Academics from Ankara, Belgrade, Bucharest, Padua, Sarajevo, Sofia and Trieste met this week in this lovely Renaissance town, just a few miles along the Adriatic from Slovenia and Croatia, to lay the foundations of a Euro-Balkan institute.
The idea is to create a nerve-centre for European and Balkan higher education to promote cultural and economic reconstruction in the context of a widening European Union.
The project was developed jointly by the University of Trieste, traditional gateway to the Balkans, and the University of Padua, and is supported by the EU, Unesco and the Italian foreign ministry.
Antonio Pavan, the driving force of the project and a moral philosophy teacher at Padua University, said: "We need a cultural renaissance to break down barriers between the Balkans and the West, and most importantly between the Balkan states themselves. It is not a favour that Europe is doing to the Balkans, it is in Europe's own interests. If we don't take the bull by the horns now, however difficult this may be, we can be certain of being gored in the future."
Speakers at the two-day seminar, "Balkans: from Conflict to Cooperation", included Rade Petrovic from Sarajevo, who said the institute should not be a one-way machine, but should also educate Europeans regarding Balkan history and culture.
Lucio Delcaro, Trieste University rector, said Trieste already hosts researchers from the Balkans with one-year grants. "These people will be extremely useful in helping us understand how to make the new institute work," he said.
It was underlined that the Veneto region is the ideal setting, since there are already substantial investments in the Balkans by the region's thriving economy.