanted our decoration to be creative. Creativity is a motor of progress and it is important: this is shown among others by the fact that 2009 is the European Year of Creativity and Innovation. At the same time we wanted the decoration to be an expression of artistic freedom in line with our motto a Europe without Barriers. We have created the space for freedom to speak for itself. Also we wanted to prove that twenty years after the fall of the Iron Curtain there is no place for censorship in Europe. We also wanted the decoration to be a joint project of 27 countries, not only a piece of marketing for the Czech Republic. That was our condition when we commissioned the project. When we received the proposal for a joint project of 27 artists, we created the conditions for its realisation. The project which was then delivered by David Černý included the names of 26 other artists, each of them being the creator of his or her own country. Part of the deal was that any other costs relating to production of the project would be covered by the artist himself or private funds he would find. Only after the Entropa had been installed here we learnt, much to our surprise and dismay, that the participation of 27 artists was in fact a piece of misinformation. It was an unpleasant shock for us although the conceptual artist DC later apologised to the government and informed us that we did not use the Czech tax payers’ money appropriated for this project. Entropa is just art – nothing more, nothing less. In the last two days it has raised rather positive reactions. People react as they usually do when they attend an art exhibition: they watch, they analyse, discussing not only their own country but also the others. The project depicts mainly stereotypes and clichés as barriers to integration and cooperation in Europe. By realising that these barriers are there, we can start removing them. Realisation of prejudice is a sine-qua-non condition for its elimination. This piece of art has never been meant as the Czech Presidency vision of the EU or its Member States, and no matter how shocking the latest discovery might be, it does not change anything in this regard: this is not how the Czech Government or Presidency views the EU or any Member State. Entropa is a provocation of a kind. I understand that some could feel offended and I would like to apologise to them. This does not just concern Bulgaria but any other member state. I would also like to apologise to all those whom I have unintentionally misled, among other media representatives and my colleagues from the Permanent Representation of the Czech Republic in Brussels. If Entropa was supposed to make fun of someone, that would be us, me in the first place. I accept the responsibility but we are not leaving the scene. We gave opportunity to free expression and it is the artist’s responsibility how he will approach this free space. We consider Entropa to be a piece of art. Nothing more, nothing less. I hope we can agree on this with the rest of the European family. We hope we will be able to laugh with you – not at you.

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